I loved. I fell into life in that village and was surrounded by warmth and childish fun and LOVE. I wove in and out of concern and devotion, and I learned that no amount of flies, colds, or heat would ever keep me away. I cooked, I giggled, I blew kisses on the naked, plump stomach of a three year old. I played dress up. I sat still and blinked profusely while kohl was applied to my eyes and tried not to cry it all off as it burned and my Moroccan mother laughed.
But most of all, I was adored and I adored back. I was dragged willingly into a life that wasn't mine, but felt like it was. Because there, I was loved. And I loved in spades.
I recharged. I stood in the rain in the too expensive dress I had bought because I couldn't resist, and thanked God for umbrellas. I scanned yellow lit streets that reflected light from puddles and held my breath, even though I was early. I clutched a small Starbucks cup to my hands for warmth and finished the contents.
Everything looked British. No matter where I went in London, it always looked the way I imagined it. Its one of the only places I've ever been that has that quality.
I turned towards the tube stop and forgot my umbrella and my carefully straightened hair, and rushed foreword into one of my favorite people in the entire world.
One of the hardest parts of traveling for me is missing the people I love. I've always felt close to my family, and that connection helps me thrive. While I think being alone is a blessing for me, that doesn't always dull the ache of homesickness I sometimes get in the pit of my stomach.
Seeing Ethan was like a breath of fresh air for me. I didn't care what we did, despite how incredible London is, and I didn't care about missing him. Because I got to see him, and that was one of the highlights of my time abroad. It helped me reboot- helped me remember why I was there, and plugged me back into my family. I was zapped back into alignment with my life.
And then, I enjoyed. I met nice people, drank nice drinks, and mostly, ATE nice food. I will forever remember and crave those little pizza shops that had giant square pizzas. They would, upon my order, cut slices into rectangles and fold them over so that cheese met cheese, and I had makeshift pizza sandwiches. Its one of the best things I've ever eaten.
I had a lot of mishaps in Rome. I decided to do a cheesy tour bus around the city and picked the company with only six busses running on a Friday. This meant that I hardly got off the bus because if I did, I would wait forever and not even get a seat when the next bus did come. I went to museum after museum just to be disappointed by decayed frescos, no paintings, or oddly enough, a futuristic art museum with art aiming at contemporary, I think, but mostly achieving nothing of interest (okay, so I'm not really a contemporary art person anyway, but this belonged firmly in the category of crap). I've never spent so little time in a museum, but I've learned from now on, if I'm not sure of what lays inside the museum, I should check out the gift shop BEFORE I buy the ticket. Good lesson.
I went to the Vatican on a Saturday and became claustrophobic by the number of tourists and cameras (there were more cameras than tourists). I basically ran through the Vatican museums in an effort to escape being trampled.
But I still enjoyed. I enjoyed because I found the best chocolate mouse of my life, and promptly called my Mother to discuss specifics. I enjoyed because I had great conversations with interesting people, including a Canadian soldier who discussed government errors (read: stupidity) with me and struck me as a cowboy. And I enjoyed because when I walked to my little pizza shop on the corner, I wasn't alone. AND I got pizza.
Then in Barcelona, I connected. Not just in a superficial way, but in a way I've never felt before. I went on my first pub crawl, just to get out and because I was alone, not expecting to have anything really happen, but to maybe make some friends. I befriended almost everyone on the pub crawl, including a group of seven awesome girls on break from studying in Madrid. I made friends with two Spanish girls who spoke little English, but told me my Spanish was good, because I complimented one of them on their truly adorable dress.
And I met this guy, and we talked all night, until past six in the morning, and I felt concocted. I felt great. I know, without a doubt, that having that kind of connection with someone was the next stage in my development towards being (wanting to be) in a romantic relationship with someone for more than a few weeks at a time. What a good lesson, to know that I could desire it, feel connected enough to actually want to share myself. To understand even a little that it could happen for me, not just in stories. While I am an overtly open person, when it comes to romance I guard myself quite closely. I always thought that was a problem. I contemplated the idea that maybe I did that because I was never with the right men. I considered that sometime soon, I might be open to a relationship in a way I never have been before.
Next, I healed. France was all in all a sort of non-experience for me. I slept. I read. I watched television. I didn't tour. I avoided busy areas and cities. I tried to rejuvenate myself.
All of that effort was somewhat moot when I had an allergic reaction that sent me to the hospital in Paris in the middle of the night. After some of the worst hours of my life, I had medicine and no doctor's bill (go France!).
And I healed. Quickly. Before I knew it, the welt like bumps were gone, along with the itching and my discomfort. My mood improved, and I healed in a quiet village in the southwest of Turkey. There, I slept and cooked and attended a village wedding, where I somehow managed to miss the ceremony because I had no idea what was going on, and I was doing my best to make myself invisible. It's harder than you'd think.
But mostly, I healed. I caught my breath. By the time I got to Cappadocia, I was ready to soar.
I discovered. With my face firmly planted underwater, my eyes hardly blinked as they stayed glued to every detail of the underwater kingdom I had found before me. Even sporting dysentery (the latest fashion, in my life anyway), I lost all thoughts of the outside world as I stared at grass, coral, and fish darting in and out of their mazes.
Some of the coral were bright yellow trees and branches. Some were white plants with highlighter green, purple, pink, and blue tips. My favorite was probably the array of pinks, purples, and whites that covered entire walls and reminded me of exquisite wedding centerpieces.
I was also fascinated by the patterns on much of the coral and reefs. I didn't know why humans even tried to make symmetry and pattern when nature had already perfected it. I wondered if I hovered if I could pick out the symmetry group. I know, I'm a geek.
I saw the most spectacular fish. Deep purple with midnight blue spots and yellow accents, and a foot long. Vivid, multicolored stripes. Moray eels. I swam with a sea turtle I approximated at four to five feet long while diving. I touched a foot long blowfish and felt the spikes, and I saw it expand into a comical balloon (those things are hilarious- I didn't know it was possible to giggle underwater, but I managed it).
I saw rainbow fish and Dora and Nemo from Finding Nemo (incidentally, my dive school's name was Nemo Dive Center). I saw something in the crocodile family, barracudas, and three foot long fish in quads. I swam around a sunken tank. Basically, I discovered not only a world unto its own, but that I could participate in that world.
I reveled. I reveled at Petra, old stone masterpieces, and at life. I experienced gratitude in spades and listened to affirmations until I truly felt them, and felt hurt, anger and fear melt away. I grew up a little, both when I didn't cry upon getting an IV and shots, and when I recognized that I was going to take responsibility for my own feelings and turn them into a positive direction, despite conflict and health.
And lastly, I loved again. As cheesy as it sounds, this time I was the recipient of that love. I recognized my accomplishment- three months of somewhat rough travel, and two months of it alone. I didn't just survive, I learned from it and adjusted to become a better traveller. I finally recognized that this is not something everyone is capable of, which means that I am good at something. I'm allowing myself to take every hiccup, supposed failure, and setback and view them as excellent indicators that will help guide me towards what I want in the second half, so that it might go more smoothly than the first.
So now I sit in Cairo, where I will be in a month's time, but under such different circumstances. I don't know what the next trip will bring, but I know what this one brought: love, recharge, enjoyment, connection, healing, discovery, revelation, and love all over again.
It brought insight and truth and blessings and gratitude. I don't really know what more can be asked of any experience. I always planned on learning. I always planned on self-discovery. I didn't quite expect the crazed ups and downs.
I've read that this life is just a flowing river. We can either fight the current, or ride it towards bliss. Conflict arises when we fight it, and joy when we let go and follow the stream. When you live an intense life, your stream flows faster. Therefore, you have to fight it harder and when you relax, you go faster into happiness. This accounts for intense emotional ups and downs. So the biggest thing I've learned is simple.
My stream is rushing.
My stream is thundering.
My stream is flowing even faster than my imagination.
And I don't need to keep up with it.
I need to remove my clasping fingers from the rock I'm clutching, and allow myself to be swept along into the currents of my rapid-filled, steaming, whirling life.
Note: As is probably obvious, this post is extremely personal and as such I was hesitant to post it. I have done so in the spirit of neglecting fear and swimming downstream (I.e. I'm not quite floating because I am actively participating in my path downstream, hope that came through). So anyway, I hope someone enjoyed it, and I think it adequately, if not completely thoroughly, sums up the first half of my experience abroad.
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