Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Tuesday Report -- the magical becomes commonplace

I started thinking about this on a Tuesday back in December. We were boarding a plane for Ireland to spend a week waiting with dear friends between two major surgeries. The following Tuesday found us in Dublin boarding a plane back to Istanbul. 
Curt with Ken Needham, after Ken's heart surgery, waiting together for cancer surgery

A month later, in mid-January, there was another plane, this time bound for Kansas City, to be with Cait, Josh, and Lia, and to help with our newest grandchild Skye. 

Three weeks later, this time bound for Dubai, I slogged through security checks yet again. Curt flew in from Turkey to meet me. We enjoyed ten days with Dan and Eda, visited dear friends in Abu Dhabi, and met some folks we look forward to knowing better through an invitation to come alongside them regularly in their lives and work in the UAE. 

Another "magic metal tube" carried us back to Turkey, and we arrived home to Spa for the Soul just two weeks ago today. 

Last Saturday, another plane trip. Turkish Airlines carried us to Albania. This week Curt teaches Nehemiah and I teach the first part of Genesis in the Torchbearer Bible School here. We spend time with friends of many years in this town we love, and with Eda's family. 

International Women's Day festivities, Erseka, Albania

Sunday morning early we fly again, home to Turkey. Where I think we will remain until our return to the US for the summer.
Kathy and Ross are dear friends in Sequim.
This photo represents our whole life there.

These Tuesday reports are an effort to demystify our lives as expatriates who live in exotic-sounding locations like Mediterranean Turkey or the UAE. To humanize the experience by sharing the mundane stuff of everyday life and wonder. But as I've embarked and disembarked over the past three months I've thought some about ways expat life is so different--so that what was once adventure has become commonplace. What once would have been rare, anticipated for months or even years, has become...well, just what we do. 

For some time now my private term for international travel has been "that magic metal tube." You climb into this chair-packed, tightly controlled space. A little card tells you where to sit. And who with. You have to sit there. Strangers pile in, almost on top of you, pressing shoulders and elbows into yours even as you can't avoid doing the same to them. All to the tune vast sucking engines, pitch now rising, now falling. You sit straight with knees confined for an hour, or for 15 hours. I have a special place inside me where I retreat and hide. I rarely speak, or even look up from book or sleep. 

When the tube bumps and rattles. The engine whine winds down, and a little light goes off. A chime sounds. You can stand and file out into spacious ceilings and real air. A little like Noah coming out of the ark, you find everything about the world all changed. The climate, the landscape, the language, the dress, the instruments and rhythms of music, the ceremonies of friendship and business--everything about where you were before the time in the tube evaporated and is replaced by new shapes and smells and sounds. 

I never get over the magic of the changed world. The Abu Dhabi airport, for me, is particularly visceral with its mushroom-dome shaped interior of bright blue and green tile, the clothing and chatter of a hundred worlds milling around, and me in the midst thinking, "Ahhh. Home."

But the act of constantly changing continents and countries in this way, the ability to do it, has lost its mystery. No longer is it a big decision, a shimmering dream, to cross the world. Nor does a new place strike me as adventure. I don't really care, thank you, to visit another museum or ancient site. I do still love landscapes and weather and exploring new territory by car, foot, bike or kayak. And sometimes the handicrafts in the shops and the food in the restaurants draw me in. 

Has overfamiliarity bred contempt? I don't like the experience of the tube. The list of places I still want to visit before I die is...well, is there a list? 

Nonetheless, I will continue to board and disembark, to pack and weigh and haul the heavy bags. I'll remove my shoes and take the laptop out of my bag, and stand in long lines at immigration, and submit to pat-downs and TSA rummages. Not for adventure, but for all those people I love who will be there waiting at baggage claim.