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.

1 comment:

  1. Jourdan you are spot on! I struggled with "Why" a lot too my first year here especially when it came to language. I wanted to know so that I could make sure I was saying it correctly, but sometimes there are no words to describe the rules the language has. I think when you live overseas you have to get to a point where you can say "That's life in ___" and mean it without resentment. It sounds like you are there and enjoying every nuisance the culture can throw at you :)