A Moment Between Worlds

moving train quote

I’m sitting in a Pakistani Restaurant in Los Angeles, just two miles from the airport – because that’s what we do when we are global nomads. We find comfort foods and places wherever we go, places where we can kill the saudade.

I arrived just a couple of hours ago from New Zealand and knew I had too much time to stay at the airport, but too little time to go very far. So I looked up restaurants near the LA airport and found Bihar Halal, described as an authentic Pakistani restaurant a short ride away. It is indeed only a short ride from the airport and I walk into the smell of naan and curry. There are mostly Pakistanis in the restaurant, a sure sign of its authenticity. I sit down and order a chicken curry, raita, and tandoorki roti. No fancy Americanization of this delicious food – just authentic curry.

I eat with my fingers and soon my nose is running, the spicy taste delighting my palate and forcing me to wipe my nose. The TV is set to a station in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Periodically an advertisement comes on and the Pakistani National Anthem plays in the background. I hum along with it. My Urdu is challenged as I try to follow the plot line of a crime show.

Suddenly my situation strikes me as absurdly surreal – I just arrived from New Zealand, I’m sitting in a Pakistani restaurant, and I’m watching a crime show on Pakistani TV in the middle of Los Angeles. Just yesterday I was sitting in my friend’s garden in Christchurch, New Zealand eating breakfast. Sometimes my worlds change too fast and I am left spinning, like a top spun over and over again by a child who won’t give the toy a rest.

When my mom and dad first moved overseas they would travel by ship. Instead of frenzied airport arrivals and departures, they would wave from the balcony of a ship. They would wave until those they loved faded out of sight, and all that was left were tears on their faces and a wide ocean that would be their landscape for the next six weeks. They left slowly, and they entered slowly. Those long days and nights at sea prepared them for their next steps on land. It was a good way to travel. For six weeks you were literally between worlds, without expectations from either.

Sometimes I wish it were still that way. We move so quickly between countries that it is hard to breathe. Currency, language, food, and customs change in a short plane ride. The cultural lines get blurred and we have high expectations of how quickly we will adjust to whatever culture we find ourselves. No wonder we find ourselves exhausted, collapsed on beds with tears on our pillows. It’s all a bit much.

As light fades outside the restaurant, I realize I have been traveling hard and fast.  The crime show has finished and I am now watching recaps of the Pakistan/India cricket game. I am alone, but not lonely. Instead, I am content in this world I live in. In his book, The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer says this: “In an age of movement, nothing is more critical than stillness. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.” A busy restaurant may be an unlikely place of stillness, but for me that is just what it is.

I paid the bill a long time ago and it is the goodness of the restaurant owner that he has allowed me to rest without distraction. I sigh and pack up my things, reluctant to give up this moment between worlds.

But it is time for the next journey, one that will take me back to an apartment building in Cambridge.

The top is still spinning, but curry and naan have slowed it down and eased me into reentry. I am content.

At least for now.

___________

Note: Tomorrow I will be announcing the two winners of the Meditations coloring book! Stay tuned!

Also, please continue your thoughts and prayers for the people of Pakistan as the country mourns for those who died and hopes that those who are wounded will heal.

  • Evil in Not the Final Word ““Has not Pakistan suffered enough?” I shout the words inside, knowing that few would understand my reactions. Yet, the Pakistani flag lights up my newsfeed and I am grateful for friends who do understand, who know and love this place that so many of us called home.”
  • I am Pakistan? “Our humanity has constraints; limitation is after all a characteristic common to all people. We do not therefore have the emotional capacity to mourn all who die in this world and to scream at all the wickedness that weaves so deeply through every culture. But while  our tears are reserved for Western nations, the rest of the world is right to be suspicious of us.”
  • Keen Pain in Pakistan over “Lives Shattered into Pieces”  “Shock and grief enveloped Pakistan on Monday as the official death toll from the attack in Lahore a day earlier rose to at least 72, with 341 people reported wounded by officials.”

10 thoughts on “A Moment Between Worlds

  1. An Austic friend of mine shed light on the austic life since he recently found a way to communicate. He is a very intelligent soul and very spiritual. He wrote this about himself and my nonverbal daughter, “We are actually the blessed ones in these situations as we get to know Christ’s friendship in extrodinary ways that talkers don’t. ‘Listen and Learn’ actually means the world to us”. I am new to this website; I might be mistaken, but I felt his words were a message for all of us on this site.
    Thank you for listening to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. THANK YOU for putting words to what I’ve been feeling for a long time. We need to give ourselves time to breathe, find closure and get ready for some new exposure. If we don’t have ships, then maybe it’s some restaurants or food or whatever. So valuable!

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  3. I’ve often wished I could have been born in the age of sea rather than air travel.
    My mother-in-law tells the story of how my husband learnt to walk on the ship that took them from England to a new life in New Zealand. Apparently he rolled with the waves, falling, getting up, trying again eventually succeeding.
    When I fly long journeys (and when you live in Australia there aren’t many that are short) I always find it a great journalling opportunity. Reflections from positions above worlds seem deeper and more insightful.
    Although it could just be the low oxygen impacting on my judgement …

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  4. Wow – this is so beautifully written and a perfect representation of the thoughts/emotions that fly around at a million miles an hour (or is it km/hr?) in my head as we prepare for furlough. Thanks for (so amazingly) putting words to it all! I know I’m not alone, but it’s still nice to read it once in a while! Now if only I could find a Tanzanian restaurant in the states…

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  5. So I’m sitting here in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the Shakespeare Pub eating Murg Rogan Josh. This pub is the nearest good curry within walking distance of my hotel. It’s owned and run by two Pakistani brothers from Lahore. Next to me are a table of businessmen – a Russian, an Indian eating vegetarian, and two Kazakhs. One of the Kazakhs has studied in Pakistan and knows the food and language. The conversation bounces between English, Russian and a smattering of Hindi-Urdu. Every once-in-a-while I glance up at the Bangladesh New Zealand cricket match interrupted by Indian commercials. Except for being temporarily far from my newborn granddaughter in Thailand, born 3 days ago to my Columbian-American son-in-law and daughter who was born in Kenya but grew up in Kazakhstan – except for that twinge of longing I am content to know that I am at home. Two weeks from now I will again feel at home in Thailand, and 3 weeks from now back home in Colorado. And Tami, my wife, who grew up in Kenya, already with our granddaughter in Chiangmai, is waiting for me to join her so that we may continue planning our retirement ride on a ship to commemorate the times we spent crossing oceans as children so many years ago……

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