It was just beginning to feel chilly in New York when we flew out for our international adventure on December fourth…so long ago it seems now. From that moment on, aside from a very cold first month of travel in central China, Drew and I nearly escaped winter this year. We almost literally “fled” from China to the beautiful warmth of Indonesia, not feeling chills again until this week. While friends lamented of snow, we sipped fruit juice in a cafe just off the beach.
June 10th we landed at the Queenstown airport on the South Island of New Zealand. On a completely reversed natural clock than the U.S., June marks the very beginning of winter for New Zealand. I looked out the window as we descended in a seemingly random valley amidst an endless scope of white-peaked mountains. Stepping off the plane, the morning chill immediately made me tuck my fists inside my tattered sleeves. The mountains surrounded and stunned us however, making the cold that reddened our cheeks feel insignificant in comparison.
We could see our hotel in the valley, so we decided to pinch our pennies and walk to it. I barely noticed the shivering cold and my eyes darted from mountain to mountain, ever upward towards the morning sky and the diverse array of peaks. Each peak seemed a sample from some other mountain range somewhere, as though Queenstown was simply a small town that served as a gallery for the world’s mountains. Some rose sharply with snow highlighting their jagged ridges. Others were rocky and rolling, and illuminated with bright green vegetation. The smell of coal smoke scented the cold, crisp air as well as an occasional scent of pine. It was surely winter.
I must say that little surprises me these days. The only consistency to our lives is the inconsistency of constant movement. I am used to my environment changing every week or two. Winter is new, but unsurprising. In fact, Drew and I have begun to doubt whether or not we’ll really experience the counter-culture-shock of returning home, as though we’re immune to culture shock at all now. For instance, already we may spend one week in the poverty of a third world country like Vietnam then the next in the nearly fully westernized world of Guam or Saipan, practically owned by the U.S. So while many return home and walk into a Walmart with shock and horror at the utter opulence of America, I wonder if we will notice what we’ve already seen in our switching between third world to first world here in Asia/Oceania. Or, for instance we may spend one week surrounded by locals who see us as foreign and strange, then another week surrounded by other western tourists. Neither feels odd any more.
But what happens when the constant change…changes? What happens when my world stops moving, changing, rotating, fluctuating? What happens when I stop spinning around the spinning globe? What happens when the world turns without me dancing upon it from country to country?
Like Winter. What happens when winter falls upon me, not I upon it? What happens when the culture of a first world country is all I see every day and poverty is something I have to remember…or work to observe in my own hometown?
Stillness. Now that would be odd.