It’s hard to believe we arrived in Tanzania over a year ago. I’ve celebrated two birthdays here already and we’re about to celebrate another birth-day here very soon as we’re waiting for our baby (the due date is this week!). Reflecting on our first year in Africa, many different memories and emotions come up. It was definitely one of the most challenging years of our 11 years together as a married couple. And it was certainly one of those years that changed us…you know what I mean? I think we’ve all had those years that changed us on a level too deep for simple explanations.
Here are some things that we learned during our first year in Africa…
We learned to take time to greet people and the importance of showing respect to those older than us.
We learned more about malaria prevention and diagnosis, parasites, heat rashes, boils, and symptoms of other tropical diseases than we ever thought we would need to know.
We learned how to get papaya off a tree with a stick, plant banana and pineapple plants, and cut the grass without a lawn mower (it’s been replaced by “the slasher”)
We learned the art of washing clothes by hand and little tricks like that you turn them inside out to dry so they don’t get dusty on the outside.
Our kids learned to ask “Is this filtered water?” and prefer rice over lots of other food.
We learned to trust God more and more throughout months of sickness and the many unknowns of living in a foreign country.
We learned how to prepare for power outages and always have batteries charged and ready to go (flashlights and battery-operated fans for the win).
We learned that we truly grew up in countries where OPTIONS abound. The more I learn about the lives of others here, the more I realize how incredibly privileged we are in our home countries to have so many options. From foods to medical care to transportation to education…it hit us that most of the world simply does not have the luxury of options.
We learned the importance of dressing appropriately to show respect in the culture.
We learned anew what a huge task it is to learn another language and that it’s SO much more than just learning new vocabulary.
We learned more about the importance of fellowship with other believers and how precious friendships are in times of transition, loneliness, and homesickness.
We really learned to appreciate cold showers. They’re a gift from heaven during hot season!
We learned where mosquitoes like to hide and that mosquito zappers are an ingenious invention.
We learned to build up a homeschooling routine and realized how wonderfully fulfilling and incredibly challenging a homeschool life can be.
We learned how to cook ugali and eat without silverware.
We learned which caterpillars are poisonous, where scorpions like to hide out, and which bug poison to use to control the ants in the house.
We learned how important it is to recognize our own symptoms of culture stress and are still learning how to best deal with them.
John learned how to drive on the left side of the road, use the horn frequently when driving, and navigate through the numerous traffic police stops.
We learned to visit sick people rather than stay away from them.
We learned that comments that highly offend us can be great compliments in another culture.
We learned to negotiate for prices and are still learning a lot about how to handle money in a different culture.
We learned to appreciate rain more than ever before.
We learned to ask for help from our neighbors as we often have no idea how to handle certain situations in this new environment.
We learned to adjust our meal times to match the culture around us (but we’re not quite there yet as the boys still go to bed before most people eat dinner here).
We have learned that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap.
Most of all, we are learning to be dependent on the Lord more than ever…in the grinds of daily life, in the lows of culture stress, in the joys of living here, in parenting and homeschooling, in everything.
On to the next year and on to many more lessons to learn!