My memories of Asia are sometimes sparked by the most common things. This morning, for instance, distinct memories came to me of an Indonesian breakfast as I was eating my own breakfast here in small town Missouri.
Fresh cage-free eggs, unpasteurized cow milk (just milked from the cow on Thursday), and hot tea sat on my tiny kitchen table this morning as The National played on my iPod dock behind me. Though in reality I was facing the interior wooden walls of a cabin in Missouri at 6:00 a.m., I suddenly felt as if I was sitting in the second-story open-air hotel restaurant where I ate breakfast my first morning in Indonesia.
I’d arrived there after spending a year living and working in Taipei. I had chosen to travel alone for several days in Bali before meeting up with friends in Singapore so that I’d have a bit of time to process the year I was leaving behind me (and which was, to date, the most difficult year of my life). I’d spent part of the year with mono, part of it grieving the loss of a loved one and part of it coming to terms with the end of what I thought was a love that would last the length of my lifetime.
Sitting alone on that second-story Indonesian guesthouse deck I was on the opposite side of the world as my family and friends back home. I felt a tender sense of being lost – a feeling that was probably very appropriate considering my unlikely geographic and emotional positions that year. My independent world travels ran parallel to the journeys I was on in my heart.
The sunny skies of Indonesia and the two months of Asian backpacking I had embarked upon the previous day allowed me to explore things in the world and in my heart, and the fresh air on the island was a hint of hope for the days, weeks and years in front of me.
Several years later, here I am, sitting alone in my little home in the rural reaches of Missouri eating eggs and hot milk tea made from the eggs and milk I bought at a farm up the road. By all external accounts, I’m an independent small town Missouri woman with a solid sense of self and a full-time job that keeps me bound to the place I’ve come to call home.
Somewhere in my heart is still the young woman whose small town Missouri world became exponentially larger when she got on that plane to move to Asia a few years ago. In fact, if it weren’t for that year in Asia, I’d probably never have found the peace to move home to rural Missouri from Brooklyn in early 2009.
So while The National plays on my iPod deck in my house this morning, gamelan music rings in the ears of that younger version of myself whose heartbreak and wanderlust found her working in a foreign place and traveling through countries she had never dreamed she’d have the opportunity to visit.
We have an agreement, the younger wanderlust me and the stable Missouri me. We’ve agreed that change is good, and that exploring our geography and the geography of our heart isn’t something that’s limited to life in our mid-twenties. Each day is a new opportunity to learn. Each day brings news chances to expand views and perspectives.
It may not seem as exotic as Indonesia, but sometimes small town Missouri feels just as foreign to me. Today, as I do on most weekends, I’m getting ready to head into Missouri’s small town culture to try to understand it and its people; to find its beauty and intrigue, and to share it with you.