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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Definitions of my time here

Definitions of my time here

Mountains: What steals my breath and holds it. The foreground and the background, what my body leans towards and what my feet ache for, the blesser of clear weather and dry fields and the sender of sleet that slides between my shirt and my backpack.

Cities: Hills strung high with a million electric Christmas lights, streets with the smell of fried chicken and warm saltenas and urine, the wrinkled hands of a woman curled beneath herself against the wall, the giggles in the rush of school children heading home for lunch.

Rocks: My walls against the high chill of air, the keepers of ancient blueprints and wealth that runs down stream under a warm fire, the patient grower of creaks and crevices.

Ground: A minefield of beauty, with explosions of purples and blues from small flowers and stacks of lupines, bursts of orange and rusty golds as lichen spreads across the face of a rock, darker colors hide in the shadows of one leaf above another and slide smoothly along the stems of a maiden hair fern. And there are innumerable greens floating quietly overhead in the sky tinged eucalyptus and softly compressing beneath the weight of a moss fringed twig.

Homesick: The feeling on curly roads climbing mountains soft to the touch that makes you want to throw the door open and run back through the high valleys until you find the back porch of laughter and people and potato salad.

Strong: My knees when I jump down upon them in the desert of Maragua, the will of our driver as he pushes his bus past the rocks and holes and up the hill that Jhasmany held his hand out, as if pressed against a wall, to describe, the smile of my host sister as she scrubs windows of a large house that is not hers and sings along to a Japanese love song.

Trails: The ground beneath my feet, the arrow in front that leads me up the mountains at the peak of morning, the grass that slips between my toes, the spaces I remember after the view becomes a little foggy in my mind.

Home: The space in the back of the room that caught my tears to strengthen the floorboards, the tents with 4 pairs of socks, drying for tomorrow, hanging above our heads, the kitchen table with notebooks sprawled open and water bottles with caps hanging off to the side.

Communication: The pointing and showing and constant talking and “no entendo” and sometimes just “no” and sometimes the glitter off an eye and a slight turn and a “si” and a “si, si, si” and a passing of change and a waiting for many minutes for my host mom who sent me around but walked through the middle of the corn and hearing my name between the cobs and hearing “pepsi” and knowing that this is not my name but the laughs that come with it are better than the correct placement of tongue and teeth and there is nothing I would do to change it.

Family: The people that care for me, that grab ahold of the cow rope when it gets a little too sticky and falls from my hands, the people who let me help peel potatoes and the people who suppress their laughs when they have dropped 4 into the pot and I am still struggling with a knotty spot of grime on the first one, the people who will press their hand to my arm when they see my head begin to shake, the people who share a seat on a squished bus with me and the people that scream the lyrics to bad Spanish pop songs.

Celebration: The shirt I have to wring out and hang outside of my pack to dry, the flowered rim of a skirt that bellows to the wind as a little girl spins behind the llamas, the broken pieces, fitted together to recreate an image of history and beauty and creation, the sticky fingers reaching for another half piece of sweet bread.