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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Home in the Rain

1:02 AM October 1, 2016 – Park City, UT
I frantically flew through The Things They Carried hoping to finish before day break forced classes onto my sleepy mind.

1:02 AM October 1, 2017 – Manzhang, China
I frantically fly through First They Killed My Father hoping to gain some understanding and only finding tears to follow.

2:43 AM October 1, 2016 – Park City, UT
I laced together thoughts for an English paper I enjoyed far too much. I grimaced in frustration at the cliches I couldn’t seem to wring out.

2:43 AM October 1, 2017 – Manzhang, China
I weave together disordered pages in a notebook of scribbled thoughts. I struggle to critically eliminate cliches in a cluttered yak post only to resign to keeping some.

Crickets chirping. Stars or their city light equals. Individual strings of light pulled taut to define slight breaks between tightly packed buildings or the old slats on the side of my 傣 (Dai) home at night. Dancing in the rain. A sound, an image, a feeling I know all too well. A sound, an image, a feeling that is uniform regardless of location.

The sound of a light rain pattering gently on the roofs of the village brings a gentle grin to my face. I wait in anticipation for the downpour that will inevitably follow. The sky begins to grumble with thunder mirroring the group’s mood towards the rain. People begin to frantically make moves to pull down drying laundry. Meanwhile, I seem to be the only one willing to sacrifice my current clothes to the rain’s watery embrace; I thus find myself standing apart under empty laundry lines. I assume my rain position. The same as always. Arms out, palms up as if asking the sky a casual question. Head rolled back to take in the rain drops on my cheeks as they gradually grow in size and frequency. At this point my smile mirrors that of the Cheshire Cat, and even should I wish to stop my natural giggling it would be impossible. The irregular frequency of the drop patterns has never ceased to hold my fascination. On a whim, I try to duck into the path of the drops before they splatter onto the ground. Normally, a memorable melody plays in my mind and I begin to dance with a freedom only found under a stormy sky. This time, because of the holidays, my ears are filled with overlapping music and poorly sung karaoke drifting from the various family reunions that overcrowd the village. An unexpected change. I continue my chaotic dance and laugh with the window onlookers that find me crazy. I calmly watch as a river begins to form on the path outside my house and decide to run up to the road while I still can. I wade through rushing waters and sprint in the opposite direction of the straggling people escaping the downpour. In the emptied village center I find a lake forming and roll up my pants to continue my dredge through the water. I stand for a minute to enjoy the heaviest rain I have ever felt and a new wave of laughter rolls over me. I soon decide to turn home as my soaked pants have begun to cling to my skin making it harder to move. On the trip home I encounter a fallen umbrella in my path collecting rain. A villager stands above me urgently indicating for me to pass it to him so he could seek shelter inside. I do so as he smiles at me, the silly American who seems to love the rain a bit too much. From inside that house I hear Soren calling out “HEEEEEYYYY CHLOEEEEE” to which I respond with more dancing. How better to enjoy this glorious downpour. Stepping back across the threshold a familiar drip follows behind. With each drop that falls I’m reminded of another time I have returned home in a similar state from adventures amongst the rainy skies.
So much is the same, yet so much is different.

I find that I’m always closer than I think to that which I call home.
In a world culturally, linguistically, and globally opposite my own, the line between the two blurs and vanishes. So much is the same, yet so much is different.

The difference allows me to open my eyes in a refreshing way. The same, which initially I had hoped to leave behind, teaches me a greater lesson in and of itself.

In a world as whole and united as ours, the cultural, linguistic, and global differences found through travel offer an opportunity to understand and profit from that fundamental human interaction which remains the same. That same connection which I had to leave familiarity to find again.

You are never far from home, but not the home you may find in a city, a house, or a plant. The home found in a phrase rephrased. Cama zeh oleh? ¿Cuanto cuesta? Ça coûte combien? Duo shao qian? How much does this cost? The home in communication (even if it’s mimed), kindness, lessons, values, images. The home in crickets chirping. The home in stars and city lights. The home in taut strings of light between buildings and slats of wood. The home in dancing in the rain. The home that I guard no matter the location and the home that only grows stronger when you find yourself somewhere different.

Special thanks to Tommy for lots of patience and laughter while he helped me to edit.