I’ve been here over a year. I’m passing wisdom and comfort to people who resemble my panicked heart 12 months ago. I have hiccups still, but they aren’t accompanied by extreme stress and shutdown. When I do make mistakes I can look with “calma” as my tutor might say when he starts to correct something I clearly wrote in a hurry, making mistakes I shouldn’t make anymore. In the same way, there is a new found tranquility in my second year. I review and reflect without the clamor and chaos last year brought. I am able to gaze at this ancient town and see beauty in the tall stone walls, instead of bowing my head against the cold they encourage. I am able to see the culture around me, know far more about subjective and objective values and their differences. I am able to grasp at the deep understanding one can glean from being a true foreigner. For example, like classic heroes, every culture has a tragic flaw. However, the story is not a Greek tragedy already scripted. This year, as I talk with students about current events, or rather, turmoils: the war in Syria, the US government shutdown, Spain’s economic crisis, etc, it becomes clear the enemy is not our cultural tragic flaws, though they exist and they are battles to be fought, but a sweeping global mindset that is quickly becoming cross-cultural: apathetic pessimism. This is what I fought last year in the gloom of culture shock. So although I have learned much this past year, I have fought a personal battle, only to look up in the wake of victory and find the world is battling the same. I can vouch personally that the cure is caring with hope, and like anything worth having it is far from easy, but it is the best way to make it to the second year.
There was a lot of cleaning out before we started painting this week. Old paint from years past has gathered like magazines in a bathroom. I needed to figure out what was worth keeping and using before we crowded more in from this year. I don’t know how many buckets and cans I cracked open or at least tried. I have no idea how to tell if paint is still good or not, but I came up with some criteria…
Mold is growing inside.
The lid and the canister are one. (ie opening it isn’t an option)
You nearly vomit from the smell
You aren’t sure if it was once a single color and consistency, or if it’s supposed to look like that.
I love working with my hands. And this week, I used my hands to paint, my mind to design, and my heart to receive input and create something that everybody, not just me and my abstract desires would enjoy for the next two years. The place where I work to create a place of friendship for students at the University has a new look, and it was very hard work. The other things in my life, my study of political science, my relationships, hit a pause as every ounce of energy went into this work. And it is done. And I am proud, except for this one little part….but it’s ok. I’m probably going to be the only one who notices……