Sunday, June 21, 2009
Two and a Half Storms
Right now I feel engulfed in two and a half storms: my struggle here in Tunisia, my concern for the people of Iran, and the less figurative sandstorm that is actually happening outside my window right now.
The intensity in our classes is reaching an almost unsustainable level. This week, we had over 70 vocabulary words, five or six major grammar concepts, and only four days to study them before an exam. I say unsustainable not because of the amount of work, but the environment we have to do it in. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's difficult to balance life here between a loving, welcoming host family that wants to be social, and then spending 12 necessary hours in class five days a week (and then saying that you're consolidating your learning effectively). It's a "you can't have your cake and eat it too" scenario; you can't dabble in either situation without something giving. It did when I came down with stomach flu and bronchitis this Wednesday.
I became sick, quite frankly, with Arabic too at this point. Thursday and Friday I slept all day and night, feeling even sicker when I thought about doing the mountains of homework I had to do. So I decided to procrastinate like a good student of the Middle East and preoccupy myself with the news coming from Iran.
As I read I found myself in an interesting situation. Here were hundreds of thousands of students, my age; adults, my parents' age; and elders, my grandparents' age; being beat up by underground police henchmen, tear-gassed by soldiers and bruised by batons...all for a cause that was bigger than themselves. Iran is not a regime you mess with on a whim. The people knew this, and they still went to the streets and protested, wearing their hearts on their sleeves knowing they could be pierced.
There was a particular column by Roger Cohen, an American journalist, that struck me. In his 50s, he is currently in Iran. Somehow he managed to escape the soldiers who are preventing the majority of foreign journalists in Iran from covering the protests. In his two latest columns, he writes about the extraordinary courage in very ordinary people--ordinary people, he says, who disappear the next night or are tear-gassed alongside him when the police descend.
I'm just as ordinary as these people. What made them extraordinary was not their circumstance, but how they reacted to it. Perhaps this is what we are called to do? Perhaps we are judged, when all is said and done, by how we reacted to the critical moments of our lives; the moments that shatter our worlds and command us to put it back together.
The sandstorm outside my window is fading into the Mediterranean-blue sky. I can gripe and complain about the storms of my life, or I can endure them, and see the sky again once they pass.
Our worlds, I think, are meant to be shattered, again and again, by these storms. There is so much extraordinary in humanity. Maybe this is why God wants us to be shattered; to show that we truly are more than just ordinary people.