I know it’s been quite awhile since I last updated you all, and it is my goal this new year to do better!
Many of you don’t know that I recently traveled home for about 8 days, for my older sister’s wedding. This is very uncommon in most YAGM’s year, as you’re not really encouraged to go home (for a multitude of reasons both logistically and experimentally), unless a sibling or parent is getting married. As a good sister and co-maid of honor (with my twin), I figured I should probably be home for the wedding.
As I knew before I arrived in the Holy Land that I would be going home almost halfway through my year, so many questions ran through my head of how going home would affect me. I knew that I would bombarded with questions, which I will go in depth more later in the blog.
To say the least, it was weird. It was weird to be in such a modern and developed land. It was weird to see everything be familiar after four months of separation. It was weird to see so many fast food restaurants (although I loved it). It was weird to go through civil traffic on the road and not see so many taxis and hear honking all the time. It was weird, but joyful, to see snow! Which I’ve missed this holiday season. And as unexpected as it may sound, it was weird to see family. It was also amazing, wonderful, tearful, and heartwarming, but it was almost like I was dreaming. I saw my family in the flesh, and no longer through my laptop or smart phone screen.
It was surreal. It was hard.
I felt guilty, in a way. I got to see my family in person, and be in the US, in a familiar place. Home. I got to be home.
And although some other volunteers will have their families or friends visit them in their placements, both in the J/WB program, and other YAGM’s across the world, I got to be home. I’m lucky.
While I was home, I encountered many questions by friends and family. Here are some that stuck out or were frequently asked:
“Are there are Lutherans there?”
“Do you feel closer to God?”
“Are you around soldiers all the time?”
“Is it safe?” Or various forms of it.
“Have you met anyone?” This one I was not expecting so much. Maybe because it was a wedding setting.
And the most frequently asked question:
“Where are you, again?”
In the midst of these not so pleasant questions, I was touched with the questions about my work with my students, my wonderful hosts, my community in Beit Sahour, and the relationships and experiences that I’ve made and done. It was refreshing to interact with members of my home congregation and to hear all of their love and support. It was empowering and motivating to hear my family and friends encourage me to continue to be who I am and do what makes me happy. It is so easy to look over the small talk of explaining how the year is going, and exclude the hardships and challenges of being in a foreign place all that that country entails with culture, language, politics, and perspective.
But nothing is as easy as it sounds. So for anyone back home who is reading this, when someone you know spends a year abroad, pick your words carefully and more thoughtfully. Please.
I understand the curiosity about knowing about being safe, interfaith dynamic, and conflict here, but there are better ways to ask. And maybe the best thing for others is to wait. Wait till we bring up a story about our time away. Until something sparks our attention and we want to share. Being abroad, we could talk for hours about our time away.
So, maybe just wait. And when we’re ready, we’ll talk. And share. And tell you about the good stuff and not so good stuff. The hard stuff. Without you needing to ask.
Just be there. With open ears and open hearts. Because we’ll be more thankful for you just being there, than your questions.
Thank you taking the time to listen and read with your open ears.
Thank you for being there.
Until next time,