Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cold War

She can remember not hating winter, when she was younger.

That all changed when she joined the Peace Corps and was told
it would be cold where she was going.
She prepared physically - bringing many layers of warm clothes -
but preparing mentally was impossible.
How can you prepare for something you've never experienced,
especially cold you can't escape from?
How do you prepare for living without electricity for most of the day?
For having to come home and wrap up in heavy blankets to stay warm?
For having to correct papers, journal, and write letters by candlelight?
For huddling around the one radiator in the teachers' lounge (with all the other teachers)
in between classes?
For a classroom with a big crack between the wall and window where biting cold air
forced its way in?
For being as cold inside as outside?

For two winters she walked past this church.
She didn't appreciate it the first year.
To be honest, she didn't appreciate much of anything the first year.
Any mental or emotional energy she had was used up just trying to get by.
What with learning a new language, knowing no one, getting used to new foods,
having no electricity or running water,
and the cold...
well, life was just hard.

Hard enough that she almost quit.

But she didn't.
And by the second winter she knew she would miss this place when she left.
So she walked the town one day, taking pictures of places that would soon be a distant memory. She would not have another winter here.
The snow would melt, the trees would bloom, and summer would arrive,
heralding her departure back to the States.

There were many pictures that would mean a lot more to her than this one.
Pictures with friends.
Pictures of outings and events.
Pictures of her students.
But the winter picture of the church would always be a reminder of something else,
something very simple.

Just take it.
Take the picture.
Make the effort.
That place may never be revisited.
That moment will never happen again.
Even if you don't take pictures as well as you'd like, take the picture.
There will be no regrets.

It is winter again now.
Almost fifteen years have passed since she took those photographs.
That little village still has no running water.
But in the last fifteen years, much has changed.
There is constant electricity.
Facebook and Skype have become ingrained in our culture,
and have infested probably every nation on the globe.
And one of her dear friends in that tiny little village was given a computer.
And yesterday, for the first time in almost ten years,
through the miracle of Skype,
she was able to see her friend again.
They talked like they were in the same room,
and another memory came flooding back.
One day, fifteen years ago, when the cold war was still a thing of the not-so-distant past,
and her friend's husband (who is also a friend, of course),
asked if Americans hated them.
"Do you hate me?" she asked back.
And then they smiled.
And she is smiling again now,
for although it is winter,
she feels anything but cold.

1 comment:

  1. wow, that is a very cool story!
    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete