Finding a place to live is a difficult endeavor in any setting. There are just so many variables. Add to that language and cultural differences and things get really interesting.
I chose to find an apartment in my new hometown through a realtor. We discussed my needs as it relates to number of bedrooms, furnished, nearness to my language school, etc. Then we began the discussion on how much I could pay. He assured me that he had many places in my price range that will meet my needs. And then reality struck. He began taking me to beautiful apartments twice what I can pay and twice as large as what I need. So I explained my needs and limitations again. His response was affirmative and then he assured me we would look at more apartments that would be more appropriate. Day two was more of the first. Now my frustration is rising. Until I began questioning why he was showing me these places. His response: but you’re an American and these are better for you. Of course he knows what’s best for me, right?
But, in the end, I was able to sign a lease on a lovely place full of interesting things for the price I had told him.
So, how will I meet all these new neighbors?
As I stared out the small window to the land below, I soaked in the trees and grass, a sign of water, knowing my journey was taking me to a place where this was a rarity. I knew life in the desert would be difficult, but in those moments as we flew to my destination, I had no idea the desert would become a part of me.
The first time I landed in the desert, I found myself staring, mouth wide open, at the vast nothingness I could see for miles. I’m from one of the most beautiful valleys in the US where hikers come from all over to gaze on its beauty from atop the surrounding mountains. Quaint plantations dot the view separated by rivers and streams that sparkle in the sunshine. Truly it is “God’s country.”
Now, though, I am landing in a desolate wasteland where everything is a different shade of brown. I began to wonder exactly what I had gotten myself into when I decided to move to this place. The May day was stiflingly hot with no thought of respite. My culturally appropriate clothing was sticking to me before I even left the airport. But, turning my face toward the exit with all my luggage in tow, I was determined to make it here. This was to be my new home and the place to which I was called. I could do this. Sure, no problem. Now, just to figure out where to live…
I’ve never been to Kansas, but I could definitely say I wasn’t there at all. I awoke with a start my first morning to the to the droning of the muezzin calling the neighborhood to their morning prayers. As my bleary eyes began to clear, I looked out my window to the deserted street below. Everything was different. I couldn’t even read the signs. And everything was a shade of brown.
A few hours later I summoned up all the courage I possessed to venture out on my own in this new metropolis. A city that has been inhabited for millenia. And one that hasn’t changed all that much. As I aimlessly wandered the streets, hoping I would remember the way back to my place of rest, I began to look in the faces of those to whom I had come to befriend, learn from, and share the Truth with. I was struck by the similarities between my desert surroundings and those faces. They were has hard and dry as the land on which they resided. As my feet took me through small alleyways, my mind meandered through the dark corners of doubt to the bright, peaceful place that is reliance completely on Jesus. But that peace came with a realization that my spiritual walk was about to take a very difficult turn.
I most certainly was not in Kansas anymore.