Allow me to tell you a story entitled “The Frogs in the Well”. There were two frogs sharing rooms in a well. One frog would explore the ocean while the other one had been living in the well almost the rest of his life. The frog who had never got out of the well did not believed anything the other frog related. Well, I have to say that I am scared of becoming such narrow minded frog, and I have always been eager to explore the ocean. Philosophically, if you are not in a forest, you will not hear the sound of the falling tree, let alone seeing the forest. Missoula has proved me I am in the forest, and I do not see any falling tree. I have been in Montana, mostly Missoula, for almost four weeks now.
Since coming here, most of the words I used is “Wow!” Everything is unbelievable without witnessing with my naked eyes. This place, Missoula, is located on Earth the same as my birth place, yet it is composed of the components in my imagination I have been longing to enjoy. This adventure is a new beginning of my life.
v An Expected Journey, A lot of Unexpected Experiences
Gandalf, when persuading Bilbo to join the journey to Erebor the Lonely Mountain, alerted the Hobbit that he could know things from his books, know the location from reading maps, yet he would never see anything by his own naked eyes if he would not go on any adventure. Eventually, Bilbo traveled with them not because of the treasure but because of the curiosity and inspiration. And this story inspires me to be curious and to go on adventure. Here in Missoula, I consider it as the Shire (the place where the Hobbits live). Here in Missoula, please do not confuse, none of the Hobbit hole exists. Yet the scenery in Missoula is breathtaking to me.
Millions of years ago, this city was a giant lake. Nowadays, it is surrounded mountains, some small some big, beautify this little city all year round. The Senital with M sign on its shoulder identifying the University of Montana stands firmly as the guardian of the city. The Jumbo with L sign which looks just like a shape of a big elephant lying near the M with the Hell Gate in middle. In my mind, the Hell Gate which is believed to be the war arena of the ancient Indian tribes is one of the way to leave the Shire to other places like the Misty Mountain, Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Erebor. Not only do these two gentle mountains restlessly secure the happiness of the Shire, several other mountains can be seen here and there and everywhere across this spectacular city. No one dares to deny the picturesque view of Missoula in the dawn and in the evening, I say no one. Interestingly, the city of Missoula worships the Grizzly Bear (which is not endangered) as the famous identity of the city. To me, this carnivorous species, which used to roam the great plain of the United States, is Beorn the Skin Changer. No one wants to mess with Beorn the same as nobody dares to disturb the Grizzly. My journey has led me to see even Smaug sleeping on the bank of the river which was long ago explored by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Impressively, the University of Montana is to some extent the most popular landmark in town. Almost two times bigger than my university, the university consists of iconic buildings and marvelous architectural designs, and the statues of Mike and Maureen Mansfield, one of the most romantic couples having lived on Earth, and the metal statue of a handsome (or pretty) Grizzly Bear in front of the main hall of the university. Despite being here for almost a month, I have yet to explore every corner of the university. The most remarkable building to me is Miller Hall, the dormitory where I am staying with my 19 friends from the five countries. To me, it is more than a dorm. It is an imaginary house where I can live and share with my friend. It is the home of integration and the home of exchanging ideas and culture. I have been learning and observing numerous things from my friends. Being selected to be with them and live under the same roof is, to me, being selected to be a member of Gryffindor. The University of Montana is seen by me as Hogwarts. A lot of professors whom I have met are the holy gurus. They are extraordinary, but they live very ordinary. I know for sure that the University of Montana is not the best school in the world, yet it is the best school I have ever attended.
v Missoula is Hakuna Matata!
Everything here is awesome! By and large, when you are walking from one place to another, you always encounter people saying “Hi!”, “Hello!”, “What’s going on!”, or “How are you?” You will always find smiling face at all places. So far, as I have known, there were only two crime cases last year! Yes, it is super safe here. People who do not have a garage attached to their home just simply park their car in front of their house; however, this does not apply for the bike cycle. It sounds very weird to me, somehow. Missoula is a stress-free city, I have to tell you. You always can find a place to indulge yourself. Plenty of public parks can be seen everywhere. You do not have to worry about the toilet even when you leave your house or dorm, let alone talking about the drinking water. You can almost find places to drink water every here and there. It is just a wonderful world! I can see the Clark Fork River flowing, I can see the people fishing, the people floating, and I can sense the smell of the river itself which surrounded by million precious stones from the glacier thousands of years ago.
Every now and then, I can see people walk their dog to the river. They throw a ball into the water so that the dog will swim into the river to catch the ball. It is a clever strategy to wash the dog while we can enjoy impressing how smart they are. The Missoulian are fond of pets. They philosophize their mindset to love the nature, the animal either pets or wildlife, and their society. I have never seen anyone who spits or throws waste in the public place. I do not see the river being bothered by waste, even just a plastic bag. Towards this aspect, I have to attribute such achievement of good citizenship to the role of education. I think that the Missoulian are well-educated; that is, there is no too big gap among the people in term of literacy and general knowledge. Furthermore, the citizen of Missoula live their life, as I have been observing, in a “Gemeinschaft” (community) rather than live in “Gesellschaf” (society). In other words, they interact with their neighborhoods and others in the community. They do not just live without knowing anyone in the society. They do not just mind their own business. I am not so sure if my observation is scientifically accurate, but this is the reality in which I have been living comparing to that in my society back at home. To me, Missoula illustrates the problem-free philosophy and the sense of togetherness. Missoula indeed has not worry.
v I am Living in an Illusory World!
I every now and again reckon that I am not really living in a reality but a dream. It is so perfect to me that I cannot believe it to be true. From people to places, from human environment to natural environment, from Miller Hall to the Glacier National Park, I just wish the universe is not pulling my leg. Every second is passing. What I am writing above has become my past already. What you were reading just a second ago has already converted to your past. Nothing remains static. It was just like yesterday when I touched downed at the airport, vomited, forgot two T-shirts on the plane, and then finally hugged Deena so tightly. It is just an illusion now. My time here is almost over. My time here is like the water flowing in the Clark Fork River which literally never comes back. Missoula will remains here. The stone on which I sit yesterday is still at the river bank, but I will leave soon similar to the water. Who knows if I ever come back? It is a misery whenever I think of my departure.
There is one thing of which I am skeptical. It remains faint to me whether I can enjoy so much in Missoula without the fresh 19 friends of mine. I doubt whether my feeling were the same were they not here. They are very good mates. Living together in the same hall, share food, knowledge, and many other stupid things. Admittedly, this is my first time to eat with a lot of people using the same spoon, but I do not feel disgusted, neither do they, I surmise. They are so-called “A friend who shares is a friend who cares!” Amazingly, among them, I even find those who have the same feather as mine, and we do flock together. It is my privilege to know these smart people.
After the final battle and the dwarves finally reclaimed their kingdom from Smaug and the goblin, Bilbo eventually headed back home. He knew for sure that he missed his hole, yet he missed his friends and his journey more. When life got back to its normality, Bilbo could enjoy his meal, sharing his story to the hobbits in the village, and writing his books. Similarly, I will leave Missoula soon. It is not enough to be here just four months, and it will be never enough, no matter how long. The human desire has no limited. This is the reason I have been doing everything I can before it is too late to say “I regret”. I will be back at my hometown telling my story and my experiences to my folks who will listen to me.
Not until now do I feel that there is no place like home, yet there is also no place like Missoula.