Four walls, two concrete, and two wood with a wooden floor and ceiling form the bounds of my sacred space. A balcony with chairs and a small table overlook my home and lawn.
I look out from these seats to watch the sun rise over the eastern mountains. These same mountains are where I've watched many a rainbow and rain approach this safe bubble.
To the west, I watch the sky turn beautiful blues, purples, pinks, and yellows, a different tint due to the nearby geothermal plant.
This 12 X 13 space is mine for now, something I can say about few spaces in this country. Despite the noise on the street, the brightly burning streetlight that shines into my room, constant rooster crows, and Catholic Church bells played thirty minutes before every service, this has become my home.
In six weeks I will leave this home for the foreseeable future. If you asked me if I would miss my simple wooden bed, thin foam mattress, and electric fan a few months ago, I would have said no way. I did not really feel that I was creating a strong bond to this place and these people. I had hardened my heart as a coping mechanism, a method of self-preservation. I would simply persevere through this year, accepting the lessons God had already taught me in the first few months.
Even though I was reluctant to invest fully in the people and relationships around me, I am so thankful to worship a God who does not give up so easily. As I still struggle to fully value my people as full humans regardless of how I perceive their productivity level, God continued to provide moments that showed pure love to and for me. Despite my frustrations and disappointments, my heart began to soften and open up to allow this love to flow through my being freely. As the school year has begun again, I only find that love increasing each day, making it more and more difficult to imagine the days that are coming quickly when I have to say see you later.
The same feeling applies to my room. If I find myself sleeping in a different place, I yearn for the comforts of my pillows, malong, thin foam mattress, and electric fan. I have become comfortable in this space, even to the point that I can sleep through the church bells sounding at 4:30 each morning.
This space holds all of my posessions and stories of my past. The bedside table holds my Bible that has taught me so much more as I flip through the pages this year and the mug that was a Christmas gift from Ate Dobert that now holds miscellaneous items.
The bed that is wrapped in the prayer shawl from my home church reminds me that Oakland Avenue holds me in their hearts and minds on this journey. The malong on my bed reminds me of all the places I've slept, cuddling into this sacred piece of fabric, no matter how high the temperature was. Beside my bed stands my electric fan, which has been my only respite from the heat these past eight months, for which I am so incredibly grateful. The mosquito net hangs in the corner during the day but encapsulates me as I sleep, providing an extra bit of security.
The side table supports the vase of artificial flowers and beautiful red flowered doily that Mana Sally and Ate Dobert placed for me before I arrived, as well as the cross stitch my biological mother poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears into through my last night at home. I hope I have lived up to those words of "Live Simply, Love Truly, Laugh Freely" this year. Beside the table rests my yoga mat, a symbol of centering, that has supported me during intense workouts and served as a bed as I fall asleep while meditating. Above the table hangs a beautifully Filipin@ wall decoration that proclaims "God Bless You," something I think we could all remember more frequently.
My closet doors are home to a Valentine from a very special former neighbor of mine who has enriched this year more than I could have ever imagined, my prayer card from YAV Orientation where I look to reflect when I need some extra encouragement, and my Washington and Lee calendar that reminds me of years gone by and days to come.
Beside my closets is a collage or shrine of sorts of my life story. Almost everyone near and dear to my heart from many stages of life are represented in these pictures, snapshots of stories, and pieces of my core being. These photographs have given me an opportunity to share more of my past with whoever who enters and asks.
The wooden bench that can become a bed (a wooden futon I guess?) holds everything I have not put away just yet and reminds me of late night life conversations with dear friends and imagining the room were a tree house at camp. Above the bench hang memories of winter in the form of snowflakes from my Christmas/Valentine's Day care package, words of Noel and encouragement from members of Oakland Avenue, a Christmas note and gift from Francis, whom I truly miss, and a map of the Philippines that marks where I have been and helps me to get my bearings.
Two pictures decorate the back of my door, memories of amazing young people whose paths have crossed mine during this year. The first is a drawing gifted to me by one of my extremely talented yet perpetually late students, who also happens to be a pretty great drummer. I received the second from a girl in Dumaguete during a resilience workshop. When we asked the girls to illustrate their ideal future, she wrote and embellished the word "Love."
This space is heavy with symbolism and significance. I thank God for the gift of this space to live, grow, cry, laugh, read, sleep, watch bad tv shows, exercise, and be. I am so appreciative for this town, family, community, work placement, and year. I will forever carry it in my heart as part of my story. These last few weeks will be extremely bittersweet, as we approach the denouement of this step of the journey. Thank you for accompanying me.