Last night, I emerged from a small airplane into a familiar atmosphere of warmth and humidity. After a whirlwind six weeks in India and a few days spent in England to decompress and reacclimatize to Western culture, I was back with my friends and family in Florida. I woke up yesterday morning, and before I even opened my eyes my first thought was "where I am going to day and how am I getting there?" Then I remembered that I was at home and in my own bed. My family was in the next room with a pot of freshly-brewed coffee. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling. I am honestly still a bit numb, and the knowledge that I am actually home with my family is still sinking in.
For the record, Oxford was a wonderful place to decompress. As a fan of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the filmed adapations of Harry Potter, several days in a city with such a rich literary history and a dozens of recognizable movie locations provided several days of diversion that I needed to return home to the family as something other than an edgy, coarse-mannered mess. I also had the opportunity to see good friends, new and old, even getting the chance to meet Andy Proper, an Oxford photographer with whom I have corresponded on Facebook for the last two years. The only drawback to my time in England was that something in the water disagreed with my stomach in the strongest possible terms. After six weeks in India with no lasting damage, a glass of UK tap water was enough to give me gold-medal stomach cramps and runs. It's a funny world.
Apart from my long walks through the ancient "city of the dreaming spires," I also had time to reflect.
In the third-floor loft graciously provided for me by friends in Oxford, I spent several mornings staring out the open window, racking my brain in an effort to digest and make sense of everything I saw and experienced in India. My friends whom I stayed with have both participated extensively in missions, and we spoke extensively on the subject of service in other countries. With their counsel I came to the following conclusions:
- I don't need to rush to find a resolution at the end of the trip, or expect God to rush in with one as I seek to boil down my experiences to a cohesive, single "lesson."
- I shouldn't assume that the experience should be measured by how much change I consciously caused. I should look also at the changes caused in me.
- There might not be any single, unified final conclusion at which to arrive.
So, for now, I'm not even going to try. Instead, during this week, I am going to relax, start the photo editing process and relive the journey image by image. You, dear readers, will relive the journey with me as I post my photos as a daily journal, covering the events my journey from days one through forty. I dumped four camera cards and my iPhone yesterday for a grand total of 5,643 image and video files, and I cannot wait to start curating, separating and processing them. I humbly invite you to follow this blog closely, because I guarantee you that it will stay interesting for a long time to come. In addition to the photographs, the written recap will capture my own personal revelations as each photograph triggers a fresh memory. As I articulate them for readers, I will be better able to make sense of the trip myself.
Was the trip a powerful experience?
What made it powerful?
Can I name individual elements of the trip that made it powerful?
But I can still quote Tom Wilkinson:
“The light, colors, the smiles, it teaches me something.”
India is coming to this blog, but I won't challenge you like a big shot to "be ready," because I'm not sure that I am.