Fin – Part 2

This morning I completed the examination component of the coursework I’ve taken over the past two weeks.  It was an essay examination.  We were given nine questions to write on, and we had to choose six.  The questions ranged the gamut of the coursework and reading material.  Hopefully I will score well enough to merit three credit hours of graduate-level credit.  Might come in handy if I ever proceed with a second Masters.

In a few hours we leave Strasbourg and head to Paris.  I’ve lived in Strasbourg for a couple of weeks now, almost.  It’s amazing how adaptive humans are.  Adapting to a new place and a different culture, surviving in the midst of a different language and different customs.  Learning where to buy food, where to wash clothes.  The basics of reality don’t change.  Vacation is often glamorized as an escape from the tedium of routine, but perhaps that’s more true if one can afford the luxury of doing away with routine all-together.

The next week and a half will be a lot different in terms of people and focus as well.  I’ve been with other people non-stop since leaving on July 1.  97% of the time was spent with people other than my wife.  While meeting new people and being with long-time friends and family is good, there’s a great need at this point to be away from all of that, all of them.  I won’t have the academic focus that I’ve had for the past couple of weeks.  I told my Elders that this was my continuing education for the year and I wasn’t lying – it has taken a lot of energy to attend this Academy.  Months of reading in advance preparation, the mental stamina to keep up with some very intelligent people.  It has definitely been work, even if work in a more exotic locale than normal!

This next week will hopefully be more relaxed, a time to just be.  We don’t have strong ideas and goals for our time in Paris.  Recuperating from our respective journey thus far is paramount.  I’m sure we’ll see plenty of things along the way, but we prefer to, as much as possible, just be in someplace different.  To learn how to get by.  To watch people living their lives and recognize that while locations and history and language and culture may change, people are essentially people.  We all need to accomplish the same basic things to thrive and survive.  It isn’t possible to escape these things fully, only to divert the effort involved to other people, or modify it and change it into forms we aren’t used to.

The streets and shops I’ve grown to know so well in the past two weeks will be forgotten within a few months or years, unless there are particular reasons to recall them and embed them more firmly into memory.  Hopefully I’ll remember the evening spent in a hot apartment eating cheese and pizza and potato chips, drinking an Italian wine in France with in Italian woman who is a Swiss citizen, my wife who is an American born in New Guinea, and a French-Brazilian woman who grew up mostly in Africa.  Hopefully I’ll remember laughing together as we sought to communicate without always having the right words and language.

Hopefully I’ll remember talking with a young woman struggling as her world-view was challenged, trying to come to grips with views and ideas antithetical to what she had been taught and personally experienced.  Trying to cling tight to the promises of God despite the fact that culture less and less conformed to the ideas of Scripture.

Hopefully I’ll remember lunching with a pastor from Jamaica, trading witticisms with a lawyer from Kuala Lumpur.  Enjoying tarte flambe and wine with an opinionated woman from Florida.  Places and views and history all tend to fade away, in the end, and what I remember most are the things that seem so insignificant, that might happen anywhere, but happened only because for two weeks I was here and not at home.

I am profoundly humbled at the opportunities I’ve been given.  I pray to be a good steward of them as I move on to a time of rest and relaxation in the City of Lights.

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