The best arrivals often happen slowly.
I’ve been in Liverpool for a couple of days now, and only today do I feel that I’m 90% here. There’s jetlag. There’s culture shock (even for someone who’s lived in England before). There’s the figuring out of a new city and a new partner university. It all takes time. But I’m just now beginning to believe that it’s really 8:00pm, that no one is faking their accent, and that this funny-looking little piece of paper with a picture of the queen on it is in fact real money.
That not-quite-here sensation was reinforced, for me, by the fact that the campus where I’m living was literally locked down when I arrived—not because of Covid, I’m happy to say, but just because of the New Year’s holiday. No offices were open. No people around. No Wi-Fi in my flat, and no one to restore it.
The sensation was also reinforced by the number of my roots that had been pulled up. I’m a husband approximately 3800 miles from his wife; I’m a dad approximately 3800 miles from his son. And until today, I was a professor approximately 3800 miles from his students.
As a fairly strong introvert, I’m struck by how many points of my identity are relational. I wouldn’t be a professor without students, a father without a child, or a husband without a wife. I’m also a son and a brother. The only other way I would define my identity—the primary way—is as a Christian, and the good news in all of this is that as a Christian I am always exactly zero miles from God.
Today I stood in a car park (read: parking lot) in the middle of the housing complex where the students are staying, distributing Covid tests to the slow flow of students being shuttled from Manchester airport, and receiving completed tests from those students 15 minutes later for submission to the lab.
If the best arrivals happen slowly, the arrival of the Calvin group to Liverpool is downright awesome. Some came today; some will come tomorrow; some have been in Britain for the better part of a week.
With every student who entered the car park, though, I felt myself arriving more and more in Liverpool, because my role was being restored: I was more and more of a professor with each and every student who arrived.
But alas. Omicron rules dictate that those poor students must hunker down in their rooms until their tests comes back negative. “Don’t hole up in your room,” I told them during orientation; now that’s the law. “Don’t just eat American food,” I said; the university is literally delivering Dominos pizza and McDonalds to them in their isolation. “Don’t put an electronic screen between you and Britain.” Right now, that’s pretty much all they’ve got.
I’ve given them online readings, assignments for the semester, and so forth, to peruse so that they’ll be able to take up their roles as students just as I’m taking up mine as professor. But somehow, I doubt that’s very helpful.
They’re safe. They’re fed. But they’re somewhat trapped in a new environment without the means to acclimate to the new culture all around them. And some of them—delayed by airline cancelations and positive Covid tests—haven’t even begun this process of testing and isolation yet.
The best arrivals often happen slowly. But this is ridiculous. 🙂