The Pilgrim’s Progress

My head hurts. The throbbing of the temples prevails upon my eyelids and thus I squint to avoid the light. It hurts to move, to hear and to see. I can do nothing but pray for comfort as I lie in bed to relax. Continuous toiling in the sun has caught up to me.

My body is fatigued from the heat of the day and my mind is overcome with the Hiligaynon language. It’s an elixir strong enough to bring down the mightiest of foreigners. The language, the culture and the climate have all but pushed out everything once called American. It is a transition I can only describe as an exorcism in reverse.

I am famished and hunger pains gnaw at my stomach. Dinner comes and I tear into the fish and rice with my bare hands. Silverware has become an obstacle, a useless tool against the small fish bones that stand between me and my meal. The only civility on display is a small prayer of thanks offered to God: I have my daily bread.

With my belly full, I sit outside in the cool air and under the darkened sky. I look up to count the stars. It’s a futile exercise; I stop somewhere after fifty and merely gaze in awe. My headache has faded away but I’m oblivious to the fact. I am captivated by the beauty of the moon and stars as they create shadows for the palm trees that so elegantly sway in the wind.

Briefly I loosen my gaze from the heavens above and glance at the crumbling nipas around me. The aging bamboo can not hide the poverty that built it up. Even in the dark of night it is obvious. With a moment of retrospection I remember the three-bedroom, brick home that I left in Texas and I realize how much it pales in comparison to these rustic, falling-down shelters. I was blind but now I see.

The past six months have given me an education greater than anything I could ever download. The endless oracles of the internet may spew their wisdom but reality is what happens when you turn the monitor off; faith is the cup bearer to works. I can only imagine what the next six months will teach me. If anything, it will be amazing.

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