This morning (yes, time difference), seated in the common area of University of Chicago’s International House, my brother is playing pool by himself on the right and the rest of the area is empty. The wooden chairs and tables are neatly arranged across the area; overhead, there are lights in the shape of candles surrounding a circular steel structure- it brings a rustic and relaxing feeling rather than a pristine and rigid one perhaps due to the mix of rectangular and round tables. On the far left, there are beige and maroon sofas surrounding a TV screen. I can only imagine the laughter and memorable times shared by students here. Two days here and it has been no less than beautiful. This morning I bask in the warmth of this area, Gentle Bones playing through my earpieces and the comfort of having time to myself.
I am in the midst of a month-long overseas retreat and I feel so, extremely privileged. The power of being in a different space has so often been underestimated. The way we’ve grown up- the people we grow up with, the stories we have in growing up and the places we remember as we grow up- remains the only way we are truly convinced things can and will pan out until we experience something different. The trees can only ever be green, the weather can only ever be warm, buses crowded, streets packed, crowded trains and hostile people. Without the fortune of having the ticket overseas for this holiday, this might have been the only way I have remembered things to be able to be.
Last year, my tickets overseas to Cambodia and Vietnam were for opportunities to serve overseas. Each time, the scenes were similar- children running barefoot, excited. The most valuable feelings I took away was the sense of community: with either the team I embarked on the trip with, or from the locals who loved and took care of each other in times of hardship. This holiday, the nature of the places I’ve gotten to go and the sights I’ve had the privilege of seeing are different- from Asian Taiwan that we can learn so much from as a similar Asian city to the Western U.S.A. that has such a different culture to offer.
Excited for the 18 days to come in this place where “how are you” means “hi”, the sky is an incredible shade of blue everyday and the leaves on the trees have all fallen for winter.