cardboard boats and a city in the hills

I recently started listening to a podcast called “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People”, or “Beautiful/Anonymous” for short (x). It’s a simple premise: the host, Chris Gethard, accepts a phone call, and he and this anonymous caller just talk for an hour. Chris and his callers have kept me company in the last couple of weeks, on long car rides and nights when I feel lonely. I haven’t listened to every episode yet, but all of the ones I have heard have stuck with me in one way or another, coming back up as I experience new things.

Last week, the Uniterra team took a road trip around the southern coast dropping off volunteers as we went. On one particularly long stretch, I listened to an episode of Beautiful/Anonymous in which a twentysomething year-old woman from Hamilton ON called and talked about her complete lack of direction in life and how lost she felt. I don’t think I’ve ever related so strongly to someone I don’t know than I did when she described her current state in life as being “at sea in a cardboard boat”. That’s my life. At least, it is right now.

I have been preparing for this placement for three years, but it’s impossible to prepare for something as big as moving to the other side of the world. I have set sail on this grand adventure, only to find out that everything I thought I brought along is disintegrating around me, and right now it’s hard to keep my head above water.  I’m not ready to be here, but here I am, doing the best with what I have.

Life keeps throwing a wrench in my plans, though, and I’m feeling pretty lost this week. A few big things have happened that have made this first week, in a word, an adventure.

  • There was a mix-up or miscommunication or something, and the position I thought I was here to fulfill never actually existed. I don’t have a job. I’ll be working closely with the organization and with WUSC to define something, and I trust that I will have a job in the very near future. But this clouds my time here with more uncertainty than before. This job was the only thing I knew for sure, and now that it was taken away from me I’m struggling to adjust.
  • My roommate ended up in the hospital on Monday after a fainting spell, and in my panic I took her to the shadiest hospital in the world. We’re lucky to have had Sinhala-speaking friends there with us! Roomie is fine, left the hospital after 12 hours a little shaken but with a clean bill of health.

The last almost-two weeks have been exhaustingly full of moving around, meeting new people and experiencing a totally new world. My best friends are far away from me, I don’t know my own address, and I don’t have anywhere to hang my clothes. This is the emotionally exhausting stage of moving, and it takes a lot of effort to get anything done. Everyone knows I’m not good at living in uncertainty (x), and this is a lot of it.

All this being said, I’m happy here. I’m just adjusting. I’m homesick, but I’m learning how to work within that state of being. I bought a pretty new bedspread, moved some furniture, and put up some photos of the people I love the most. I’m slowly figuring out a routine, which will be a lot easier once I have some work to do. I’ll see my friends this weekend and saturate myself with good things. A part of me thinks I’ll always feel a little bit like I’m at sea here, but my cardboard boat is gradually being rebuilt with something a little sturdier.

For some reason I’m not able to add photos to this post, but trust me when I tell you how beautiful it is, and I’ll keep trying to share them. And to my parents – I’ll call home soon!

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