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Flying Alone

heathrow goodbye

Heathrow Terminal 5.  One last look around WH Smith.  Anything I’ve forgotten to buy?  What can I not get back in Berlin?  Cadbury’s Dairy Milk are on special.  Definitely need to get some of those!

And then on to the gate, waiting to return to my other life. A week of wonderful times with friends, of visiting old haunts, of reliving my old life, comes to an end.  Another world awaits me.

Flying alone can be hard.  And boring, but that’s not the point.  It’s more the sense of completely leaving behind a very special week, because no one can share those memories with me.  This is how someone else expressed this dynamic:

  One friend wrote that the hardest part for her is flying alone. Not because I don’t have the ability or because I’m afraid, but because it highlights the fact that no matter where I go, there is no person that is consistent in my life. Sitting at an airport gate by yourself can be lonely for anyone. However, I agree with my friend. When you’re a single missionary, it’s a deeper loneliness than simply not having someone to chat with while you wait for your flight. It’s the knowledge that you are leaving one “home” for your other “home,” and no one is making this transition with you. Your two “lives” are consistent, but you are the only one who lives them both.


Today, I am feeling this a lot.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Maggie Smith – you can’t really go wrong with a movie featuring practically a Who’s Who of British actors!  That’s what a friend and I decided when we headed out to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  And we couldn’t have been more right!  What a treat!

Here is a brief summary of the plot:

A group of British retirees have outsourced their retirement, attracted by the less expensive and seemingly exotic India. They are enticed by advertisements about the newly restored Marigold Hotel and given false dreams of a life with leisure. They arrive at the hotel to find that it is not as advertised and, although the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, the retirees are profoundly transformed by their subsequent experiences.

I can’t even say what I enjoyed most.  There are the sights, the sounds, the colours of India!  Incredible!  The amazing acting skills.  The humour.

But what has stayed with me the most, is how differently each of the characters copes with being thrown into a completely alien environment.

Evelyn (Judi Dench), sums it up well: “This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it.  And not just cope, thrive.”  And she does, throwing herself into it with gusto.  Taking on new challenges, getting her first paid job ever.  “India, like life itself, I suppose, is about what you bring to it.”  Can’t say it better than that!

Muriel (Maggie Smith) arrives in India with a lot of bitterness and racism.  Her initial encounters with India are summed up well by this statement: ““No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!” She doesn’t venture outside the hotel for the longest time, and not just because she is confined to a wheelchair after a hip replacement operation.  Yet slowly but surely, despite herself, Muriel gets drawn out of herself by one of the hotel maids.  They don’t have a common language and yet the Sunaina somehow manages to break through Muriel’s defences.

Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are a married couple, who respond in completely opposite ways.  At one point, Jean asks one of the other guests: “How can you bear this country?  What do you see that I don’t?”  And she never does see it.  Douglas, on the other hand, is always out and about, discovering the place.  How tragic that they don’t know how to communicate about what they are experiencing and why they are reacting the way they do!

Thinking back over times I have encountered a new culture, I can recognise myself in all the characters.  Sometimes feeling overwhelmed, just wanting to withdraw and hide.  Sometimes being cautious, but still venturing out.  And sometimes loving every moment it!  Lots to think about and learn here.

Finally, we have Sonny (Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame), whose dream is to “create a home for the elderly, so wonderful that they will simply refuse to die.”  He is the eternal optimist, seeing challenges as opportunities, and not letting anything get him down for long.  It is fitting that the most well-known quote is something Sonny says:

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

If you haven’t yet, go and see it!

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Large chunks of my heart…

In the months before I left the ME, people kept urging me to disengage and transition back. And I made a conscious decision to “be all there, wherever I was.” And I don’t regret that at all—I’d do it again. What I do regret was that I failed to apply that rule when I started over in the States. I’m being taught to “be all here”even while large chunks of my heart are in another world, with another people. I think it’s a most excellent problem to have—the challenge to balance yourself, your interests, your relationships, your conversations, your love. I’m here for “such a time as this”—to engage with those who are right before me. This is a reality, too, and this American life is worthy of my full attention and energy, especially when I firmly believe that our Father is forever sustaining us, preparing us and directing our steps.

Large chunks of MY heart will forever be in the crazy country that comes up with things like this:

Can’t stand Marmite (or even Ma’amite) but love love love the humour!

Yup, never again will my heart be all in one place.  At times, I feel a huge need to cling on to “that place”.  To make my apartment a shrine filled with Union Jacks.  To listen to the BBC 24/7.  To not be all here, in this place and this life.  To not allow new treasures to be added to (and mixed in with) the ones from across the channel.  Most people won’t understand.  How could they (after all, there are many things about their lives I will never understand either).  But there are some who do and for those I am deeply thankful.

I long to arrive at the place where I am able to

engage in both worlds with a beautiful balance.

(Quotes are from the blog post “Back to Amreeka: They Don’t Know… “.  Click here to read the whole thing.)