Showing Up

Three months into living here, I no longer experience the excitement and novelty of my situation on a daily basis anymore. There are whole worlds still to learn and new experiences regularly, and I do still love what I’m doing, but it isn’t still in that first feeling of absolute novelty. Yet, I’m still only starting to have a clue about how life here is going to work and what possibilities it holds.

It was so new, a month ago, walking away from the apartment at sunrise to go to school and figure out a lesson that was either going to be very good or very bad. Now, it’s just daily life, walking away from my apartment two hours before sunrise to go to school to teach a lesson plan I know will be about average. School time hasn’t moved, sunrise has.

So: I show up. I get myself to places at times, ready and willing to discover what happens there and then. I wait for other people and I wait for God and I wait for things to happen.

I showed up last week. On Monday, we knew a university function had canceled morning classes, so I showed up in the afternoon. Students didn’t. So I said at least I hadn’t come early for this, I could deal with an unexpected day off. On Wednesday, my co-teacher thought a university function had canceled the morning classes, but I didn’t know, so I showed up. So did four students, out of a class of twenty. So I scrapped the lesson I’d planned and talked with them and improvised a discussion topic and hung in for a double-length lesson, even engaging them about cultural influences toward certain behaviors and making good choices for good reasons. It was good to feel that even without expressly teaching the fullest Truth I know, I could plant true and good ideas in students’ minds. But that ain’t nothing.

I showed up throughout Wednesday for a scheduling snafu about ‘next week,’ which is now this one. Getting a Thanksgiving break is great, but it’s complicated when neither of my schools does. Miscommunication and conflicting interests of myself and other teachers and the students and the schools made it a complex problem, but after lots of texts and calls and emails and frowning at calendars, a good solution was found that satisfied all parties.

I showed up at the end of a long day Thursday for an evening adult class. Nobody else did, out of four, until two came, half an hour apart, very late. Not wanting to leave their classmates behind by covering much of our workbook, I just talked with them. We discussed judging by appearances and reality, and again I thought I was able to touch on good things. An hour later, we were wrestling with Crime and Punishment, which I haven’t even read. We went off about repentance, forgiveness, peace, love, and faith, which we used to mean a kind of strength for facing life. We never opened the workbook, but I felt like a success even before they willingly stayed to keep talking a half-hour late and poured out how much they loved the class and what they thought of me as a teacher.

By the end of Thursday, a cold showed up, but I showed up for Friday, even without a guest teacher from Britain, with whom I’d planned a fun lesson about cultural differences between our countries. She wasn’t able to show up, but I managed a different lesson. After a long week, with the onset of a cold, I thought I might take an easy evening and early bedtime. But I showed up for an English movie night sponsored by another Christian organization in university outreach. I’d heard of it and met the guy who ran it, but never come, although my teammate had been helping for about six weeks – they needed native speakers and had a good relationship with lots of students, mostly from another major university but occasionally from my school.

So I showed up and talked with students, and after The Pursuit of Happyness, I was thrown into a small-group discussion of how people chase happiness and why. I was in a group with the leader, and despite being new, I was fully a part of the event. As the night wound down and groups broke up, I fell into a lengthy one-on-one discussion with a student around the nature of faith: must everyone at some point put their faith in something? Is faith in something unproven useless? Can something be totally unprovable yet absolutely true? Does it matter what a person puts their faith in? Can you prove to me logically that you exist? Do you wholeheartedly believe that you do? I argued that: yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes. He even agreed with some of my points. He couldn’t understand my position at first, and could later, so he learned something. I was able to directly mention the name of God and what I believe to be His desires for humans, and describe some of what belief means to me and to other disciples. It was by far the most directly I’d shared with anyone outside my team since I’d come to Russia. Or with a nonbeliever anywhere in a long time. It was very good, and worth the extra travel to have attended. I showed up and a student did and we connected, because God brought us both there that night.

So I keep showing up, and it might be an average day or a frustrating one or a great one, but I don’t want to miss it whatever it is. So, now that my visa finally showed up, I’ll show up this week for a Thanksgiving break and teachers’ conference in Turkey, to step back and look at what God has done and hear others’ stories, and I’ll come back Sunday and wake up Monday with just one goal: keep showing up.