My November guests

In November, three guests traversed the Atlantic to visit me: my mom, my brother, and my friend. Some of our adventures included:

  • Finding each other at the airport… and managing to convince security that I was not a risk
  • Traipsing around the city as each phone place we had been directed to directed us to someone else
  • Arguing with taxi drivers who were even more stubborn than I
  • Tasting the old medina, literally and figuratively
  • Posing for awkward pictures
  • Sampling camel burgers and a salad that tasted “like donkeys”
  • Wiggling cooked snails out of their shells with wooden toothpicks…and sampling them too
  • Long talks
  • Laughing until we cried
  • Visiting my friends for tea, dinner, or just to say “hi”
  • Tasting uncured olives that pickled our mouths
  • Eating most of our meals standing around in the kitchen
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain again
  • A long train ride in the rain
  • Walking along the bay in the rain
  • Two nights of cold showers
  • Spending a night snuggled in the musty hotel blankets
  • Staying in a concrete hotel room which reverberated with the early morning call to prayer and reading of the Qur’an
  • Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry only to find that the rain in Spain does not stay mainly on the plain!
  • A long bus ride around many many roundabouts…in the rain
  • A bus break-down which seemed to temporarily mend itself
  • A few days in Spain with friends, church, a birthday party,  an open air market, olives, churros, pastries, cocido, and tapas
  • Goodbyes

Learning to listen

I was yawning between pages of War and Peace. The train’s rumble of metal on metal was soothing after three hours.

As we had moved from city to city, passengers had changed so often that they became a blur of faceless humanity. Across the compartment, someone took a seat facing me, another faceless being. I yawned again.

But then I smelled him. Cigarette smoke. I tried not to wrinkle my nose as I looked at him. Our eyes locked. He blinked, and I looked away.

Him.

What?!

When I had started the trip, I had spent time in prayer. God,  I want to listen to Your voice today. Several times, women had sat down next to me, but most had avoided eye contact. All I had given or received was a smile or maybe a greeting. But now it was a man. I didn’t talk to men unless I had a reason.

Remember the woman at the well? Who talked to her? Was it a man or a woman?

But I can’t talk to him. And my Arabic is horrid. Besides, I will only get myself into trouble… Fine. Okay, but You have to make Your timing really clear.

More than an hour later, he stood up–was he leaving? No, he took the empty seat next to me. I continued to skim through a dry chapter of War and Peace.

Now? But what if I heard You wrong?

Then he stood again. “Can you save my seat for me?” he asked in perfect English.

Wait, he speaks English? 

It was only a few minutes before he drifted back to his reserved seat, bringing along a cloud of cigarette smoke. This time I did wrinkle my nose. “You’re killing yourself, you know?”

He turned to me. “Do you believe in destiny?” His voice was low and gentle.

A subconscious understanding of where the conversation was headed triggered words that I didn’t hear until they had sprung from my lips: “Are you a fatalist?”

From there, our conversation careened down a different path than he had intended. But it was exactly the path that God had intended.

I doubt I will ever see him again. But it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am learning to listen to God’s voice.

Too many hours on a train

I find that when I am forced to be inactive for a length of time, I begin to wonder things I normally don’t take time to think about.

Such as:

Is it only those with rushed, complicated lives that can appreciate the simple? Can those who are simple truly appreciate their simplicity when they’ve never experienced anything different? So then, can simplicity only be fully appreciated by those who don’t have it? And can the complicated life ever go back to being simple or does it always carry its baggage of experience with it? Can the process of losing simplicity ever be reversed? In short, can one both know and appreciate their own simplicity?