Soul travel 3

Since those last posts I have scratched my soul travel itch in several ways.

My husband and I flew to Phoenix for the wedding of a delightful young Congolese woman who is like a daughter to us—we’ve known Deborah and her family for ten years. This involved a weekend immersion in Congolese culture and being with Congolese friends old and new. It took me back to the color and joy of Congo without the hassle of Kinshasa traffic jams. It was even hot (much hotter than Congo ever was). Deborah married a handsome American, and he and his family were good sports about it all. Good vibes all around.

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Soul travel 2

When I was a child in rural Indiana in the 1950s I wanted to learn foreign languages as soon as I learned that foreign languages existed. The first one I had the opportunity to study, when I enrolled in a newly established parochial high school, was Latin, so I took Latin for two years. And then a German teacher arrived, so I studied German. For some reason I shunned Spanish but the German teacher had a Francophone wife so I took French lessons from her in exchange for babysitting and enrolled in French and German classes at the local college, which I later attended, when I was still in high school. My goal became to spend a year in Europe in a study abroad but that wasn’t part of Goshen College’s program at the time and my parents said they wouldn’t pay for it; that I would have to wait till I was out of college and could go abroad on my own. Continue reading

Soul travel

Two experiences from yesterday: reading Owls of the Eastern Ice, by Jonathan Slaght, and watching a few episodes of “World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” on Netflix. The former stirred longing in my soul. The latter did not.

First, the latter. The locations  three Millennials bop into and out of are exotic (whether in the USA or in any part of the world), unique, offering beauty and unusual experiences. This is travel as entertainment and consumption: eat, sleep, look, devour this place and this experience. This kind of travel asks nothing of you except your money, your sense of adventure, your stamina, and your need for something new. There is much to be said for it.

I know. I have been there, done that. A lot. I have been a tourist all over the world. However, I do not have a great desire to see more of the world in that way, especially as I am getting older and travel of any kind is more taxing. Continue reading

I lost a job

Everybody has lost something in this pandemic.

If we weigh our losses against others’, some of us could easily discount our individual losses, especially if we have been taught to count our blessings. I am alive, I am well, I have enough to eat, I have friends and family and the means to communicate with them, and I am financially secure. And it is spring. So why am I feeling sad today?

The universal experience of loss gives us an unprecedented opportunity to explore the nature of loss and mourn together. Okay, let’s have a cry now. Or a scream. Or a community howl. Or a banging of pots on porches. For everything we have lost.

Name your losses. I dare you. Think of at least one thing that you will probably never get back, even when this is over. Continue reading

Ready, set . . .

I have never been this ready to go on a trip so far in advance. One full day to go and my bags are packed, the last laundry is done, the house is clean. I even sat down with my husband this noon and helped him go over meal plans during my absence. My iPhone is loaded with escapist reading for long plane rides. I just checked us in online with Air France. Continue reading

Kafka before coffee

Recently I saw a video clip of Ellen DeGeneris receiving a multimillion-dollar contribution from Ashton Kutcher for her school in Africa. It was subsidized by a company that specializes in quick and easy global money transfers, and so to give the money Kutcher just gave his smartphone to Ellen and told her to push the button she saw onscreen. She did, and presumably the millions flowed instantly and painlessly into the right bank account.

It’s not so easy for us ordinary folks either to drum up millions or, heaven forbid, send it to Africa. Continue reading

Mbuji Mayi

Reflections during the adult literacy teacher training in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, April 2–8, 2018

Here is how you get your baggage at Mbuji Mayi. Passengers and guys whom you can hire to retrieve baggage crowd on one side of a low platform and the baggage is carried in through a door on the other side and stacked in a holding area while an agent examines each tag and calls a name. Or number. I can’t get close enough to tell. Continue reading

Notes from a long journey

O’Hare, 3 hours

The security line is long and slow. I have plenty of time. A baby on her mother’s shoulder smiles randomly at people. I catch her eye and smile. She smiles back.

After going through security I hold my passport and boarding pass in my hand while I put my jacket back on. As I am walking to my gate I feel something scratchy in my sleeve. It is the boarding pass. Continue reading

Miracles and uncertainties

IMG_1181I am pretty sure I will be in DR Congo two weeks from today. My plans have been playing Upset the Fruit Basket (anyone remember that game?) for the last few weeks– canceled flights and more canceled flights, schedule changes there, new plans here. My right knee decided to test my resolve by freezing up ten days ago but then came back online a few days later.

But the uncertainties on my end are minor. Continue reading

Extravagant beauty

With full awareness of all that is ugly in the world, I am obsessing about beauty. I don’t believe these thoughts represent escapism so much as astonishment. A lesson that has unfolded for me over the past year is that nothing in this world is to be taken for granted. And so I’m trying to keep my eyes and my heart open and when I do this the beauty of life nearly overwhelms me, as does the impulse to experience, create, and extend this beauty, which represents Love. Continue reading