Driving through the evening darkness tonight, four of us were on our way back from Saint John. Most of my thoughts and efforts over the last few days, even the last few weeks, have been consumed with our nearing departure for the far off countries of South East Asia. The only difference between the few weeks and the few days has been the concentration of the reality that we are leaving soon. And even though I have learned so much about the history and religions, about the empire of Srivijaya and the temples of Ankor Wat or of the colonization by Europeans, I can’t help but think of how geographically and culturally far apart I am from these soon-to-be-seen countries.
Rather than last minute mental preparations to keep myself calm and collected, ready to face the emotional and mental challenge of stepping into a new and completely unfamiliar place, I have been doing last minute preparations to make sure that I have the right shoes to wear to class, the special kind of socks so that my feet don’t smell, a tooth brush and toothpaste. And so I found myself in a car on my way to Saint John with four friends, pilgrims, who were looking for the same preparedness stepping onto the plane when the bags are packed and inaccessible in the cargo hold underneath. I’m sure I would be tricking myself into thinking it not important to have enough underwear or deodorant. And I’m sure that my classmates and trip leaders would soon agree. But as good as it is to have my physical self in order I hope I will have my non-physical self in order for when I step off the plane into a different place. I may be stepping out somewhere different but I hope that I will find that the grandest of unfamiliarities will speak of some distant part of myself or my way of seeing things that I had not noticed or seen before. Because while I am separated from South East Asia by thousands of miles and by centuries of time, when we step off the plane a defining moment will have occurred. All the events of history and religion will culminate in my reality by having arrived. Oh goodness, I hope I’m ready to no longer try to be prepared. But instead I hope I will be open and willing for not my belongings to be used or broken into, but rather my understanding.