Writing and artwork by Natalie Heinitz, 131 YinD
I wrote a while ago that cultural integration is like letting a wave wash over your face, pulling your hair towards the shore, digging your fingers deep into the sand. To survive is to surrender control, but not to lose your footing, your foundation.
A year into my service, and I tilt my head back and see all that’s washed over me. New family, new friends, new lessons. New anxieties, new coping, new hurdles. They’re waiting for me on the shore. They’re saying, “Come dry off!” Feel the sun on your face. Come sit with us.
But I’m not ready to get out of the water. I feel safer here, in this in-between spot. Even though some waves crash harder than others, the release tempting to pull me further out to sea, I am familiar with the rhythm of the water, the push and the pull. The rhythm of getting by, of surviving.
I’m in a sun-heated car. I look out the window at the mountains, a new site for me in Thailand. I think, “This is another sticker on my map.” I feel my heart fill with something I can’t place, an intangible thing, water in a jar I didn’t realize was close to empty.
I’m collecting experiences the way everyone must collect experiences. I only realize it now because it’s me.
A little ripple from the left, a heavier swell from the right. Stillness. The current tugs on my toes. Get ready. Big wave! And release.
Natalie! Have you eaten yet? Come to shore. Come eat.
One last wave, to smooth out my hair.
I walk out of the ocean and rest.