“If there’s no sacrifice, there’s no point,” my sister told me as I sat in her bedroom. I frequently dumped my troubles about this trip at her feet as she worked busily away at whatever it was I had interrupted. “You knew this wasn’t going to be easy.”
This was true. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Though in all honesty, I had never expected it to be so hard (I know, I know, Coldplay said it first). Who knew cutting roots could be so difficult?
It is SO GOOD to be back. And even though there are many things that are wonderfully familiar and a few places that feel very much like home to me, I am already discovering things about the Czech Republic I didn’t know before. For example: bugs.
THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.
I’d like to say that we don’t have bugs where I come from. For all intents and purposes, this statement is mostly true.
One of the daughters of the missionaries I am staying with took me cherry picking in a forest near their home (yes, there is a forest near their home). It was a more difficult process than either of us expected because of all the Stinging Nettles (why, God, did you create this plant?) and wild roses which are mostly just wild thorns this time of year. If you can get to the foot of a cherry tree and shimmy your way up the mossy base, you’re in for a real treat. And by treat I mean rotten branches that crack beneath you, moldy fruit, flying insects and the irritating knowledge that “died while cherry picking” looks sort of stupid on an epitaph.
Honestly, cherry picking is one of those activities that probably looks better in the movies. But we had a great time, minor injuries aside, and the thought of cherry pie kept us picking, picking, picking.
We piled the cherries into a pot and washed their smooth exteriors with hot water before setting them on the table to be diced and pitted.
“Watch out for the worms,” my paring partner instructed me.
“I’m sorry – the what?”
“Worms. These little guys,” she pealed back the halves of the cherry I was holding to reveal a small, white alien-larva with a tiny black head. It wiggled slightly and then dug itself back into the red flesh of its bitsy home.
Naturally, I over-reacted.
Screaming, I threw the cherry in the air and the paring knife on the table and I jumped back as far as my seat would allow.
“I can’t do this – I don’t think I can do this!” I said, whimpering and pushing my chair as far away from the cherries as I could.
“Mary, there’s a whole pot of cherries here,” she admonished. “I’m not doing them all by myself.”
I took a deep breath and folded my hands.
Dear God, I can handle getting lost in Berlin, getting blisters from carrying my 40 pound accordion around for 2 hours and almost getting conned out of 20 Euros by some Slick Nick. I can take leaving my friends and family and everyone I love to come to a country where I don’t speak the language – the jetlag and the nausea and the scratches I’m covered in from head to toe from those stupid rose bushes. But please, God, I cannot handle worms on my own. Please give me the constitution I need to pit these cherries.
Do I sound pathetic? Mhm. Is this perhaps a small symptom of a greater emotional burden? No. I just really can’t stand bugs.
We got through the cherries and I only screamed a couple more times. Mostly I just ended up being unnecessarily sarcastic and moody and then I went upstairs and completely changed everything I was wearing. I wanted to burn my old clothes in some kind of medieval, demon-purging ceremony but I was still pretty jetlagged and that seemed like it would take a lot of effort.
“Do you think we got them all?” I asked. Dumb question.
“Definitely not. There will be worms in this pie,” she said. “But you won’t taste them and they’re good protein.”
I am still not sure how I feel about this pie, nor am I sure if I will ever adjust to the inordinate amount of crawlers in this country. Slugs and killer-ants were in the garden while I was weeding, spiders were on the windowsills I was cleaning, skeeter-eaters buzz by the window frames at night, fat things with lots of legs flop around and look obnoxious and the largest black flies I hope to ever see appear when I am least emotionally prepared to handle them. As I am writing this on my bed, a brown bug is crawling across my arm (I panicked and flicked it onto a pile of my clothes. Guess what I won’t be wearing for several days…). I thought I was making friends with a very dizzy arachnid that was spinning uncontrollably in its web this morning but in trying to free it I destroyed its home and knocked it to the ground. I’m hoping he won’t come to exact his revenge tonight.
Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about the next two years. It’s been a good week – probably the best I have had in about a year, really. And even though saying ‘goodbye’ last week was literally the pits (and now I know what that means) I am excited about what is ahead. It feels so good to have purpose and to be productive and helpful in such an important – albeit small right now – way.
But the tough will always come with the beautiful. Roses will always have thorns. And bugs will be in the pie. God makes life that way and I don’t know why. Maybe for the protein?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”