It’s funny how culture varies around the world. Even within the same country or world status, there are many subcultures. I saw a picture today on Facebook of a friend who works with bible school young adults in Oklahoma. These students were doing some funny things oblivious to how awkward it could have appeared to others!
Being in Madagascar definitely presents it’s daily culture clashes.
Yesterday we had our first “team church”. This is where one Sunday a month our Assemblies of God missionaries in Madagascar get together to worship, have someone share from the Bible and then review mission field agenda. Yesterday, we also worked on some exercises from a book on cross cultural differences as a team. It was a lot of fun and we joked that Stephen and I should’ve gone through the book for premarital counseling since he is African at heart ;)
Here are a few interesting cultural encounters and updates;
1. I am spending at least 2 hours a day studying French. I’ve learned more in three weeks that I knew before, but I’m still VERY hesitant to speak it. Almost every time I try, I get nervous, my brain freezes and if I do speak, it’s almost always in SPANISH! I didn’t realize how much Spanish I knew until trying to learn French! Ah! I answer “si” often and think in Spanish in my head most days. It’s more awkward than just speaking English as practically no one outside Stephen speaks it. I am thankful for my ability to understand and interact in espanol, however I wish my parents had let me take French when I wanted to growing up.
2. Speaking of French…since we don’t have internet at our house right now, I’ve found myself pacing outside my neighbors’ home to update my French app. Today as I was reviewing past lessons, it was quicker to stay outside and review than going in and out of my house every 3 minutes, although I did that also.This is fine and dandy unless someone is walking by. Of course I’m reviewing animals as the factory by my house let’s out for the day…! The French phrases for “I am a butterfly” and “The wolf is pretty” are coming out of my red headed oober white skin body! Yes heads were turned and I kept speaking…and then retreated inside. Neighbors and bypasses think I’m loca en la cabasa! (Pardon my Spanish, see what I mean? ;) )
3. Speaking of languages, I interacted with some little Malagasy kids today who attend an English school. The youngest ones would shy away from speaking any English. Whereas the older children gladly greeted you in their rehearsed, “Good Morning!” “I am fine, thank you, and you?” :-) It melts my heart EVERY TIME I get to speak to kids in another culture! Their joy to cross language barriers with you is precious.
4. Lastly, today my husband and I had a meeting to greet the Malagasy leadership of the Assemblies of God churches here. Everything went great there and then because we were already across town, we wanted to go a particular place to get some chocolate. Stephen offered to drop me off at the door as he often does anytime he drives somewhere. I normally decline, but took him up on this offer. I jumped out of the nearly moving car and walked into this bakery. Intimidated with my French and aware that I didn’t have enough money on me to purchase anything, I sat down and told the staff my husband was coming (in Frenglish—-French and English mix ;). I’m waiting for a few minutes so I pull out Stephen’s iPhone and open his bible app. I’m reading John chapter 4 in French when I get a phone call from Steve (iPhone isn’t activated yet so he has another phone). “Hey babe!”, I said. “Hey, so a cop pulled me over and took all of my papers and wants a bribe!” Ok, NOT what I was expecting, but this explained why he hadn’t come yet. He asked me to pray and I said I would. Two more bakery employees asked if they could help me and I finally muttered my rehearsed, “je vou drais café au lait avec sucre s’il vous plaît”. Then I asked if that would be possible as I wanted this coffee to be worth my time (refer to my coffee nerd blog). I saw down to the BEST coffee I’ve had eating out in Madagascar! I’d nearly forgotten about my sweet husband, (just kidding) when he came back in. Apparently he knew he shouldn’t cross a certain way in traffic but was following others as they broke traffic laws. For a country that doesn’t have many traffic laws, it seemed fair and no repercussions for anyone else. He had to pull his “I’m a pastor and a white guy who just moved here and didn’t know” card to avoid a ticket, crazy bribe or worse. We’re thankful that the cop had pity on us “white people” and extended grace!
In unrelated news—last night we had dinner with a really great family from Holland. I noticed that the husband and wife wore their wedding rings on their right hands. It reminded me of the night I met Stephen and while he was preaching I sat on his left side. Once I noticed this missionary man didn’t have a ring on his left hand, I wondered if he was married but just wore a ring on his right because he was from a different culture. Lol! Thankfully he wasn’t married :-)
Oh! It’s St. Patrick’s day!!! Happy Irish day to everyone! I didn’t even wear green