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City Girl Gone Country, Visits the City

April 25, 2014

I don’t consider myself a world-traveler, by any means.  But I have seen my fair share of the world.  In my quarter century on Earth, I have visited cities in Northern Italy, England, Greece, Paris, Montreal, Quebec, and of course state-side (New York, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Denver …).  I can now add Miami to that list.  I’ve always considered myself culturally aware and open-minded, but stepping around the corner from the Duck Tours office onto Washington Avenue was eye-opening.  I was bombarded with cigarette smokers, Spanish-speaking natives, and Hasidic Jews all in the course of about five minutes.  There were stores with cheap knock-off luggage options, watches and jewelry, swimwear and street vendors carrying handmade friendship bracelets.  I instantly thought of Chinatown in New York City.  I remember my first experience there as a junior in high school, wide-eyed and thrilled by all the goods in all the stores.  I see them now as cheap and wasteful. Listening to the people around me I started realizing no one was speaking English. I head French, Spanish, Italian … everything but English.

Since we had about 45 minutes to kill before our Duck Tour, my grandma wanted to find some ice cream.  After walking about a block and half directly behind four or five people who were smoking, I couldn’t take any more.  I can’t stand smoke.  It was hot.  I was getting sweaty and gross for no reason.  We didn’t have a specific destination in mind.  I am not a fan of wandering aimlessly when I’m either somewhere that I am not familiar with, or I’m uncomfortable in some way.  Both of those conditions were the case today.  So being the diva that I am, I asked my grandparents if we could stop for a second because of the smoke.  Then I turned us around altogether and we walked into a small cafe that we had passed earlier.  If you had dropped me there randomly, I would have guessed I was in Italy.  I think I was the only American there.  Including everyone behind the counter.  It was awesome and terrifying all at the same time.

We finally got grandma her ice cream (sorry it took so long, grandma) and got on our Duck Tour.  I sat down next to a French (or Canadian) lady.  I was too afraid to talk to her.  If you know me, you know that means I’m uncomfortable.  I will literally engage anyone in conversation, anywhere.  (When we got to the hotel I talked to a lady in the elevator about her flip flops … anyone).  But sitting down on that Duck Tour I felt too out of context and misplaced.

A Boat Named Cynthia

Spotted on the tour … 

It has occurred to me that I am now a Southern Country Girl.  I am giving myself this title because I felt claustrophobic, terrified, confined, grossed out, and nervous walking around South Beach today, for all of five minutes. While I don’t think that I am a Southerner to the core, I have taken on a lot of characteristics of Southerners, and have incorporated many cultural customs into my own. But here is a true confession from this nun: I always thought I would move to the big city one day to try and make it big as an artist, musician, or otherwise.  As I have learned more about myself, and more importantly, about Jesus, I have realized that it’s not about where you are, it’s about who you are becoming.  Although I might make some alterations to that post from over a year ago, I believe that it still holds true for how I try to live: joyfully in the context of the Cross.

I often struggle with how I see others’ living their lives and the choices they make (just ask my roommate how judgemental I can be … I know, I’m working on it … sort of), but at the end of the day, that is free will.  And God gave us free will.  I thought the movie, God’s Not Dead, spoke to this fairly well.  While the movie isn’t perfect, and it’s just one interpretation of how to defend the Christian faith, and the central character, John Wheaton, details God’s gift of free will to human beings in a debate with his professor who is forcing Wheaton to renounce his faith.  At the end of the day we all have choices to make, and those choices shape who we become.

All that to say, Miami is an intense place.  I can’t ever see myself living here or staying for more than a day or two at a time.  My brave brother has moved down here to attend graduate school for psychology, so I’m sure there will be at least one or two more visits in the next 3 or 4 years that he is here.  Seeing everything I saw today has reminded me that how I live and what I present to the world is what I am leaving behind; not what I buy, how much money I make, but who I am.  The houses we saw on our Duck Tour were gorgeous and extravagant, but other than showing people that you have a lot of money to blow on a house, what’s the point?

I don’t think living the quiet country life is completely for me.  And neither is the loud and smelly city life.  I’ll take the nun life any day of the week: living joyfully in the context of the Cross and serving the people around me.  I want to leave behind a legacy that says, “She didn’t live quietly, and she didn’t live obnoxiously, she lived for Jesus.”

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