A less than Saintly transition

by Anna Blanch on March 17, 2012

There’s no overland to oz post this week, because today I begin another journey to oz (by faster but less exciting means).

As the east coast train ambles through the countryside of fife toward edinburgh and beyond, it seems appropriate to begin to reflect on my journey and life in Scotland. It is 2 years, 6 months, and 26 days exactly since I left Texas.  By the time I reach Australia next Wednesday Australian time, it will have been 2 years and 7 months since I left Texas and 4 years, seven months and 3 days since I first became an expat. When I left Texas I quoted Azar Nafisi’s words from “Reading Lolita in Tehran”:

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place […], like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again. (236)

These words are ringing true now just as much as they were then.

The ploughed fields and the rolling green – oh how green it is here – and the odd fly fisherman or two dotting the little creeks visible out the train’s large windows remind me why I like the train, and particular the journey from Leuchars to Edinburgh. The train will soon roll by the tay and the vastness of the sea that lies beyond. There will be ruins, and ivy covered banks as the train makes it through the towns before crossing the firth and the expansive bridge that spans it’s breadth.

It has begun…only 16,760 km (10,414 miles) to go.

Miriam JonesDust and Sand seems appropriate to the moment and to the last couple of weeks. The last three years – nay, most of the last ten – have been some kind of crazy adventure. A bit of a rollercoaster at times, but nothing if not a period of immense growth, learning, challenge and fun. There’s been a fair swathe of hard work thrown in there too of course. And I have much work still ahead of me. It’s been important to keep it all in perspective. The outcomes, the journey, the people I’ve met along the way.

St Andrews is the kind of town where much more happens than you would expect for a town of only around 14,000 people. Even today there were a weird mass of undergraduates wandering around town in lederhosen. I think there was a german beir festival on, though it’s also St Patrick’s Day so if i’d have stuck around those costumes would have been out and about too.

My church community, Trinity, has loved me in all sorts of practical ways lately. Not least that a congregational lunch last weekend meant I could keep my last chance to see people low key which just feels right given the weird transition of the next few months. I wrote a contribution for Preston Yancey’s At The Lord’s Table series about the wonderful community of people who’ve made St Andrews home for almost the last three years and about what it’s been like being part of a congregational plant within a church that has a very storied history. From keeping me company while packing, and both offering and helping me to finish up cleaning and moving me out of the cottage-by-the-sea to offering hugs and sharing with me as I wasn’t able to answer their questions about how I felt about leaving. Knowing I’ll be back in just over 7 weeks makes this feel less finite – and more of a transition.

Even as I write this, I can feel myself beginning to ‘feel’ a sense of closure in leaving the cottage-by-the-sea, and in knowing that i’m entering a new season. I know I will feel the distance from the friends I have made acutely. I’m starting to get excited about being with some very dear friends and meeting their beautiful baby girl – who is less than 2 weeks old. I’m turning my thoughts tentatively towards being with my younger sister in the little city where we’ll be sharing a picket-fenced cottage in the sun. I’m looking at the reality that with a little determination, more hard work, and some good fortune in staying healthy (and those I love staying healthy) I’m going to be done with this PhD in the next 6 months. Even realising that brings a mix of relief and a little terror (there is much to do).

I’m not sure, mainly because I’ve been living so far from my family (even though there are so many people here I would consider family), that I can quite say as Bobby Jones once did:

“I could take out of my life everything but my experiences here in St. Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life” – Robert T. Jones, 1958.

But I get what Bobby Jones is hinting at. Just as Baylor did, St Andrews as a town and its people got under my skin. The auld grey toon is part of my story now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So as Miriam Jones sings,

Goodbye for now completes it somehow. Goodbye for now he meets us somehow.

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