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New Normal

It didn’t really hit me how far away from home I was until we arrived at the Shwe Na Di Monastic School, near the base of Mount Popa, two days ago. We have limited electricity, mats for beds in open air mud-brick huts, and a bucket as our source of running water. I quickly learned that the ease of everything I do at home, from washing my hands to brushing my teeth to falling asleep would be challenging here. I am very much a person of routines and particularities, so I struggled that first night. As my roomates can attest, I literally broke out in hives because of the relentless humidity as I sat before bed attempting to spot and remove all of the insects that had invaded our mosquito net. Since then, I’ve realized that letting go of what I consider my normal was going to be necessary to enjoy this experience. Accepting uncomfortable situations wholeheartedly has never been my forte. But in just these past few days, I’ve realized that accepting and even leaning into less than comfortable situations can lead to learning and growth and sometimes, fun too. Surviving a harrowing horse cart journey with a behaviorally challenged horse taught me that sometimes the most dysfunctional form of transportation makes for the best story. Playing mud ball with young monks taught me that sometimes you need to get a little bit of dirt on you, or as some of my friends experienced it, mud thrown in their mouths, to have some fun. It also taught me that, amazingly, one can actually cleanse themselves thoroughly with a bucket shower. Trekking five hours in monsoon rains taught me that exercise can be fun when you are soaking wet, quick dry clothing is ingenious, and you can really make it through anything with friends as long as they are willing to share their stash of almonds. I continue to be amazed by the fact that every time I think I couldn’t be hotter, sweatier, dirtier, or more uncomfortable the next day proves me wrong. I also continue to be amazed at the difference learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, as a friend put it, can make and has made in enjoying my time here. This is only the beginning of the course, and I foresee infinitely more uncomfortable situations coming my way. I don’t anticipate it being easy, but I am excited for the ways that they will challenge me and the the stories that will come out of getting through them with friends.