We enter the empty courtyard on a brisk Sunday morning. The sky, a cloudless azure, is a stark and beautiful backdrop to the towering stone spires and turrets hovering above.
We are stopped in our tracks by the beauty. The stature. The solitude. The silence.
We stood there for an eternity – though really only a moment or two – and took it all in. A lone bench stood sentry between two bare trees. The monastery sandwiched between some classical architecture of which I do not know the name; I only appreciate the beauty.
These buildings, standing longer than my mind can engulf, represent my new home. Beauty. Strength. A deep and rich history – one of which I have barely begun to scratch the surface.
I stand before these structures and all I can do is stare. In awe. My balance waivers at the weight of the emotional and historical atmosphere. Or is that just the cobblestones beneath my feet? Or is it the jet lag? Or brain fog?
Everything is the same color. The same taupe-ish white covers the walls, the spires, the cobbles below. It is stunning. It is imposing.
It is the perfect mirror for the culture surrounding me. So beautiful and intricate and delicate and strong it all looks the same. At first glance. Yet the more I look, the more I learn, the more details emerge. The distinctions that once made it all look exactly the same are now the things that set one thing so distinctly apart from another.
My internal wandering and monologue is interrupted when something catches my eye.
A balloon, as orange as the day is long, bops and swoops on the breeze around the floor of the plaza. It makes no noise. No squealing child chases after it. It dances and sways this way and that. Its bright color and chaotic activity stand in stark contrast to the quiet and stoic setting.
I feel like that balloon.
Standing out, sticking out, no matter how much I try to blend. I just want to fit in; blend in. To know all those unwritten rules everyone else just follows without even knowing it.
Even in those moments in which I exhibit the perfect behavior, my very appearance gives me away. I’m simply an orange balloon in a courtyard of white stone.
And yet, there is something I enjoy about the chaotic blowing of the cultural breeze…of being swept about and dancing around the social cues and unwritten nuances of a city alive with a thousand nations, countless languages, running on the heels of a millennium of history.
One day, and I probably won’t even notice it happen, I will cease to be the orange balloon and will have emerged from my cultural cocoon some creature closer to what is native to this land. I won’t have to think about every step, every word, every road, every turn. Life will just be life, with it’s routines and friends and jobs and laughs.
I hope, though, not to lose some of the sheer awe and delight found in these early days in a new place. I am treasuring the newness; the discovery; the excitement. I will never experience these particular firsts again.
So, while I look forward to the day when I seem to belong in this courtyard, I know it is ok to be a little bit orange for awhile.