flew by. I’m actually trying to rationalize that it felt like a while so it can feel like it’s longer than it is. A lot has happened in this month, from getting on and off the plane, adjusting to jet lag, getting settled, starting school, joining a club, making friends, learning everyone’s names! So many names! And it seems almost as common to call someone by their last name as it is to call someone by their first name, so it makes for lots of names.
I think I have to say that in general the first month’s culture shock wasn’t what I expected it to be. I expected it to be hot, that there would be no sweets, and that I would have a reasonable grip on the language. The first month has actually been more on the chilly side, as I found myself wearing long sleeves more often towards the beginning. I also have run into more sweets than I expected to, there being ice cream vending machines and pastry shops all around, and my dorm occasionally serving bread and spread for breakfast–you know, peanut butter, jelly, butter, chocolate–needless to say, I take chocolate and peanut butter every time! Regarding language, I suppose I do have a reasonable grip on it, but as I’ve talked about before, a reasonable grip is only the beginning.
And this one month has also been just the beginning. Before this study abroad trip, the longest away from home I had ever been was seventeen days, I think. One of my favorite moments in the Lord of the Rings movies is when Sam and Frodo are about to embark on their adventure and Sam abruptly stops in the middle of a field. “This is it… I take one more step, and it’ll be the furthest away from home I’ve ever been.” It’s nothing more than a single step in a field, but Sam makes it into a monumental, life-changing moment. After this step, everything is new and unknown for him. My case is a bit different from Sam’s. Mine is more like if Sam were to have been chased across the field by an angry pig, and when all the hustle and bustle ceased, he realized with awe where he was. Having already been here for a month and having passed the threshold without knowing it, I stop now and look out at the next month of frontier before me; I take a deep breath, give thanks, and take that symbolic step. From here on out, every day is a new record made.