Monday, November 25, 2013

Tough Feet, Soft Heart

Just a fair warning here, friends...this post is going to seem a bit scatter-brained. Because that's how I'm feeling at the moment. 

As I told you all in my last post, I spent a week in Jordan. What a grand adventure it was! I don't know about all of you, but I love spending time outdoors and I generally feel more refreshed after spending time in open air, so the time we had in Jordan was great for me. We started our week with a couple days in Amman. Starbucks, Caribou, Coffee Republic, froyo, and several malls all within walking distance. I had no complaints about any of this. How I've missed over-priced coffee! After our time in Amman we headed out for our great desert adventure. We took a bus to Wadi Rum where we spent an entire day riding around in back of 4x4's taking in the fresh air, big skies, and beautiful, mountainous rock formations. There really isn't any way to describe the vastness of the Sahara and the enormity of these rock outcroppings. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I couldn't capture it with a picture either! Though I did try. Not only did we get to spend the entire day out in the beautiful sun, but we SLEPT OUTSIDE! In the middle of the desert. This has probably been one of my favorite parts of the semester. It was so incredible to sleep out on a sand dune under the stars with my fellow MESPers. And let me tell you, all the times you've heard about how cold it gets in the desert at night? Yeah, that's true. The temperature drops so dramatically. But it was worth every second. I'll probably be in a nursing home some day talking about the night in college when I slept in the desert. But wait, there's more! Instead of taking the 4x4's out of the desert in the morning we rode camels! What is life?! 

But that was last week. This week has been catching up on sleep and writing papers and trying to soak up as much falafel and hummus as I can before leaving. T-minus 10 days until I'm back on the other side of the world. It feels strange to think about going home after three months in a completely different culture. It was almost exactly three months ago that I was crying in my bedroom in Michigan while my dad tried to explain voltage adapters to me. (Go ahead, judge me! I was frustrated and confused.) I don't even feel like that was me! So much about me has changed in the past semester. It's hard for me to understand myself, let alone explain to other people. This is the best way I can think to begin to articulate it:

With the exception of a few too-chilly days in Istanbul and the hikes that have required tennis shoes, I have only worn one pair of shoes since being here. My Birkenstocks. I love them. They're the most comfortable shoes I own. One of the reasons that I love them so much is that my feet still get covered in dust when I'm walking around the streets here. That might seem odd, but when I get back to my apartment after trekking around Jerusalem or Bethlehem for the day I like to look down at my feet and see the dirt on my toes. It makes me feel like I belong here, and part of me thinks that I do. Another reason I love my sandals is because, even though they protect me, my feet have become extremely calloused this semester. I've always been the type that prefers to be barefoot (this may be a family thing, i.e. my brother!) and callouses are nothing new to my feet, but it feels different this time. These callouses mean more than just a summer spent running around the yard and days at the beach. This time I've spent hours wandering new streets, the very streets that I've been reading about for quite a long time. You have to have a certain toughness to live here (I mean that in the best way possible, I promise) and I think I've demonstrated to myself that I can do it. 

My feet aren't the only thing that have changed since I've been here, my heart has too. This is harder to explain, but I think my heart is softer. My heart has been opened to so many new points of view. I've experienced love in a new way while I've been here. The realizations that have managed to sneak up on me when I least expect have left me breathless and heart-achy at times and more joyful than I've ever been at times. Maybe all of this is only making me sound like a rambling fool, but it's the closest I can come right now to telling you how I have changed. I've been welcomed into new families here and realized how important my own family is to me. How in the world am I ever going to wrap my heart around all the love I feel for people all over the world? 

Stick with me friends. I know this is only the beginning of so many things for me. With less than two weeks left in the place I have come to think of as a second home I plan to cherish every second as fully as I can. Thank you so much for all the continued prayer and support! 

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