The build up to beginning my travels was actually much harder. Despite being exponentially excited, it was also terrifying to know that under the stipulations of this fellowship, I could not return home for a year. Trying to prepare for that was incredibly daunting—from the logistics of figuring out what to pack for a year in all of these different climates and countries to the emotional challenge of trying to say goodbye to people. A few weeks after my graduation in May I was home in Vermont trying to get ready for the year ahead and I have the distinct memory of my first attempt at shopping for shoes to bring. I was trying to narrow it down to bringing three pairs that could work in all of the different situations I could potentially be in throughout the coming year and I ended up having a complete meltdown, sobbing in front of a rack of Chaoco sandals at the sheer overwhelmingness of all that was to come and the impossibility of being prepared for it.
In many ways, it is much easier to be here than to try to prepare for it. As soon as I got on the plane to Singapore there was a kind of acceptance of all of these unknowns, an acceptance that is required in order to make the most of this year.
And for the most part, I’ve been very happy. It is easy to feel welcomed here, to feel like you have people to call and celebrations and traditions and conversations that you can slip into, even as an outsider. I cannot say enough how kind people are. A friend told me before I left that I should be sure to “find my joy” in each place which seems like a perfect way to put it. And I am finding it, mostly in the small satisfactions like being able to say “good morning” to people on the street in a language they understand, and attending a Balinese birthday party, or taking a long walk through rice fields, or getting to hear someone tell the story of their name, or of their own joy, even a “ground shaking joy.” It is an easy place to have a an attitude that focuses on the day to day because both the people and the paraphernalia in every store continue to remind you that the only constant is change.
But then, of course, there are days like today when I discover my ATM card has been lost or stolen and on the way to try to find it I get a small but bloody gash on my leg from the unpredictable Ubud sidewalks. And I’m sweaty and dirty and sick of being hassled on the street and realize I can’t even speak enough Indoneisan to explain to the people working near the ATM that I may have left my card in the machine. And I realize I’ll have to go to bed without this resolved and I think of my friends in their apartments and my family at home. And it hits me that I won’t be able to go home soon and process this all, I’ll just be moving on. And I’m learning it is nights like these I can let myself forsake the nasi goreng and bakso and just end my day with this:
Finding my joy.