I have yet to completely sort through my time in Nepal. Actually, the reality is that I’ve barely processed anything at all. Sure, sure, we went over patients every night and had plenty of time to think while at Sri Jana Farms, but that doesn’t make it easy.
I recognize the importance of reflection, I really do, it just is so hard for me to do. I’ve identified two reasons I believe this to be true: a) it takes a lot of focus, and my ADD brain often doesn’t afford me such a luxury, and b) it forces me to come to grips that a season in my life is ending or fundamentally changing.
Before we left, I started writing a blog post about how much I hate packing. Here is an excerpt:
Anyone who knows me knows I hate packing. Least-favorite activities can often be ranked on a scale of “one to packing,” with “unpacking” butted up snugly against its infamous neighbor. As with any trip, traveling to Nepal involves packing and planning for the days ahead. Even with a list of what and what not to bring, doing final loads of laundry, deciding which outfits can be worn three days in a row, and making sure I have all my paperwork never fails to make me feel like I’m trying to finish a 10-page research paper that was due yesterday. I’ve asked myself a thousand times, “Kaitlyn, why do you hate packing so much? This means you’ve been blessed with an opportunity to travel!” And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve figured out the answer.
The more I think about why I feel so burdened by reflection, the more I’m connecting it to how I feel about packing. I hate packing because it involves so much planning and signifies a sort of uprooting. I had to pick myself up out of Chillicothe, IL, my beloved hometown, in order to plant myself in Tansen, Palpa. I’ve never been one for homesickness, but saying goodbye is never necessarily easy. The same sort of reasoning accompanies my dismay for reflection; it involves a lot of planning and forces me to recognize that something significant is ending. There is hope of something new beginning, but that doesn’t necessarily make saying goodbye to a season any easier.
Maybe I hate the question “what has this trip meant to you?” because it makes me feel like I need to neatly package my experience in a sentence or two and leave it at that– a sentence or two. How can I articulate how watching a father grieve his son’s immanent death changes me? How can I articulate how being given hot water (a precious resources in many ways) to wash my hands by a family whose entire home is smaller than my dorm room changes me? How can I articulate how listening to a new friend’s testimony about being thrown in jail for his faith changes me?
It might just be an inadequate vocabulary that is so detrimentally affecting my ability to articulate meaning from such an experience, or it just might be that I haven’t seen the fruit yet. Sure, maybe my compassion grew or my sense of urgency for the Gospel grew, but seeing the true fruit of how this interim shifted something fundamental in my life will not be seen until ‘normal’ life resumes.
Maybe I think the question “what has this trip meant to you?” is so incredulous because it makes me feel as if I sort through everything now, I will leave all my thoughts in a heap and no longer have to think about them. If I process and reflect now, then I can live the rest of my semester in ignorance of a profoundly moving experience.
Unlike my dilemma with packing, I think I may have come up with a solution to help me reflect and transition: turn my thoughts into questions. If I am adamant to not leave my experience of Nepal behind, and if I truly learned anything, I must change something, or lots of things, in my everyday life. It’s like reading the Bible– if your behavior doesn’t change from reading it, did you actually learn anything? It’s the same sort of concept. So, to help you understand what I’ve been thinking about/what I’ve learned/what this trip has meant to me, I will leave you with a few questions that I will continue to ask once I am home:
- What does it mean to follow world news and pray fervently for situations that don’t affect my normal life, but deeply impact the lives of my brothers and sisters? (border blockade, specifically)
- What does it mean to conserve the resource of water, even when I have plenty of it?
- How do I reconcile a clinical attitude and compassion?
- How can I strive to serve ‘the least of these’ in an environment where I’m not surrounded by physical poverty at all times?
- What does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances, instead of use my tongue to complain?
I am leaving Nepal with more questions than what I came with. For this, I am thankful.
As I return to my West Michigan lifestyle, full of supermarkets, white people, and indoor heating, I must strive to fight resentment towards the ignorance of my culture and of my friends. Instead, when asked about my ‘trip to Nepal’ (this experience is worth far more to me than the title of ‘trip’), I must give grace over other’s understanding, because even my own understanding isn’t complete. Instead of becoming outraged that I have a hot shower and many Nepalis never will, I must ask myself if I am truly thankful, and I must always be conscience of conserving such a resource. Instead of lecturing my friends about my experiences, why don’t I ask them the same questions I ask myself?
If I truly don’t want to leave Nepal behind, then I won’t. I just wont.
Instead of packing it away, uprooting myself and flying back home to Chicago, where I could continue living an overwhelmingly comfortable life, I’ll leave my thoughts unkempt and scattered all over the room.
Instead of packing Nepal away, I’ll leave a trail of questions.
Instead of packing Nepal away, I’ll let my carry-on of thoughts seep into the rest of my life.
With these thoughts, I leave you. Please continue to pray for our team, and our transition back home and to school. Please, PLEASE, continue to ask us questions, especially months from now, when it’s easier to forget what we’ve learned. Continue to pray that we will have attitudes like Christ, and continue to learn what that looks like. Continue to pray that our experiences will not have been in vain, and that we will make changes in our daily lives and spiritual walks.
May I never hate reflection as much as packing again!
With the biggest of loves and the most of grace,