I am typing this post as I watch the sun setting over Torun, Poland. My new home. I have been here a few weeks, busy moving into my apartment, getting my Polish phone number, learning how to use ApplePay (the coolest thing EVER!), figuring out which tram gets me to the Old Town and which one takes me far, far away, and being orientated by the nicest Fulbright people you would ever want to meet. Yes, my adventure has begun.
I know people have wondered why I would want to live for 6 months in Poland during my sabbatical instead of sipping Pinã Coladas in Florida, spending time “working on a book”. My friends and family usually have a confused or weird, twisted look on their face when I tell them I won’t be back for awhile. If you were one of those people, but were afraid to ask “what are you thinking?!”, let me provide a few answers.
First…YOLO, baby! “YOLO”, if you are unfamiliar with this term, it is the motto screamed at late hours and whispered in accidental places by my Europe Term students as they forgo sleep, studying, and healthy hygiene habits to experience everything Europe has to offer, all squished into 4 short months. YOLO (you only live once) is a call to break away from the comfortable and knowable, to make new discoveries and to experience things that will shape us for a lifetime. So, that is one reason I’m here. I’m upper-middle aged (or more like lower old-age), the kids have flown the nest, I have an awesome job where I get a sabbatical, and so, now is the time.
The second reason I wanted to find an adventure was to live the theory. For decades, I have taught Intercultural Communication and the common stages people go through as they experience another culture. I know the stages. I can diagram the stages. I have even made up a song and dance routine to remember the stages. In my travels, I have clearly honeymooned (stage 1) and for sure I’ve gotten frustrated (stage 2), but what does acceptance, adjustment, inculturation look like? All those stages past “Please, I just want to go home and sleep on a fluffy pillow”. I’ve never stayed in a place long enough to truly understand the culture beyond the tourist map highlights. That’s what I’m going for…stage 3.
Finally, it is time for me to stir up my faith. Like any Christian, I have seen my relationship with Christ ebb and flow over the years. I don’t know. Sometimes, it seems like the older I get the more my faith becomes predictable and just a bit passive. So, here I am, on this grand adventure to be humbled and to see and experience God’s loving kindness in new and powerful ways. We shall see if I have some new looks, new perspectives, new relationships, and new life-changing experiences when I finally get back home.