Our first full day was so far beyond absolutely anything I could have dared to imagine. The activities of the day were fairly simple; breakfast, short training on the city, getting cash from the bank, grocery shopping, and helping with a Friday evening youth group sort of situation, but i find myself in constant awe and wonder.
The thing I was most anxious about before arrival was the language barrier. So far, it has hardly been an issue, and when it does comes up (grocery shopping, etcetera), it’s almost comforting. There are symbols and concepts and ways of communicating that transcend words, people tend to understand each other when it’s necessary. Yet, it gives me a better strength and knowledge and compassion when I return to my home and engage with someone who does not understand the language.
The expression I think I have heard most since being here is some variant on “we do not know how this will work yet, but we’ll find out.” This can be hard, especially when related to planning events or time. Like, if it’s an hour before something starts, and you don’t know how a process will work, why not just make a decision? But everytime, it works out. The things that are unknown become known, and there is no stress or challenge to it. It just flows. I want to be better at resting in this, at having peace in this process.
Shopping for groceries was so much fun today. It is so cool to see different grocery products, or even the same ones packaged slightly differently. We have a German young woman who did a study abroad term in America and met Kathy (our trip leader) through some folks during that, and she showed me interesting products around the store. There is a product called quark, which is like a thicker yogurt, made by a company call skyr (when she says this word, it almost sounds like “grr.” I picked up bread that seemed somewhat similar to what I am used to and she gave me a funny look, then pointed out a more local bread. It is heavy! I joked that I could throw it at someone to catch them off guard. Peanut butter is sold in tiny jars, and crunchy seems to be a lie. Candy here is such a fun adventure! I bought a giant bag of bulk candy.
In the late afternoon, we helped set up for the youth group-type service. The evening started with a soup dinner that was delicious, then we went into the main gathering hall for worship and a message. The speaker was a pastor from a church in England who was absolutely on fire. He spoke about not being worried, and used a passage from the sermon on the mount in Luke, as well as The Lord’s Prayer. The music here is incredible, the way the people completely throw themselves into it and will sing and dance. During the closing song, I watched a more positive version of a mosh-pit happen and it was so cool.
When they say “let’s pray,” and then pause, there is no silence. One hears everyone in the room start to pray in a low audible volume, then the person who started it will speak loudly.
It has only been a day, but it feels like so long, it feels like such an incredible adventure. As I’m posting this, I’m about to get ready for our first “free day.” My group is planning to go out and explore the city a bit. There’s a coffee place some folks have been talking about that I’m looking forward to, and I’m hoping to find a comic book store. I found one comic book store in Brussels and it was the coolest. Google maps says there is one about 2 miles away named after a volume of TinTin.