24 November 2009

Lost in Translation

So, my brother is going to be here on Thursday--just in time for Thanksgiving. I am really excited. And not because it is important for me to have family here for the holidays. Not that I don't want family here for the holidays...but I would enjoy having him here just as much if it were a regular day of the week. Because, while we are on the topic of holidays, I guess I am not really a traditional holiday person. I don't really like the food--well, there are other kinds of food I like more. After all, I have come to realize that I like just about (more on that later) everything, which is really going to become a problem at some point if it hasn't already. And, I should probably be more thankful all the time, so while I appreciate the reminder, I feel like it is a bit cheap to conjure up extra thankfulness on this one day.

Anyway, I am really excited that he will be coming becuase I am beginning to realize that I am really bad at truly translating this experience. I will start to try to tell stories or explain things, but there are some elements that can only be experienced--no description does them justice. Now, I am going to be completely hypocritical by trying to explain what I mean:

1. Stonemason vans. There is one outside my house/apartment once a week. I don't even think that stonemasonry is an occupation in the US. Let's talk about an incredibly lucrative business; there is A LOT of stone here.

2. The dining hall is always freezing. When I asked someone if it was always that way (stupid question number 143), they paused for a second before describing that the building was built over 500 years ago. So, yes. It is always cold. But, you eat dinner by candlelight in an otherwise dark, wood-pannelled room, and there are dragons carved into the wall that you didn't even notice because you were too busy looking at the crests and the paintings of the Queen.

3. In the covered market the other day, a friend said, "Is that a deer?". When I turned around, I could definitively answer, "Yes, Abdul, that was a deer." After all, I had been staring down the barrel of its beheaded neck as it passed a few feet from me. And then its husband/wife and child made the same journey to the butcher's shop. Mmmm, lunchtime.

4. At dinner last night, conversation turned to writing a book (as a group). And everyone was entirely serious. I'll keep you posted.

5. I have been engaged in a multiple day conversation that has unfolded both in person and via e-mail about the best way to "fight the world's fight". Can you go into business? What about finance? What are the responsibilities that come with incredible opportunities? Are entire industries off-limits? Is one endeavor the "best"? Suffice to say that I am doing alot of "sufficing" with those questions. The discussion is an entire novel.

I can't even think of other things to include in this list because there are millions of things each day that are bizarre and somewhat impossible to explain. And there is part of me that knows that I can't do them justice, but another part that knows that I need to tell someone. I begin to wonder how long you can have different experiences, be immersed in a different culture, and be constantly engaged with new and challenging questions before it begins to change how you think about things, before it settles in to who you are. And while I think I would like to resist any of that change--I want to come home in two years and be the same person, and in terms of what I believe and who I am, I will be. But there is another part of me that realizes as I am challenged intellectually, socially, emotionally, and spiritually (note that I can't honestly include physically...uh oh.) every day, that I am being refined and molded within and across each dimension. This is not a unique experience to me, to Oxford, or to England. It is a part of our growth regardless of our physical location. But it will be good to share and to show the soil that I am planted in, to provide a context for these challenges and the way I am being shaped by them.

I hope Luke is up for all of that. But we will also eat a Thanksgiving meal and play touch football. And that will be good too, because I know that the Chiefs won on Sunday (as did the Drake women over a ranked ISU--good thing, since I paid $13 dollars to watch the game online), but otherwise, I have completely lost touch! It will be good to connect the continents for a few days.

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