Monday, July 27, 2015

Things Ugandans can not believe

Moses and I have a lot of conversations. Many times I say something, and he says, "I can not BELIEVE this you are telling me!"  Lately, it has been about machines. He was asking me, while I was doing the laundry the other day, how a washing machine works. After I explained, he said, "I have heard that some people have machines to wash dishes too!"  I explained how those worked. Then I found him rinsing dust off of the land cruiser that he's been driving us around in, and I said, "would you believe me if I told you we have machines for that?!"  We have talked about garage door openers, automatic gate openers, air conditioners. He's right... It IS mind blowing! He said to me, "what are you Whites thinking?!  That you can be like God?!"  ;-)

At lunch Friday, he was telling me that he knows some places in the U.S. get cold, so I was telling him about living in Alaska. He was sufficiently amazed. He said, "you mean you are telling me there are places where people never see the sun for so long?!  And then at times it does not get dark!  How can this be???"  I explained that it is exactly the opposite of here at the equator.   That night, the kids were studying for their science exam, and Emma asked me, "what are seasons?"  :-0. Good thing I had brought an inflatable globe!  They learn in a classroom by copying teachers' notes off the board into composition books. No demonstrations, experiments, etc. They had all the right notes, but not a single kiddo in P5 understood their science!  So... We worked on it!  
While we were at it, they had questions about heat, light, motion, force, and pretty much all of the rest of fifth grade science!  Whew!  

From our end, I have learned even more things that get "lost in the translation."  For example, when I asked Moses what time we had to be awake Saturday, since it wasn't a school day...

Moses:  early
Me:  are you kidding?  It's not a school day!
Moses:  right.  So we sleep more. Then we get up early. 
Me:  can't we sleep later?
Moses:  we will. 
Me: ???  What time should we actually wake up? 
Moses:  I'm thinking like about ten to seven. 
Me:  that's great!  But that's later, not earlier!
Moses:  yes. In Uganda, when we say "early," we mean early in the day. I am thinking it is different from what you are thinking. 
Me:  ummmm... Yes. 
(Robert:  that explains something about "Africa time."),

Also... Ugandans do not blend consonants. They put a vowel sound in between, so my favorite is during the Lord's Prayer each night, when they say, "Forgive us our debate, as we forgive our debators." (Amen.) 

There are challenges to cross cultural ministry that we sometimes don't even know exist. There was that time when I heard we had volunteers at Agnes' orphanage, and I encouraged it.  Then she asked how to pay them!  I explained that volunteers in the U.S. don't get paid. She explained that in Uganda, they are volunteering to work!  Aha!  

Our worlds are so different. Even though English is the official language of Uganda, the words don't always mean the same thing, and here even the tone of your voice matters a great deal. Culturally, we are similar in many ways, and opposite in many.  When you add to this thousands of miles' separation, time zones that make it tricky to find good times to talk, and Internet connectivity issues, it's a wonder anyone can build relationships and do ministry!  We are working on asking all the questions, so that we do not inadvertently implement something that makes imminent sense to us, but not in this culture.  Often times, it makes us say, "I can not BELIEVE this you are telling me!"  

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