As a forewarning, this post will be a jumble of conflicting ideas and crossed threads of thought. I have been thinking about all sorts of things recently, so they may very well come splashing out of my brain in a fountain of less-than-inspired writings.
I was listening to one of my favorite bands in the micro from Bangkok to Battambang in an attempt at normalcy, when one of the lyrics caught my attention.
We live in every moment but this one.
On DTS, there is no time truly spent by oneself, at least on the Perth base's regime. When base rules state that outreach teams must always be in pairs, preferably threes, a starving introvert such as myself must find increasingly creative ways to grab some solitude. These range from the simple - plugging in an iPod during a bus ride and ignoring the world - to the more elaborate - finding an equally human-weary companion, and spend your free day ignoring the other.
As I listened to this song, I realized that I was also compensating for time by myself by dwelling a lot on both the future and the past. I was letting myself focus on past times of struggle and future stresses. And thus, when the lyric was repeated, I received something of a challenge.
How does a wayfaring introvert balance the need for escape from constant companions with the desire to live "in the moment," as the cliche goes? How do you go on with the last two weeks of outreach while resting in the knowledge that if the past six months were hard, the next four years will be harder? How do you balance the "I love you but I cannot bear to see your face right now" with the knowledge that in four weeks, I may never see "your" face again, and should treasure each passing day?
This is where my quiet times have proved increasingly necessary.
You see, Cambodia is hot. I would say that I feel like a fish out of water, but that's exactly wrong. I feel like a land-dwelling mammal in a sauna. Except this mammal must keep the majority of its skin covered by heavy, suffocating clothing. The nights are full of mosquitos. Who am I kidding? The mornings and afternoons are also full of the pests. If all the animals in Australia can kill you, all the animals in Cambodia are out for blood. Specifically, yours. You sweat in your sleep, and when the fan turns off every two hours, you wake up in a little puddle. The food is plenty of rice, and shrimp and mushroom broth served with twigs and leaves.
Not that I complain. I've had my quiet time for today, and I freaking love Cambodia. I am so blessed to be here, and to be caught up in the beginnings of an amazing work here in Battambang. But if you were to catch me before my time with God, I'd probably grunt something unintelligible about mozzies and shamble off to take my anti-malarial pill.
There is a tension to everyday. It would be easy, so easy to mentally shut down and power through my remaining time here in the middle of underdeveloped South East Asia. But this is my call, and even were I here against my will, I am not my own. The crazy stuff I've done - hiking for ten hours to an unreached village in remote Nepal, preaching the Gospel in front of a crowd of 200 men outside a Hindu temple, building a house for parapalegics, worshiping God in pagan temples, washing walls in Cambodia, teaching English in a nation shattered by genocide - has not simply been me. Every person who contributed to my outreach fees; every person who prays for me; every person who bought cookies or attended a fundraiser has, in a way, come with me to Asia. You have been a missionary without leaving your state.
Today was a hard day. "It is your day off," you might say. "How could you have a hard day?" Today was my last day in Battambang. For the past two weeks, I stepped in to teach English when the regular teacher had a family emergency. At first, it felt strange investing time in students I would only know for two weeks. But today, when I stopped by the youth center to say farewell to them, two of my pupils had bought me a going away gift and written letters so I could remember them.
I felt so ashamed. All I did was buy them a fifty-cent icecream cone and go for a walk with them. Yet they were crying as we parted.
I had no idea that a mere two weeks could make such an impact to someone's life. How can I live in any moment but this one if this moment could so impact some one's life?