Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not Too Close

This morning I am leaving Sydney to work in a parish in western New South Wales. I'll be serving as a spiritual guide to parishioners who are doing a retreat in their everyday life. I know very little about the parish or the job, really, but I'm excited to go there.

But I've learned one great thing about the location:

When our director asked us what we wanted in terms of a location for this experiment, I said, send me somewhere far removed from the big cities. The outback, the desert -- cast me out as far as you can. You'd think I wanted to get the heck out of here, wouldn't you? Anything but the truth.

But it reminds me of the way I chose a college. As a senior in high school, I would not look for university studies at any school in the state of Illinois. Why? Because I wanted to be away from home, wanted to spread my wings, have a life of my own, etc etc teen identity-formation blah blah blah. In state was by definition "close"; out of state was "far away".

So, Loyola U. Chicago -- out. University of Illinois -- out. Northwestern -- out. I went instead to Marquette. It was in Wisconsin, therefore it was away.

Two years later, my brother started school. He did his first year at Illinois State. A 7 hour drive from our home (I think).

The trip from Marquette to our front door -- 90 minutes. A reality I learned quite profoundly one Saturday morning my freshman year when my mother did not like the 'tude I was giving her on the phone, and said to me, I am coming up to see you RIGHT NOW.

And she did.

Our perceptions, they can be deceiving.

This is not a photograph of that visit.

So anyway, my director says, I'm sending you to Cobar. Now: if you look on a map, Cobar doesn't look that far from Sydney.

Look at it. It's just down the street from Sydney. Actually, it's eight hours drive, but STILL. Look at it.

The thing was -- and I'm just realizing how little I've learned since college as I'm literally writing this very sentence -- it's in the same state. (Truly, THAT bothered me.) And so I had this disappointment that it probably wouldn't be the sort of experience I had hoped for.

Then, I ran into other Australian Jesuits, city folk. Where are you going for experiment, they asked. "Cobar." And they all responded the same way: "Cobar? Really?" Suffice it to say, they agreed, it's definitely in the outback.

So: I can't tell you what the town looks like or how I'll fill my days exactly, but I know this: it's pretty remote. Hurray!

I don't know what my internet abilities will be like, but I'll try to post when I can. We still haven't talked about kangaroos! (Think a deer with an 8 foot vertical.)


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