Saturday, September 12, 2015

Body Language

Eyes averted, downcast.
Arms crossed, around body.
A voice that whispers.

Hands down at her side, clenching her dress.
I watch the hands- clasping and unclasping.

Tears in eyes. Tears in her voice.
But her mouth still smiles- she laughs even.
A few tears fall but she brushes them away and changes the subject.

Eyes staring back- empty- challenging.
Voice flat.
Body still-no tick, no nervous gesture.
Just the robotic disclosure of the most horrific events.

Eyes brimming with tears.
Chest rising and falling. Faster and faster and faster.
When fear rises, when the hard questions come up.

Head in hands.
Hands covering face.
Hands covering eyes.

Talking and talking and talking and then-a break.
An overwhelming emotion. A thought that is much too hard to voice.
And then the clenching of the jaw-over and over-until it can be voiced without letting the emotion win.

Clutching your one bag- full of your only possessions.
From time to time your eyes fill with tears but they never overflow.

A nervous smile.
A quiet tear.
A trembling hand.

I see.
I see it.
I see you.

But sometimes I don't say anything because there is nothing that I can do.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

3 years ago... Today

Three years ago today, Mark and I said tearful goodbyes to our family and friends and left for Tonga.

We met the craziest bunch of weirdo's (G77) and speculated about our future with them.
We flew what felt like the longest and most uncomfortable flight and landed at a quaint, yet still overwhelming Tongan airport.
We were introduced to our first Tongans, our first Tongan words, our first Kava ceremony.
We wondered and worried about how one bathes, washes clothes, drinks water, and lives without electricity.
We pasted tentative smiles on our lips and tried to say yes to everything.
We awoke to roosters crying at random hours and cursed all children books everywhere that lied to us.
We did not appreciate the magic of Selahs Guesthouse (or discover the hot water heater) until much too late in the game that first stay.
We ate root crops. And ate root crops. And ate root crops. And ate root crops. And ate root crops... (and you get the point). And then we ate roasted pig and discovered it was nothing AT ALL like ham...and a little bit of our souls died that day.

And then we moved in with a family. And all the newness and uncomfortableness began again. But we were a bit braver this time.
We ate cookies. And ate cookies. And ate cookies. And ate cookies. And (occasionally cake, but only when it was served to us in bed). And ate cookies and ate cookies. (and you get the point).
Those weirdos became friends- who each responded differently to the challenges that are:
 1. Homestay 2. PST 3. Culture Shock
Even though we had so often shared our living space, we struggled to settle into a working routine with our Tongan family.
We laughed, we cried, we avoided, we dug in. Usually all of these things within every hour.
We rewired our entire brains to understand Tongan. We carried flash cards in our pockets and Mark murmured to himself everywhere he went and I remember thinking TENSE marker FIRST, VERB SECOND. Just... a constant mind battle to conquer this foreign language.

Then we transitioned again. To our little island at the edge of the world. When we were shown the map of Tonga and the available potential living sites- we both looked first for the smallest, most remote island, and we hoped and prayed and longed for that placement.

We arrived in Neiafu, Vava'u and were taken to the wharf. A small red and white boat awaited us. I thought for sure we were living in a fairy tale. I promise, you have never seen anything like the beauty of this place. Go there. Sit in an 8 foot boat in the magnificent old Blue and feel the sun and ocean spray, see the islands jut out before and alongside you... It is a spiritual thing, truly.
We settled into our classroom converted into a home.
We thought temporarily that a small cooler would allow us to eat meat.
We became vegetarians.
We bonded and came to love, lean on, admire those bunch of weirdo's from G77.

We danced, joked, ate, church hopped, taught, sang, baked, kava drank, etc, etc our way into that little community.
We made so many mistakes I cringe.
We grew so much as individuals and as a couple I sometimes can't recognize who we were before this experience marked us.

We struggled so much. We emptied ourselves so completely. We learned so many hard lessons. We loved to the deepest of our ability.

There was us and who we were and there was our life
and then there was TONGA
and now there is us and who we are now.

And TONGA will forever be a marker. a milestone. a great adventure. a crazy life altering experience.

And though time passes and memories fade, a deep and lasting fondness remains in my heart,


*te u manatui lelei hoku taimi I Nuapapu. Ofa atu Tonga.


I had a minute alone today.

I thought I was leaving work a bit early, but by the time I had excused myself from the last conversation as I walked out of the neighborhood it was after 5.

I called Mark to tell him I was on the way home. In our less than ten minute conversation I received 14 phone calls on my work phone. Neat.

I drove home distracted- mind busy- stressed at all that I didn't accomplish today.

When I got home it started to rain. A cool breeze shifted the Frangipangi flowers on our tree in the front yard. I sat in the doorway, out on the porch.

I had to refocus myself multiple times- to remind myself to be present, in that moment. To just experience it...
To feel the breeze and the every so often rain drop...
To hear the light rain, the rustling, the occasional meowing cat from the cat lady next door, the sound of the motorcycles, the new baby crying across the street.

It was good to sit and force myself in the present. To take a minute to do something completely trivial, something for myself.

Mark came home then- all wet and splattered with mud- as only he could arrive. We laughed. We sat a little longer out on the porch. We listened to some music and listened to each other.

There is a brokenness that I carry with me in this season, friend, I am sure you might have noticed it.
Sometimes this brokenness makes me a bit crazy- yelling and distracted, short-tempered or oft near tears. Maybe it seems I carry the weight of too much sadness, have not yet learned what is mine to bear and what is not. I haven't got it figured out, that's for sure.

But there is also so much life in this season. So much to be thankful for and so much to be happy about.

I'm thankful for quiet nights on the front porch, of a cool breeze, frangipangi scents, making Mark laugh over dinner, and that one minute of solitude that prepared my mind to enjoy the evening.