There is an LDS church in Buena Vista right next-door to our hotel. Convenient. This has been a curious visit, because it is a town with a larger percentage of LDS people than anywhere we’ve been in several weeks.
Buena Vista is home to Southern Virginia University, which has been nicknamed BYU-East or BYU-Virginia. The school was originally established in the late 1800′s, and several years ago it was suffering financial duress, so a couple of LDS businessmen essentially bought it and have been running it ever since. The school is not affiliated the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in any official way, but it has essentially been run based on principles espoused by the church, and it now has a student body that is over 95% Mormon.
This has made the school and the town something of a gathering place for some LDS people in this part of the country. Part of this means we get a different reception from the people here than we do in, say, Scott City, Kansas, where it is such a novelty to have someone new in the congregation that we were treated a little like celebrities. The novelty isn’t the same here, which on one hand I miss (well, my ego misses it – the part of me that wants everything always to be about me and my experiences and my journey), but on the other hand there is a comfort in the routine, in just being a part of the community wherever we go, and looking for ways to contribute in whatever capacity I’m able. (I’m not nearly as good at the looking-to-contribute part as I am at the look-at-me-and-the-interesting-things-I-want-to-share part.)
The people here are friendly and generous. We had two invitations for dinner tonight, and it saddened me to have to decline one of them – partly because of the food, but also because I love the company. We ate with the Bishop and his family, and at dinner we got to meet and get to know family, talk about our riding experiences, and make Tabernacle Choir connections (my parents sang in Tab Choir, and the bishop’s family also knew several people in the choir). After dinner I talked their 12-year-old daughter Celeste into serenading us on her cello, and I got to play a bit on their beautiful baby grand piano. That’s always a treat.
Also, we met Zobia. Her family is from Pakistan, and she joined the church when they were refugees living in Malasia. She learned English serving an LDS mission, and just over a year ago she moved to Buena Vista to attend school. Hers is an interesting story, but then anytime you put the words Pakistani, refugee, and Christian together you know there is a story to tell. I’m hesitant to tell more of it here, but she has common connections with the local bishop and he invited her to be a part of the family dinner today. It really was a privilege.
We’re at the end of Week 10. We have a tentative route planned that would put us in Yorktown Wednesday afternoon, but if things go slow we may take another day. We’ll have to see how it goes.
I’m starting to get pensive about the end of this trip. It has been my whole life for what feels like forever: get up, dress, pack, ride, break, lunch, ride, stop, unpack, shower, eat, blog, map, sleep, repeat forever. Interrupting a pattern like that can be seriously jarring, like coming home from a two-year mission, or graduating from college, or loosing a limb or a child (I don’t mean to trivialize those experiences for those who’ve had to go through them). (Also, I didn’t adjust well to being home from my mission.) I’m not sure what happens next. I know what I have planned, but I’m not sure how I will feel about it or how I will deal with it. I’m not sure what this journey is supposed to have done to me or for me, nor do I know how to tell what it did, if anything.
Maybe you tire of hearing me constantly voice my unproductive and often irrational doubts and fears and insecurities over events that haven’t yet happened. Well, I’m not going to pretend I don’t have these doubts and fears and insecurities, but I am trying to learn how to deal with them in a way that isn’t so destructive to my life and my emotional health. One of the things that helps me deal with them is talking about them – which is what I’m doing here. You don’t have to listen (or read), but if you’re tired of being bombarded by them, just imagine what it’s like living in my head where I can’t escape them. I’m bombarded by them constantly. When I vent them at you they lose some of their power over me. And the genius of this system is that it helps me feel better whether or not you read them (though processing them with people in a dialogue is another powerful tool for me in working through them).
So bear with me. You’ll probably hear more on that as we get closer to the end. Or after. I’m not sure what I will do with this blog when we’re done. Thoughts? Suggestions?