There is quite a difference between the sensory overload you experience in a new country once you’ve done this before. When I first moved to Africa everything was an experience, everything felt noteworthy, all was new and exciting. And while each new place since has had wonderful things to marvel at, lots of culture to learn, and a ton to figure out, now that I’ve moved country a few times it’s all a bit less overwhelming. I feel a little less strange in strange lands. Or at least slightly less overly-self-aware. Not everything feels like an experience, not all things feel noteworthy. Which is good in some ways. I feel less out-of-place and less completely out of my depth. Parts of the culture and the people actually feel a bit like home. The greetings, Arabic rapport, the call to prayer as the heat of the day is setting. There is lots to learn, there always is, but some of it I’ve already got a handle on. Which is a relief.

Also, the very hard and struggled-to-attain confidence to traipse a big city in a land that is not my own, well, turns out, it does transfer a bit! And having a pretty good handle on language really helps. Yes, there are parts of me that feel more at rest here than have felt at rest in many months.

One of the programs that I’m managing is our cleaning course. It’s a two week course for refugees to learn about the different cleaning products here. What they do, how to use them, the ones that are dangerous. But in that, too, are basic life/employment skills. The importance of being dependable and on time, respecting oneself and their employer, and general wise words about navigating positive relationships with the culture here. As well as bits about godliness, cleanliness, and peace starting inside their own hearts. Not things I’d necessarily be able fit in during a cleaning course, but that our great staff here does seamlessly.

Thursday afternoon was my first time to attend our graduation from the cleaning course. It was a smaller group than usual (likely because last week began Ramadan), but a very motivated bunch. One of the graduates, from an extremely war-torn area in North Africa, got up and said a few words. He commended the teacher (a South Sudanese guy who really is an excellent teacher–I’ve never seen anyone so enthusiastic about cleaning products) and explained how difficult it is for them to find work here since they are strangers to this land. He shared that he is very thankful for this course and hopeful that it will help provide him with a job. He looked around the room and said, “Our future will be better.”

The instructor gave me a few minutes to stand up and encourage the group. I talked about the places I lived and how much I love their countries and that my husband and I are here now because we can’t live in their home countries either, but we still wanted to be among them, helping them if we could. I encouraged them to work well once they get placed in jobs, and that God loves and cares for them. I got to deliver a little speech in Arabic again…and my heart felt a little more at home.Among people I love, from a country my heart is still very much invested in, speaking in a tongue that I can understand. Not entirely unlike me, this is not their homeland. And while, of course, our reasons and means of being here are worlds apart, our worlds do merge. And because my world merged with theirs a few years ago, they are a people that will in some way forever feel like home.

Though moving here feels easier than other cities I’ve moved to in recent years, I still want to be mindful and aware of the newness and the experiences around. I still want to learn and be stretched, be mindful and take note. I have much to learn from all these strange lands. And I rejoice in the fact that I don’t feel a complete stranger here, and that even the strangers here feel a bit like home.

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