My first international trip was to Monze, Zambia. It was a small, summer study abroad program for teachers in training through Gonzaga University. Promptly upon arrival, I accidentally poured salt into my coffee thinking it was sugar and took a big slurp. It wasn't the only surprise of the trip.
One of my favorite memories from the trip was when Beatrice, local teacher educator, invited me on a short road trip to pay her power bill. In the car, she repeated to me, "Life can be hard mama. life can be painful. Life can be hard mama; life can be painful..." She told me her whole tragically beautiful life story during that car ride. Beatrice's husband unexpectedly died at 32, living her with three children - one still breastfeeding. She told me what a wonderful person he was and how he pushed her to enjoy life and have confidence in herself. "Life can be hard mama," she preached again. She told me how after he died, she earned a college degree and became a teacher. She told me how her oldest son lives in Lusaka and is studying to be a doctor. And again, "life can be painful mama."
I put my hand on hers - this woman I barely knew and have so little in common with from an outside perspective. I so badly wanted to tell her how I knew, how I knew - that even though we grew up on other sides of the world from each other - we had both lived out this exact truth in our own ways. And it's always a surprise when you take that first sip expecting sugar and you get salt.
But no matter who you are, where you're from or what you face - you can accept that life can be hard, and you go on. It doesn't have to ruin the trip mama.