15. May 2013 · Comments Off on The World Outside · Categories: N. Grail School Year

The girls are scattered in small houses on the farm.  I am still in the main house, the House of Joy.

Hs of Joy File0890

House of Joy

BookstoreGV copy


We assemble in the large main hall, which takes up almost the entire second floor of this building that houses the bakery, bookstore, music center, laundry and canning kitchen.  The hall is usually bare.  It looks new.  There are no pictures on the white walls, no furniture, and no curtains on the windows, but I can see the fields through them.  The floor is wood, polished to a glow.  Can a bare room be beautiful?  I think it is.

This room can be transformed in a flash into a lecture hall, a meditation space, or a chapel.  Most events need only folding chairs and a podium.  The altar is assembled with a few large wooden pieces.  It is designed so that a visiting priest can celebrate Mass while facing the people.   It is something new that people from all over come to experience.

They give us our mail in the assembly hall where they have set up small tables and chairs.  We will be getting mail only once a week.   We must answer our mail right now.   We have the rest of the hour.

I get a ton of mail because they saved it all up.  There are letters from cousins and friends at home and photos from those I met on the voyage.  There is an Indian silk scarf from a friend on his way to university in England.

There is no letter from my sister.  Instead, the daughter of her landlord writes on her behalf.   Her name is Vivian.

Vivian scolds me.  She says that although the school notified our relatives in Macau that I arrived safely, my sister did not get a letter from me.  She mentions the many things my sister did for me for my voyage.  Why didn’t I write as soon as I arrived?   I should be ashamed to be such an ingrate.

I write a bread and butter letter to my sister.  I explain that I have not written to anyone else either because they’ve kept us too busy.  I say everything is fine and that I will write again when I can.

The most interesting letter is from John at Dartmouth.  His life at a boys’ college reminds me of the letters Howie wrote to my cousin in Macau. Howie is my cousin’s cousin.  He is also at a boys’ college in the U.S. and regaled us with stories of college life.

 I put a good spin on my life here.  I tell John that the theme of the school year is Towards a World Vision and leave out all the conversion stuff.  I write about the farm, the folk singing and the students from other countries and all my interesting new friends.

After we write our letters they collect them.  They mail them for us.

I remind myself that I have to stay here for a whole year.  I am going to do my best to learn whatever they are teaching me.   I don’t mind the manual work.  Actually, there is a kind of satisfaction in learning to do these things.

There are other students like me.  If they can live by these rules, so can I.  How tough can it be?

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