Friday, January 21, 2005

Ask And You Shall Receive

Over the past 24 hours I have experienced a major turning point in the process of overcoming culture shock and homesickness.

Previous events like phone calls from home, putting up photos and pictures in my room, getting all my classes worked out, and the weekend homestay have had their effects, gradually decreasing the difficulty of being so far from home. But still a vague hint of foundationlessness lingered in all but my best of moments. Until yesterday.

It all began around noon, when the absurd and unnecessary difficulty of simple tasks like opening a bank account here drove me to a brief session of sobbing and praying in a field on the edge of campus, asking God whether there was any reason at all for me to be in this country, and begging for feelings of peace and comfort to replace my still occassional feelings of loneliness and sourceless fear. After this necessary release of pent-up emotion, I calmed down and cleaned myself up for a quick lunch with Katherine, one of the girls from the Bible study I just joined.

When I got back to my flat after lunch, I encountered Jack, one of my flatmates, in the kitchen. In the few minutes he had before he needed to head out for the afternoon, he started asking me some questions about my beliefs about the Bible, in pretty strikingly direct answer to my recent queries about whether God had any point for my presence here.

Then at 5 I headed off to the first meeting of Skeptics Anonymous, a group of people dedicated to discussing difficult questions of faith, led by Gavin, the university chaplain. We made a list of topics to discuss in the upcoming weeks, issues like tolerance, the Old Testament, the Trinity, and the soul. (As a beverage-related side note to make proud, respectively, both Christine and Ms. Visconti, I consumed at that meeting not only an entire cup of tea (I am in England, after all...) but also a few sips of the proffered Polish fermented honey--yes, folks, that'd be mead.)

In addition to these two reassuring answers to the question of my purpose here, I was further blessed to receive a similarly unmistakable response to the second half of my prayers as well. The vague sinking feeling I've found it so hard to find either explanation or cure for slowly but surely faded entirely away over the subsequent few hours, and seems to be gone for good. Walking around today I felt a level of comfort and belonging which, a mere twenty-four hours earlier, I didn't feel I would ever achieve here. Incredible.

Today I spent much of the time getting on top of my classes. I don't think I've mentioned yet the absurdity of my class schedule: I have a mere eight hours of class a week, with seven of those occurring on Monday and Tuesday. The one remaining hour is on Thursday, meaning I have not only Wednesday but also Friday off every single week--that means three day weekends all the way around. Furthermore, not a single one of my classes appears to have sessions more than five weeks into the ostensibly ten-week summer term. Not to mention the month-long vacation in between the two terms. Craziness! Not that I'm complaining, of course... Plans are already formulating for various adventures throughout Europe, including a week in a cottage in Ireland with some of the flatmates and co., a trip to Italy with some of the girls I met through Arcadia, and, of course, visitation of my various acquaintances from home who are over here in Europe for the semester. A major source of excitement has been the arrival of my dear Kate Fox to this side of the Atlantic, and a little chou-tete named Christine's imminent appearance as well. Not to mention the Marvelous Marlo! Ah bon!

Anyway, after a day spent obtaining the various books I will need for the term through the internet, library, and bookshop, watching Blade Runner for my Science Fiction class, and attending my Metaphysics seminar, I finished off the evening with a few rounds of Twister with my flatmates and some of their friends, apparently a Thursday tradition, at least starting this term. Quite amusing. Tomorrow's excitement includes a meeting of a discussion group for a book on fundamentalist Christianity, a lecture and discussion on insanity put on by the Philosophy society, and a meeting with the Astronomy Society for, weather permitting, some telescopic observation of a comet in Auriga (constellational home, for those of you familiar with my nominal plans for female offspring number one, to my favorite star, Capella). It's amazing how many stars you can see out here, far from huge American cities. And how often you get clear nights, considering the frequency of cloudy days.

Funny how quickly you can go from feeling convinced that you've made the completely wrong decision about what to do with your life, to feeling like you are in pretty much the most ideal situation you can imagine. Glory to God!


Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Malt does more than Milton can/to justify God's ways to man" - A.E. Housman

Have you read that one? Now that I've read PARADISE LOST, I actually found it opened me up to faith. I had always had a problem with the idea of God being omniscient/omnipotent and us having free will. I subscribed more to Camus's view of "If there is a God, I despise him" until a professor helped me reconcile the whole omniscience/free will thing a little better. Now I try to work through things a little more. Due to my secular upbringing and Massachusetts background, I still find it a little odd when people speak openly, publicly about faith, but I am quite a bit more comfortable with it now. Anyhow, I am still enjoying hearing from you via your blogs. I hope you continue to grow while over in England. It really sounds like a fascinating experience. My strong suggestion to you - if you find the time and inclination - would be to check out a little bit of Eastern Europe, particularly Prague (Praha) and Budapest. Prague was my favorite city in Europe, and I hear that Budapest has the same vibe. If you get a chance to go to Italy, definitely hit the Cinque Terra, Santa Margarita, and Portofino. The people in Northern Italy seemed a heckuva lot friendlier than the ones in the South - or at least that was true of my experience.

Well, I gotta grade stuff. Always wishing you the best!


Uncle Frank

3:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had that tea with a spot o' milk I hope? I received quite a bit of "proper English tea" instruction from my British table companions. You should have seen our poor waitress running about bringing extra tea bags and milk. I am so glad to hear that everything is coming together over there! Love, Luba

10:08 PM  

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