VIII. Mushrooms and Stars
by valerie shultz
July 16, 2011
I’m sitting in the back seat (by back, I mean third row seat) of a van that supposedly seats nine. There are nine of us in here with all of our belongings. We are heading to Jelenia Gora after our morning devo and after learning how we are mushrooms and stars (because, of course, we do not have time to be oaks or cucumbers). But more on that later.
We are about an hour into our five hour drive. I’m hoping that none of the three people who complained of carsickness need to throw up. One of those people is Ethan, who I’m in the back seat with. I’m sitting beside Jeremy, who is sharing his very eclectic collection of music with me, and showing me some drawings he did inspired by his music. I love it. His talent for putting meaningful lyrics into a drawing is astounding. I hope he does more and shares it with me.
As I listen to the music coming out of Jeremy’s headphones, I look at the scenery passing me by. It’s amazing to me how after being in a foreign place for just a few days, you begin to forget that it is foreign. The toilet that you didn’t know how to flush the first time is just any other toilet now. The pipes in the bathroom burn your hands less and less often. Suddenly the luke warm drinks aren’t so unappealing. The indiscernible words you hear all around you become more like white noise as you become more self-sufficient and get around with more and more ease. Everything becomes less and less overwhelming and intimidating. Two days passed by in a blur, and we are all anxious to begin this new leg of our adventure, even if we must begin it in a crowded van where we share personal space and our “bubbles” are not necessarily broken, but overlap and connect so we become one. I now understand the expression I heard Carol use several times; she said when we all met in Chicago we would begin moving as “one big amoeba.”
Something else we did this morning was have our first official “check-in,” where we share our highs and lows of the day, and rip our chests wide open to share our anxieties and fears, worries and sadness with these people who we had never laid eyes on three days ago but are now family. The closeness in the van is fitting for how close we will all be the remainder of the trip, like the familiar way siblings would be confined to a small space together, but no one is arguing or pulling each other’s hair. We are supportive and understanding, because we are all in this together.
There are some emotional moments at the check-in, and I purposely only mention my children briefly, because I miss them so but I know if I focus on them, I will lose myself in this mission. I know I will be back home with my own children before I know it, suffocating them once again with advice to avoid the concrete with their little bitty bones. The children we are about to meet, the ones who already think we are stars just for showing up in their village to be here with them, need us now to be their mushrooms. We will pop up overnight, spread our little “seeds” of love and faith and the English language, and let the good Lord continue to work long after we’ve gone. These children will take care of my lungs and my heart and my spirit in the absence of my own monsters.