[Note: I wrote this soon after I returned home in January but wanted to wait a bit to share it. Also, I can never put into words what my trip to Burkina and Amy and Mike and Coral all mean to me so I'm not even going to try. I thank God everyday for the amazing experience that I had. You are all stronger and more wonderful than I could ever hope to be <3]
Before I start on the blogs for the rest of my adventure, I wanted to share this story with you. I’ve written it in my head a hundred times and thought I should get it down on paper:
I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I practiced the conversation in my head a million times, “So did you guys hear about the terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso? I was there last year and one of the people I worked with, my mentor while I was there, was killed.” I couldn’t do it. The weight was suffocating and though I had the support of my friends and family at home thanks to technology I just wanted a hug but I didn’t want to put my burden on a group of people I just met. We ate dinner, we played cards, we watched Australian movies. I made sure I was smiling and I distracted myself, it worked. When I got back to Vienna I got on the metro to the bus station. After one stop this strange looking man got on. I felt sick, my legs got weak, and I wanted to cry. The metro car was packed and I felt like I was suffocating. We got to the next stop and I almost got off, but he did instead. I felt embarrassed for being so judgmental, for assuming he was a bad person because he looked different. Who was I? The bus ride to Budapest was about three hours. I was on the verge of tears the entire time. I alternated between begging God for safe travels and thanking Him that I wasn’t in a city or a big hostel where I could have isolated myself that weekend. You do a lot of thinking when you travel alone and that’s not always a good thing. When I got to Budapest it was already dark. My hostel’s instructions were not very clear and I ended up at the wrong metro stop with no idea where I was going. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English and the people, with their hungry eyes, in the metro station looked at me like the blonde, young, lost, tourist I was. I was terrified, I was tired, and I was ready to cry. I left the station and found an Information desk. “Do you speak English?” “No.” Fully defeated, I had no idea what to do. I literally had no idea where I was. About 2 seconds later, a man who had been on his phone came over to me and asked, in English, if he could help me. Without hesitating I said yes. He was a computer programmer whose wife taught English. With the help of his GPS he brought me to my hostel and even bought me another metro ticket on the way. It took us over a half hour to get there and it was very out of his way. I of course was skeptical and later I felt bad that I had pretty much invented my life story, because his intentions really were pure. The magnitude of his kindness didn’t occur to me until the next day. What would have happened if he hadn’t been there? If he didn’t speak English? If I didn’t ask the information man if he spoke English? He had been a gift, of that much I was sure. I had been afraid of people and needed to be reminded that not everyone was bad and scary. Call it what you will-but God put that man there at that moment to remind me not to be afraid, to trust.
I was reminded of this wonderful quote: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime –Mark Twain
If I learned anything on this trip it’s that life isn’t the time to be afraid, traveling or otherwise. It's quite the opposite actually. It's our only shot at living, as simple as that sounds. Sure there are some ugly and scary moments, but think about what you’re missing when you’re hiding? This is something I have especially taken to heart this semester. Sometimes you need a little reminder to go out, live your life, and see the beauty in the world. This is my reminder to you, don’t be afraid. Go.