Thursday, April 25, 2013

but, why?

Sometimes, in the middle of a language lesson, I find myself frustrated and asking an age old question: "But, why?" 
Why do you add that "ko" in the middle of the sentence?
Why doesn't "moy" really have meaning, yet you throw that one in there?
Why do I have to say "lay" when in every other incident it's "la"?
Why? Why? Why?
*Now, if you are my father, this is where you would throw in the old "because frogs are purple" line. Don't ask me why, but that would ALWAYS shut my little 3 year old self up. I don't even want to know what kind of issues I have from lines like that throughout my childhood.

However, as time has gone on, I have found myself just accepting the little language quirks. Instead of trying to translate word for word into English, I just accept that fact that this is what the sentence says. I accept that this whole sentence means this, but if you say a small part out of the sentence it could mean something different. I accept that I can't dissect every little word and make it fit into my neat and compact little compartment to translate it into English. I may not fully understand everything going on...and that's ok.

Sometimes, I find myself viewing the culture in the same way. It's crazy how much of where we grew up shapes our world view-even when we're not surrounded by our "home culture" anymore. Sometimes it can be difficult to assimilate into other cultures because you're holding onto the way things are done in the place where you feel comfortable. Things should be done a certain way because that's just how you do it. Onions should be cut on a cutting board. Why? Because that's how my mom taught me. You should call someone before you go to their house to visit. Why? Because in America, that's what you do. Whenever you talk to someone from customer service for a problem, you should get an answer right then. Why? Because that's just how it's done. But, where is it done that way? In America? Does it really have to work that way everywhere? I'm finding out more and more that the answer to that is "no." It does not have to work that way everywhere. Although that's the sometimes frustrating part, it's the beautiful part. It's the part that makes our cultures different. It's the part that makes each person and place and country unique. I may not see things as being done the "best" way here, but they are content with it. 

I'm also finding out more and more that they think our culture is crazy.
 "People eat everything fried there?" 
"You have to call, and most of the time have an agenda, to go visit at someone's house?"
"You can drive through a restaurant??" 

The thing is, I can't fit this culture into my American mindset, and I shouldn't. Yes, this culture is different, but that's the good thing about it. In my short 7 months here, I have realized that I need to stop trying to dissect everything they do, and just accept it for who they are. I'm not here to change their culture, I'm here to show them Love-to tell them about a Truth that came for every culture. He didn't come to change cultures, he came to change hearts. Just like in my language, I need to accept the whole. Yes, it's ok to ask why, but don't get frustrated with the answer. Don't compare everything to back home. This isn't America. This is a country full of beautiful people. This is a country that values family. This is a country that has a certain hospitality you don't see everywhere.

I say this knowing that I will still probably get frustrated when my internet stops working for the 100th time. Or when my electricity goes out. Or when the taxi driver tries to charge me an exorbitant amount, just to haggle it down to a price we're both satisfied with. But I'm hoping that during these times I'll remember the good visits, the times to drink attaya, and the sweet friends are a part of this place too.

After all, this American needs to learn a few things from them, too.

Monday, April 15, 2013

a wise man once said

Last night a couple of friends and I were talking about the overall attitude that the people of this country have. As we were discussing things, one of my friends said "Yes, the tongue and the teeth live together, and nobody can separate them." As I looked at him with a question in my eyes, he explained that the the tongue and the teeth usually live together in harmony. However, the teeth sometimes have a tendency to hurt the tongue. This does not mean, though, that they will now be separated. They will work through their differences and live in harmony once again. As I listened to him speak, I realized that I was hearing my first African proverb up close and personal. I don't know about all of you, but before I came here I had always heard of old African proverbs, and I was looking forward to the day where I would know a couple from my country. 

Well, y'all, the day has come. I can now proudly say that I own the knowledge of many different African proverbs, and I just can't keep them to myself. They are simply golden, and there is a 99% chance I will continually be looking for ways to insert them into conversations. So, just warning you now, don't be surprised if I throw these at you in the near future. I also thought I'd share a few with you so you can join the fun.

It's by moving slowly that one catches the monkey in the brush.
I recently signed up to run a 10K over here, and y'all, I am going to claim this one the whole way through the race. 

The cow kicks her child, but she does not hate him.
This one is for all you parents out there. Next time you're child is upset at one of your rules, just remind them about the cow. They may look at you funny, but they're your kids. They aren't supposed to "get" you.

He who does not know "I am full" should restrain his hand from the bowl (or the peanut m&m bag)*.
Sad to say, but this is another one I need to claim. This may or may not be the reason I signed up for the 10K.
*Author's Note: I added the peanut m&m bag for clarification. You can add your own weakness in place of that. Promise I won't judge.

Whoever gets up before the person making breakfast should go back to sleep.
Can I get an Amen? When I'm a parent, pretty sure this one will be hanging front and center in my house.

All a monkey's belongings are in his cheeks.
Who even knows what this one means. But if you can insert a monkey's cheeks into conversation, I say go for it.

So, now that you know these, don't be shy. Throw a couple of them out every now and then, and if people question you just tell them you're "cultured."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

headed to the chapel. or village.

A huge lesson I've learned these past couple of months is that often times concepts get lost in translation from culture to culture. For example, none of my friends here understand the concept that sometimes a girl just wants a bacon cheeseburger. In fact, many of them don't even know what bacon is. (And, for those of you living in the States who don't crave bacon you know what you're missing out on?! Jump on that wagon, right now.) 

However, if you look closer..if you get involved in people's lives, you see so many things that hold up under translation. Little boys will always be little boys. They joke. They play. They wrestle. They always manage to get into mischief, then weasel their way out of it because they are just so darn precious. 

Women will inevitably find each other and have "girl talk." Now, this time with women may look different from place to place, but the root of it is the same across the board. They talk clothes, babies, and about things going on in the town. They laugh, cry, and comfort each other in so many of the same ways.

 People will always get together to celebrate the fact that a man and a woman are choosing to spend the rest of their lives with each other. They enjoy celebrating this precious union. No matter the differences in these celebrations, a wedding is a time to be joyful and have a party. 

I have also come to realize that no matter which culture I find myself in, my room will always get wrecked getting ready for said celebration, even though I only have two possible outfits to wear to this event. Being a girl is tougher than one may think.

This past weekend I was offered the chance to experience a wedding in a village firsthand. What do you do when you're offered something like this? You take the offer, of course. So Saturday morning I found myself riding along on a saret (horse cart) bopping along (do people even use "bopping along" anymore?) to a small village, having no clue what the day held. The only thing I figured, though, is that it would be a PARTY. These people love to have a good time, so combine that with a wedding, and I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

When we first arrived, I saw a tradition that may just make it into my wedding day. What is this tradition? Everyone sat in a huge circle and just gave money to the groom. At some point, while they were standing in front of the lucky man, they would break out into a little "happy dance." I'm thinking I almost have to do this one day. All for the sake of remembering times like this, right? They didn't just give money, though. They would also impart some of their wisdom and other words they deemed important. 

After this time, a truck drove through the village honking it's horn. Everyone would finally get to the bride. She stepped out of the truck, and she was absolutely beautiful! 

After the bride made her appearance, it was time to eat. Not only did they feed the whole village, they had plenty of food left over. These people know how to cook an amazing meal, and do it for the masses. After we ate there was more visiting, the bride came around to take pictures with people, then it was time for the real party to get started. They sat up a band and dancing commenced. We left around 7:30 for the long trek back home, but I was told they would continue dancing all night. You had men and women of ALL ages getting into the middle of the circle, and, honey, they could dance. I did attempt these dance moves, but let's just say there will be no posting of a video anytime soon. 

Like any day in Africa, this day held many unexpected surprises, but I'm so glad I was invited to partake in this special time. Moments like this cause me to pause and realize that although I sometimes think there are vast differences in culture, people are people. We are all intricately designed with the same innate desires. Isn't it amazing how God can merge two completely different cultures together to form friendships so that His name might be known around the world.

I guess I'm just trying to say I'm so thankful that He is a global God, and that His vision is so much bigger than ours.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

spring breakin' & easter

What happens when you are in a country for 6 months and your housemate has a week off from teaching? You celebrate by going on a spring break, of course.

I feel like the longer I live here, the more the "unexpected" seems normal. The newness of everything wears off, and life becomes a routine-although it may be different than any routine I've ever experienced. This is why I am so thankful for weeks such as last week. Weeks to remember that I'm living in a really different place. Weeks to go away, and have time to miss the town I'm living in and the friends that I've made. A week to go and be a tourist in the country that I'm calling home for a while.

We didn't take a huge trip, but we did enjoy a huge spectrum of activities.  

riding camels by the ocean

 putting my feet into a pink lake
 experienced many kinds of animals. so, now when i hear that there are mbooki (hyenas) that live in my town, i can visualize how big and mean they look on my walks home at night.

Spring Break ended with us coming back to our town for Easter. We had a great time together as a team that morning, then had lunch with some sweet friends. Easter lunch consisted of grilled chicken, french fries, and the amazing onion sauce that I think should be a side to everything. That afternoon we had an Easter egg hunt, and the night ended with me being able to share with some friends why we celebrate Easter. 

This holiday was such a good time of reflecting on the fact that I am here with a hope to share. The hope that separates me from so many. Our Father is alive. He is moving, and we have a relationship with him. Sometimes it takes being around people who think so differently than you to realize how radical this truth really is. 

  "If you've received the rewards of the resurrection, you must be willing to bear the responsibility of the resurrection." 
I heard this quote this past week, and haven't been able to quit thinking about it. I pray that while Easter was a sweet time of celebration with you, it was a time of realization that we have a responsibility, y'all. An urgent one. We say that day 2,000 years ago changed everything, and while this is true, our actions need to back that up. I need to be reminded of this as much as y'all. Like I said, it's easy to get caught up in routine, no matter where in the world you are. It's easy for me to fall in the trap of being joyful when I have a surface conversation with someone, for the simple fact that I'm able to talk to them! However, I am equipped to do so much more than just surface conversations, no matter what level of language I think I'm at. I was able to share Sunday night for the simple fact that I stopped at friends house on the way home. He provides opportunities, it's our responsibility to step out in faith when those times are presented to us. Just as you are lifting me up, I am lifting you up..that you would bear this responsibility with urgency and with a joyful heart.