Monday, September 12, 2011

Wayfarers all, revisited

A while back, I found this essay that I wrote as a Junior in college, over four years ago:

"Wayfarers all"

Every so often, I have one of those days where it feels as though the walls are closing in on me. My dorm room seems to shrink (which is an impressive feat), and the quiet life at Dordt just doesn't seem to cut it. Usually, when this happens, my roommates and I make a midnight WalMart run, just to get off campus. However, the harrowing late night journeys to the south side of Sioux Center just aren't enough anymore.

Something quiet and distant is calling out to me, beckoning me to travel and explore. I've heard it for a while now, and chosen to ignore it. But every time I ignore it and try to go on with the comfortable routine that I know so well, it comes back again, resolutely offering its persistent plea. The road is calling me, but I don't think that it is calling me westward, back home to Washington. Not yet, anyway. Instead, I find myself looking east, toward the Atlantic and beyond. Celtic ruins, historic battlefields, massive stone castles, ancient cities and other places which I cannot even imagine are calling out to me.

When I was home for Spring Break, I listened to a friend talk about some of his own travels overseas. His goal was to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, but even getting to Africa was a horror story. He spent over 36 hours in Heathrow airport in London, trying to track down the elusive Ethiopia Airways, with whom he had booked his flight. As it turned out, Ethiopia Airways was literally just a desk and a chair, and it soon became apparent that he would have to make other arrangements. He got to Africa by the skin of his teeth, but landed 6 hours south of where he needed to be. So, he took a chain of city buses North until he arrived at Kilimanjaro. This horror story should have snuffed out any desire of mine to travel, but instead I found myself thinking about how cool it would be to have a story like that, of my own.

To use a tired cliche, I want to see the world. Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand... Last semester, Dr. Fessler told our Civil War History class about how he dropped out of college for a semester to backpack around Europe. I don't know if I could do that, as I would be losing some valuable scholarships. But, if not now, when? Before I know it, I will have my own classroom, and I will be responsible for teaching high schoolers about World History. How will I be truly qualified to teach World History if I confine myself to two small Dutch communities in Washington and Iowa? I should be visiting a REAL Dutch community in the Netherlands, or perhaps an Italian community. There are limits to what I can learn sitting behind a desk or writing papers in my dorm room, and I think that I am approaching these limits.

I need to keep going about my business, reading my textbooks, taking my tests, and writing my papers. I have worked hard for nearly 6 semesters, and only have a couple more to go. However, even with the end in sight, I cannot help but feel distracted as I think about what lies just out of reach, beyond the cornfields, and across the ocean...

Huh. Japan wasn't even on my radar back then. It's amazing how God answers prayers, and not always in ways that we expect. Since I wrote this note, I've moved to Japan and lived here for nearly three years (minus summers). I've traveled as far north as Sendai and as far south as Nagasaki. I've learned enough of the language to function in coffee shops (though by no means do I intend to stop at 'kissaten no nihongo'). I've developed a love for sushi, nori and yaki niku. I was here when the earthquake happened and so part of my heart will always be with the Japanese people even if I move on someday. I've traveled to Hong Kong for Spring Break... taken pictures of the city lights from the top of Victoria's Peak... ridden in a swaying cable car up to the Buddhist mountain village of Ngong Ping... I've accompanied the Senior class to Thailand twice... I've sipped lime tea while watching the sun set on a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai... I've ridden an elephant (fun, but more uncomfortable than you'd think). Moreover, I finally feel like I've earned the right to teach World History. I realize now that I'll never know everything, but my desire to learn has increased. I may not know where I'll travel or how I'll get there, but I do know now that if a person truly wants to travel, God will open those doors for them, one way or another.

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