As I was preparing to move to Israel-Palestine, lots of good-intentioned people told me what I should read. And we do indeed have a stack of books on the land, the politics, the history, the culture. But I have mostly let them sit on the shelves for now.

There was one book I knew I must have, one book that would speak to my soul, which would directly acknowledge the uneasiness and swirl of emotions I experienced as I was packing up my life to move to an unfamiliar place.


Mother Diana introduced me to Shaun Tan’s The Arrival during a Continuing Ministerial Development residential. Its images of agonising farewells, disorientation in an unfamiliar culture, gradual reorientation, and then a happy reunion articulate far better than words could do how I am feeling and what I hope for.

The feeling of being tiny in a vast landscape. The loneliness. The homesickness. The experience of familiarity and strangeness all at once.


The inability to communicate. The kindness of strangers.


The blessing of new friendships. The gradual adaptation to the new place, the new life.

And then the arrival of loved ones, their initial disorientation. Followed by integration, a new normal.

There are no words in this beautiful book, which is why I love it so much. It allows me simply to feel. It reminds me that I am traveling a well-trodden path. It assures me that what I am feeling is not unusual, that these emotions are very real indeed. But it also gently guides my gaze forwards, to a time when my mind, my body, my soul, my heart will be more settled.

One thought on “the arrival

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