Saturday, January 30, 2010

Judging Value and Staying Safe

Today I went to church. I’m not going to lie I was kind of spacing out during a lot of it. Church here lasts a good 3 and half hours and that is beyond my attention span. But, I enjoyed the service. One group of people grumbled about the speaker’s message and found a bunch of fault in what he said, but I didn’t pick up on it at all. Maybe I haven’t been here long enough, maybe I was spaced out, or maybe they are just bitter. Bitterness seems to run deep with much of the group here. Since we arrived I have heard nasty things about many people and while I understand there are scars of emotional hurt, it’s a bit exhausting. I could tell before I even stepped foot in this country that I was stepping into some drama and drama it has been. I won’t go into details, but I will tell you that I have chosen to take every comment and suggestion lightly. I like all these people so far, and all of them have been very kind to me. I will continue to like all the people here until I have a reason to be skeptical. It is just a reminder that the church is filled with white-wigged people that love to carry around gavels. The liberals say the conservatives are not accepting while the liberals shut out the conservatives and the conservatives say the liberals have strayed as they themselves have no love inside them. Religion is a mess, simply because people are messy. Relationships are messy.

After church we went to a friend’s house. A very nice woman, who was an SM here years ago, fell in love and got married and hasn’t left Almaty since. We went over to her house and made pizza out of sliced bread, ketchup, cheese, and a bunch of other tasty toppings. It was surprisingly good. Ketchup? Yeah, it worked. Then we had ice cream and talked and pretty soon it was late. We had another cab adventure. Burnie talked to the cab and they dropped him off and continued to take Steven and I to our place. On the way there, nothing looked familiar and my anxiety heightened. I think I mentioned this before, but if not, everyone in Kazakhstan is a taxi. When you hold out your hand random people will stop and make a few extra tenge on their way home. So, even though I don’t necessarily feel safe on the buses, I really don’t feel safe in a taxi. Just the thought of me putting my life into this strangers hand is a bit unsettling. So nothing looked familiar on the way to our place and my thoughts started drifting. I imagined this guy taking us to the outskirts of town and holding us hostage, or pulling out a gun and demanding money that I didn’t have. But, pretty soon the familiarity of nearby mosque came into view and all my worry was wiped away. The nice cab driver tried to joke with us, but because I don’t know Russian I just awkwardly laughed and handed him the money hoping he would be satisfied with the amount. I know I said all of this and now people (like you mom) are worrying that one of my nightmares are going to come true. They won’t. Every day I am reminded at the friendliness of these people and the protection that I have from my God. I have this bad habit of thinking people are generally bad. It’s not true. I am trying to convince myself that most people are good people. Sometimes as a foreigner and as an American, I tend to think that everyone wants me, that I am some prize to be taken advantage of. But, in reality most people look at me and think, “Oh, a foreigner.” And move on with their life. Most people recognize reality, that I am just a guy that’s not from around here. Just a guy. I’m not going to make anybody’s dreams come true, nobody is going to get rich by robbing me, and I certainly am no prize. It’s funny how pride can lead you to think you’re something better than you actually are. All of us, we’re just run of the mill (Try explaining that idiom to your students!) people and the only value we have is the value people place on us. I place high value on those I love. The people that love me place high value on me, I’m sure. Love makes us valuable, without it, we’re nothing special, just another guy, just another girl, just another foreigner, just another stranger. Think about your value, if it’s not the high value you long for, get out there and be loveable.

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