Yesterday I went on a run with a friend through the English countryside. It was hilly and green, canopied with trees, and deliciously rustic. A few horses and sheep grazed in the woods and fields alongside us, and the roads were so narrow that we had to stop when the occasional car trundled past.
I was quite enjoying the jog until we found ourselves at the base of an uphill path, and it occurred to me that we’d gone downhill for a few kilometers. I pressed on for all of 200 meters before my lungs seemed to collapse and my legs felt like jelly. In defeat, I slowed to a not quite brisk walk. While I huffed and puffed, my friend jogged happily along beside me. Sensing my distress, she kindly said, “Let me run ahead and see how far we have to go.” She ran back shortly and encouraged me that the road leveled off in just a few hundred meters, though we couldn’t see it because the road kept bending. She did this twice more, running ahead, and coming back to cheer me on with the news that it was just another kilometer, or just another track lap until the next checkpoint.
As I trudged up that hill, I realized how grateful I am to have friends journeying alongside me as I settle in Izmir. I have American friends that have gone before me in the work of cultural adjustment, and I will look to them for encouragement when the road gets tough. I’m grateful also to Turkish friends who can help me navigate the twists and turns and point me in the right direction when I am lost – both figuratively and literally!
The road is long and lonely when we walk it alone, but when we travel with friends, though still painful and exhausting, it becomes a journey of hope.