When you’re confronted with a world of unknowns, where you have no idea what’s going on around you, I find it’s often helpful to try to find things that remind you of something you know. That way the new things have some kind of place they can rest in your brain.
These last few days we were in Our People Group for a wedding, and there were lots of unknowns going on around us. Often we had no idea what was going on. But it was fun to let my confused mind find things that reminded me of things in the US – parades, Bozo buckets, a demo derby, the Wizard of Oz, etc. Let’s see how well you know American culture and see if you can put in the correct pieces of American culture from the Word Box below into the parts of the story that reminded me of them. Ready . . . go!
The Wizard of Oz
Trick or Treating
Trying to eat fried chicken at a restaurant with a fork and knife and failing miserably
Decorative Illuminated Waterfall
College kids partying
Whac a Mole
On Wednesday, we went to My Village, since the wedding festivities were supposed to start there that evening. We had heard there was an all-night dance party (reminds me of (1) _____________!). So when we got showers in the evening (since here you get showers twice a day), we didn’t know what clothes to put on. When I asked my host mom, she told me to put on a fancy outfit, but not the one I had sewn specially for the wedding, so that’s what I did, getting ready for the party to begin. However, when it got to be 9 or 10 pm, they said that we should go to bed for a bit and get some rest before it started. So we slept in our clothes for a few hours before they woke us up at midnight, saying it started. We got up and joined the crowd. They had balaphones (like xylophones) and drums, and people dancing to the music. Each of the songs had a different story that it told, though I’m not exactly sure how. But certain people could tell you what the balaphones were saying in each song. Maybe it’s like how we know lyrics to songs even if we just hear the instrumental version? I don’t know, since I couldn’t understand anything the balaphones were saying! I danced to one song, though I know I didn’t do it “right” at all. My bottom doesn’t shake like theirs. And when their guys dance, I think they take 2 or 3 times the number of steps that I’d think would be humanly possible. Incredible! At about 3am I headed off to get some sleep, though they danced on until about 6am.
On Thursday we were supposed to leave for a different village about 2:00. Which meant that we left about 4:45. Welcome to Africa. Jen and I and her host mom went together on our two motos (motorcycles). On the way we passed a guy and 2 ladies along the road. They waved us down to ask us to stop. Normally I wouldn’t stop in the middle of nowhere for someone I didn’t know, but Jen noticed that one of the ladies was laying on the ground so wondered if she had just given birth. So we stopped, and Jen was right. She had gone to the doctor that morning and the doctor had sent her home, saying that it wasn’t time yet and to come back in a month if she hadn’t given birth yet. So now, in the evening, she was headed to a different doctor and gave birth in the dirt along the unpaved road. Yikes! I have to admit that it was the first baby I’ve seen still attached to the umbilical cord, and I didn’t even know that an umbilical cord looks all twisted like (2) ____________. The new mom’s placenta hadn’t come out, so we knew we had to get her to the doctor, and after a while some guys in a truck came by and were willing to take her back to the hospital. Pray that all is well and her little baby, born in the dust and dirt on the side of the dirt road in the middle of nowhere, grows up healthy and strong and comes to know about Jesus.
After that, since we waited with them for a while, it got dark before we made it to our destination. Now darkness makes it tricky to drive along unpaved roads with lots of hidden bumps, holes, sand, etc. Someone wanted to pass us, and in the middle of letting him pass Jen went over a bump into a hole she didn’t see and went flying off her moto. We were glad that she was wearing her helmet, and even though it was an impressive fall (I should have videotaped that one!), she got up with barely a scratch on her body. Thank you, Jesus!
When we got there, we had no idea what to do or where to go, so we were glad that Jen’s host mom was there to show us. After eating and Jen getting a shower (she was a bit dirty from her fall), our host in this new village took us to go see what was happening. And what was happening was interesting, but a bit scary! It reminded me a mixture between a (3) _________ and the (4) ___________. Guys were driving motos like crazy – super fast and all over. They didn’t hit each other and instead somehow managed to dance around each other, which is why it reminded me of the (4) ___________. But they were driving like crazy, and even looking like they’d hit people standing on the sidelines watching, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of them would have ended up like the cars at the end of a (3) ____________! (I was glad that we were standing right outside of a squatty potty, since if they got close we could hurry inside and the walls would at least offer a bit of protection from the crazy driving.)
After that we were able to go to bed for a bit before the next all-night dance party from midnight to 6am.
Not having much sleep the night before, I was tired. So I didn’t get up until about 3am to go watch the dancing. It was like the dancing the night before, only this time one of the songs was all about the white people (though, again, I couldn’t understand the singing of the balaphones). That meant that Jen and I, as the only white people present, had to get up and dance. And get laughed at again by everyone. By 4am I was tired and went back to bed.
The next morning after our two breakfasts (only that day I think I got three instead of the normal two) and Jen and I wandering around a bit, those of us from My Village got a special dance time, where the balaphones came out just for us to dance to for an hour or so. And the white people song was in the mix again, meaning more dancing and getting laughed at.
After that came the first of two lunches. I think it was at that meal that Jen and I were eating together in the hut we were staying in, and the “to” (pronounced “toe”) we were eating was so hot that when we picked it up with our fingers (I don’t think I saw any eating utensils the whole trip) one piece of it immediately dropped out of our hands and into the sauce that you’re supposed to dunk it in. Jen commented, “Gee, you can’t take us anywhere!” And I agree – if we’re not “civilized” enough to eat “to” with our hands in a mud hut with a floor smeared with dried manure to keep the dust down, I’m not sure where we’ll be civilized enough to eat. (Makes me think of (5) __________.)
Oh, I should mention that the water pump they had in this village is getting replaced, so for three months they’ve only had well water to drink, wash dishes with, take showers with, and cook with. A pump gets water out from underground so it is cleaner, whereas a well is just a hole in the ground (think a wishing well without walls), where anything can fall in and get the water dirty. It was dirty enough that it looked like it came right out of the (6) ___________. I was glad that they had bags of good water for sale for a nickel a piece, so we were able to drink that.
On that day, Friday, after our 2nd lunch, we got showers again (2nd ones of the day) and put on our new matching clothes. As we from My Village were hanging out after getting all spiffed up, I noticed people getting out coins. I didn’t know what they were for, but I went and got some and put them in my camera case so I could be prepared for whatever it was. I asked some friends what was happening, and they said that we were accompanying the bride somewhere, and when she bent over and danced, that you had to throw a nickel on her back. They got me change for my dime, and I waited for the part of the dancing where she’d bend over.
I felt like I was at Chuck ‘E Cheese, playing the (7) ___________ game – I was just waiting until the right moment, when I’d attack. It was actually a little complicated, because there was a big crowd, so you had to fight your way to the front to be close enough. That was especially so because like the game (8) __________, it couldn’t bounce off but was supposed to stay in the right spot. At her second bending over, I was successful and she got her nickel, which her friend (like a (9) _____________?) picked up and collected with the other nickels.
This (10) ___________ continued around the village, going from house to house like (11) __________. When we’d get to a house she’d bend over again and the man there would also put money on her back. (But he’d usually put more like a dollar instead of a nickel. Men are rich.)
When we almost got back to the dance party that had restarted back up, the bride and some of the crowd went into one house where there were two ladies dancing at the door to meet us. Jen was told to go in (we think) and I was told to stay out (we think), so she did and I did. Don’t know why and maybe we just didn’t understand, but that’s what we did. I watched the dance party, and was glad that they didn’t play the white people song, or at least if they did no one told me so I didn’t have to dance.
After a while we went back to the hut we were staying in, had dinner (and I declined a third shower of the day), chatted for a bit before going to bed to wait for the dancing. But while we were chatting I noticed one lady filling up a bucket to take a bucket shower. Now there is no electricity in any of the villages of Our People, so after dark you need flashlights to be able to see anything. She used a bowl to scoop water out of the big barrel and into a bucket, but with the light from the flashlight shining into the dirty water cascading from the bowl to the bucket, it shone pretty green like a (12) _____________.
That night I only watched the dancing for about 20 minutes before heading back to bed. You have to sleep sometime!
The next morning, it was the same routine – showers, 2 breakfasts, lots of sitting around, etc. But I thought it was funny as I was watching the ladies from My Village prepare our second breakfast for us – porridge. It was in a big black pot (2 ½ feet across?) cooking outside over a fire of logs 6-inches in diameter and maybe 6 feet long. It was filled to the top with liquid and one lady was putting white powder in while another stirred with a wooden spoon over 3 feet long. You couldn’t see the liquid in the pot since all you could see was thick steam coming out of it. It looked like a (13) __________ if I ever did see one!
That day we were supposed to accompany the bride to her mother-in-law’s house, but “someone” decided that she wasn’t allowed to go until the next day, so it didn’t happen. Jen and I had a meeting that evening so left about 3, before the dancing that was supposed to start around noon!
Even though there were so many things that did remind me of the US, there were others that didn’t at all and reminded me that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore (an illusion to this movie: (14) ___________).
For example, there was never any “wedding ceremony.” What we saw was the wedding, and when it was over they were married. They never sat down at a church or a city hall to sign papers or have a ceremony.
Also, at one point in time I saw a little one-year-old girl standing there with a dried clod of mud in her hand. It looked to me like she was eating it. Her mom walked by and I asked what she was eating. She looked at the clod of mud in her hand and responded “mud.” And let her keep eating it.
Hygiene was also different, and made me appreciate My Village! Here, to relieve themselves, they mainly just go behind the hut and hope not TOO many people pass by as they’re going. If they have to go number 2, they either go out to the bushes outside of town or go in the one squatty potty that’s shared by I don’t know how many people. I tended to go in there even if I didn’t have to go number 2, especially since it even had a door of sorts! But you can’t go there after dark unless you want to battle the troop of cockroaches that take over, which I wasn’t up to. The shower was also a bit more risqué than I would have liked, since the wall only came up about 3 or 4 feet tall and there was no door of any sort! But by covering myself with a wrap-around skirt and leaning over, I was able to at least get off some of the dirt that was our constant companion. I figured it would just have to be good enough for a few days!
Well, there you go. There’s a bit of a glimpse into a wedding in our people group. What does it remind you of? And how’d you do on American culture?