I met up with one of my friends for lunch yesterday, and we ate our classic favorite - a Vietnamese noodle soup called pho. We hadn't seen each other since last spring semester, because I spent the summer in East Asia, and she spent the fall semester in Argentina studying and traveling throughout the country. It was so good getting to catch up with her and share our experiences.
She said something that really resonated with me, though, because it's so true. She talked about how people look at her pictures from Argentina and think "Wow, that's a cool street scene" or "What beautiful mountains." But she looks at those pictures, and it means so much more. It's not just a random street with random street signs and a random guy playing an instrument on the sidewalk. It's a street corner she walked past every day to go to class, and there is an actual memory associated with it. It's not just a random "postcard picture" with mountains, a forest and a lake. She can't even describe what it felt like to stand there in the middle of all that beauty; she even remembers what the forest smells like.
I know exactly what she means.
You might think, "That's cool, Hannah spent the summer in East Asia, and it looks like she had fun. Now she's back in America, and it's just a part of her life I wasn't involved in, but it's moved on now." No. Every time I use chopsticks, I remember using them for every single meal, and I remember my friend who peeled a boiled egg with just chopsticks. Every time I eat family-style (where plates of food sit in the middle of the table, and everyone reaches in and gets what they want as they go), I think of all the crazy food I ate. I remember all our wonderful friends eating around the table with us. Every time I hear honking, I remember the constant, incessant honking in our city, and how it actually became a comforting, barely-noticed sound after the first few nights. I remember waking up to the the street vendor's recorded voice crying out the price for her tofu.
This campus is beautiful, but I remember living here for two months; it was my home.
This child at the orphanage is precious, but I remember how she barely responded when I played with her because her tiny body is disfigured and she has Down Syndrome.
It looks like a cool scene, but I remember watching this plot of dirt outside our dorm:
Turn into this by the end of the summer:
This classroom looks average, but I spent three hours every morning with some of my closest friends in this room, with the windows open, learning the language:
I still long to go back there. But then I look at pictures from last semester here at UT, and the same thing happens. What about all my friends and family who don't go here?
They look at this and see a cool stream. I look at this and remember hiking outside in the gorgeous air and watching the sun glint off the water with some of my closest friends:
You may think this is just an awesome studio, but I spent hours in here working on a feature story watching a wig-maker interact with her students:
You may think this is just a cool skyline, but this is my school. This has kind of been my life the past several years. And this picture was taken one day when Stephen and I climbed to the top of a parking garage to watch the sunset:
These aren't just random pictures. They're all memories to be treasured. But if I sit here and dwell on the past, I'm making no room for what God can do in the future. I look forward to everything He will do this semester!