When I was in graduate school (it feels so good to say “was”- what a relief!) I developed a pseudo career program for the homeless for my Career Counseling class. I interviewed Lyn Walters to gather perspective since she is the director of 15 Place, a homeless agency in downtown Mobile. Sidenote: Lyn is a female version of Dr. Mashburn from the University of Mobile- the UMers will understand. Dr. Mashburn taught philosophy and he got his DPhil at Oxford University. No one quite ruffled my feathers like this man. I would leave his World Religions class burning with disagreement, but he challenged me and I love him for it. Lyn stroked her chin in a philosophical-Dr.Mashburn-kind-of-way as she spoke of the homeless in Mobile and their lack of motivation to change. I remember her saying, “There’s something about beating the elements of life that they enjoy and until the pain is great enough they won’t take the steps to change.” I can sense that same string of pride woven into my fabric: there’s something satisfying about being here and surviving. The differences between surviving and thriving are two concepts I think about often and I don’t just want to survive in the subcontinent of Asia– I want to thrive and most of the homeless that I know do not thrive.
Some of you know one of my best friends, Tume’, who’s from Mongolia. In more ways than one, being here reminds me of her lifestyle when we were both at the University of Mobile.
She had the basics in her room and she lived as a minimalist. Often I would find her with her earphones in listening to music- seeking for some connection to her culture, along with a gallon of yogurt. 😉 Don’t get me wrong though- this girl is strong, independent, and resilient . . and there’s nothing like a spoonful of stubbornness to go with those traits for a good intrapersonal recipe to thrive in a culture not your own. We’re a lot alike. I find myself feeling most connected to my culture by listening to music, using social media, skyping friends and family, finding delicious food, going to the beach, taking time to reflect, and reading online newspapers. I can’t go for a run here unless I want to be chased by undomesticated dogs and have people stare at me wondering, “What is she running from?” As we were told in training week in DC, “Running is an extreme sport in south asia.”
So what’s the key to cultural adjustment? I’ve yet to figure it out, and honestly, I’ve had a ROUGH first three weeks but the Lord has brought something to my attention. Let’s go back to the mindset of a poverty-stricken person. Generally speaking, when you look at the face of someone who’s lived in poverty for several years or all his life what do you see? What facial expressions come to mind? Body posture? Interactions with others? Don’t you imagine someone who is poor in spirit? — A poverty-stricken presence, lacking passion, lacking focus, absent of motivation, not wanting to give love and due attention to others because one’s cup is not full – this has been the hidden thought-glacier beneath my life over the past three weeks. As all of you know I have been struggling with having the finances to stay here and I have allowed it to rob me of my joy and I ashamedly have been having a hard time finding joy in my “daily bread” when I want my “yearly bread” right now. Uuggghh. Do you know how difficult that is? I don’t want your pity, but it’s tough. I know my friends Justin Hase and Dave Kakish are doing this now – they’re living off a “monthly bread” just as I am. This is a frightening kind of faith that I wanted nothing to do with until now. Now my challenge is to see if I can genuinely trust the Lord so much that I ooze an abundance of joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control– even without knowing if I’ll have enough or stay for my entire fellowship.
Thank you for reading a plethora of emails, blog updates, and letting me give you tasks to help me stay in the field. I’ve had a difficult time choosing what to write about in the posts so that they will be interesting, engaging, personal, work-related, and culturally-saturated. There’s just so much I want to share so I promise I’ll venture off the cultural adjustment box and into what you sent me here to do: the work of justice! 😉
So . . . Stay tuned for an update about work!!! I haven’t talked much about work at all and that’s because I’ve been sick twice so I’ve been out a lot! Next, I’ll share about what I’ve been involved with at work lately. I attended a Monthly Meeting in a rural part of the state, assisted with Freedom Trainings for a group of recent freed laborers, and provided a training for MSW students at a local university.
P.S. I now have enough funds to stay for July and August!