I shuffled my feet on the ice, digging my toes deeply into the front of my blue boots, eyes glued on the inches ahead. It’s the end of March. There is still a good meter of snow in my town of Silistra, as we lie in the most northeastern corner of Bulgaria. The wind is bitter and thrashes against the six centimeters of my face revealed, making my ice skating moves challenging.
Left . . . right . . . left . . .
My right foot flies in front of me, a Rockette-style head kick before my body turns and plants me into a pile of snow.
I’m tired of winter. Winter is delaying my spring, my sun-kissed streaks in dark hair, my short-sleeve tops.
We were shoveling Asian food into our mouths during our layover when Mari suggested we check to see if our gate was posted yet. I stretched my tongue to get the sauce that landed on my cheek while craning my neck to check the board — a true peak of my multitasking and laziness.
This doesn’t make sense, I thought. If our flight leaves at 6:30 pm, why would they tell us our gate information will be available at 9:45 pm?
After talking to the woman at the Information desk and despite understanding that ice on the ground does, in fact, mean planes can’t land, I was still nowhere near satisfied. Out comes the worst Erica. My best attempts at suppressed anger, business casual tones, and defending why I-need-to-get-home-because-I-teach-tomorrow-and-the-children-love-the-books failed, as I was sent on my way with a sandwich voucher and a notice to get comfy for the next four hours.
Our flight ended up taking off well after 10:30 pm, putting us in the Otopeni airport at around 1:45 am, crossing the Romanian/Bulgarian border at around 4:10 am and walking out of the taxi in Silistra as the sun rose in the early hours of Monday morning.
I’m really tired of winter.
I type this with my half-finger-less, American flag gloves on — just enough for my first finger digit and chipped-polish nails to clack against the keyboard. I have a pair of leggings on underneath faded teal sweatpants and a huge mug of berry tea to my right. It seems to be my set-up most of these days, sometimes switching out my laptop with Stephie next to me expanding my Bulgarian vocabulary or Mari with the West Wing and bowls of tofu pasta. Spring has been delayed here by masses of ice and white fluffy snow, and I understand my friends in the states aren’t having it much easier with another nor’easter.
The same friends (and trans-Atlantic accountability partners?) have called me out again on wanting a logistical update, but I feel like it is only appropriate that it has also been delayed like most things in the world currently.
Delayed votes and delayed progress, delayed homework assignments by my students, delayed spring and delayed gratification and delayed calm after the storms in my mind.
Winter, combine with living alone in Eastern Europe, does a weird thing to my head, hence the storms. The isolation makes me relive every moment of my past — from middle school cheerleading to the things I said at the high school lunch table to the days of my college courses that have brought me here.
On the flip slide, winter gives us the gift of being stuck. My small town was snowed in for several days — no buses entering or leaving, no classes, no walking outside unless you wanted your nose to become a piercing shade of red, really not my color — which means I have had plenty of time to write this, but yet it has sat as a draft.
I believe that there are seasons where we should be fully present, not documenting but living — hanging on every word and sound and smell and chill. I believe there are seasons where the Lord would much rather have us alone and processing with Him (okay, let’s be honest, this is probably most seasons) rather than publicly declaring all of our missteps to the world. I haven’t always done the best job of noticing the contrast of those two stages.
I don’t want to miss a minute of sipping Sangria in Malta on a Saturday afternoon, of my bread-and-honey-filled lunches, of eating churros through the streets of Madrid, of helping my students write speeches for competitions. Yes, I would love to skip several minutes of sitting at airports and students telling me they don’t plan on participating today in class and sleeping on cross-country buses, but I need to be experiencing those too, and probably more importantly.
My eyes have stared out the windows of my flat, waiting for the snow to stop falling. Once winter melts, once spring enters, once the trees bloom, there will be peace, right? I will no longer feel the anxiousness. I will not longer be stuck in airports. I will no longer build up frustration when buses go half the speed limit.
I’ve been lying to myself.
Spring doesn’t solve my problems. Winter is not at fault. Winter is purposeful; winter has stayed longer this year, and if that is not God trying to remind us His goodness reaches us in those places, I don’t know what is.
If not having winter meant I would never feel anxious nor isolated, I would be the first person booking a one-way to the Caribbean. Frankly though, we all know it doesn’t work like that. Maybe winter magnifies the pangs, maybe winter makes me dwell more inside my own head, but those problems are pervasive regardless of the temperature.
If being rich met all our needs and being skinny gave us self-love and good brands meant good hearts, wouldn’t we have figured it out by now? If words correlated to actions and the number of our Facebook friends equaled our real friends, wouldn’t a lot of problems been solved by now?
Those things don’t solve our problems because they are not the issue. Even though spring will come, spring is coming, we won’t have anxiety abolished. We will have less layers, sure, yet we will still have emotional build-up. In the same way that finally perfecting your GPA will not affirm you of your intelligence. In the same way that acceptance to a University will not make you feel accepted. In the same way that a significant other won’t be able to love you more than God does in this moment.
God’s goodness reaches us in all moments — in the physical winter, in the striving, in the waiting. Even though our schedule of events may seem delayed, the Lord’s love and goodness have never been.
We are in Holy Week, an eternity-changing week for humanity. A week where nothing was delayed, but where everything was timed meticulously. A week where our striving and sin and anxieties were put on a perfect man so we would no longer have to carry them. A week where we wait, not because of a delay, but because of a deep hope, a beautiful promise.
Spring is coming.
He is coming.
The last couple months have been two-feet planted, hold-onto-your-hat, we-are-really-doing-this-thing. It’s been filled with new students, B.E.S.T. tournaments and practices, traveling, professional football games, airport naps, snow days, college friends in Europe, new lesson plans and learning that senioritis is, in fact, a global outbreak.
Below are some of my favorite pictures from the last several weeks. They are taken in: Spain (Madrid, Sevilla), Scotland (Edinburgh), Bulgaria (Silistra, Razgrad, Dobrich), Poland (Warsaw, Kraków), Malta and — of course — the Bucharest airport.
*This site, E (ericaboden.wordpress.com), is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.