Monday, May 28, 2012

It takes a lot of courage...

      If you want to find out how much you don't know that you don't know, move an international into your home:)  If you want to find out how much you take for granted, move an international into your home. If you want to laugh, cry, dance, and pull out your hair - sometimes all at the same time - move an international into your home.
     Why do we have two cellophane wrappers around the bread... I really don't know.  Never thought about it before.
     Tuna salad mixed with rice?  Tastes pretty good, actually.
     What does it mean when someone says, "I will drop you off at your house?"  Umm, probably not what it sounds like at first glance. Actually, it means the same thing as I will run you by your house.  Or I will let you off at your house.  Or I'll bring so-and-so home and stop by for just a minute...  After we had this discussion, I thought,  "Exactly how many phrases do we have that mean either I will come by for a short visit or I will leave someone (something) at your house but I won't be coming in?"   And why do we have so many phrases that indicate a short (or non-existent) visit, a social drive-by, if you will?  We were told in orientation that Africans have a saying:  Americans have watches but Africans have the time.  After working on some English phrases/idioms, I realize that our language reflects our lack of time, i.e., our busy-ness.
      And, quite honestly, today I wondered how it would feel to be one of two black people sitting among about a thousand white people in church, as our student did this morning, singing, "Wash me and I shall be  white as snow?"  I know what that phrase means but would an international know what it means?  Are a thousand white people asking God to make them whiter than they already are:)  (Maybe time to add "tanning beds" to our home vocabulary list... ya reckon?)
      At any rate, I don't know how that would seem to an international struggling with conversational English.  This morning, I just had to wonder how I would feel if I were one of two white people sitting in an all black-church on another continent where I understood virtually nothing of the sermon and very little of the songs while I still struggled with time zone changes.  I really appreciate the fact that our international was willing to go with us and fully understand that for him, it was two hours of zoning out, of experiencing alone-ness within a crowd (even though he never complained).
     What else?  Do you ever smile with delight when you push a button to make water come into your washer, then add soap and the clothes, and simply, wonderfully, just walk away from this  machine while it does all the work?     I had to think about that as well - how many times have I  felt frustrated at having to run another load of clothes?  Maybe a lot of my frustrations are really blessings that I simply take for granted.
     And perhaps the biggest challenge of having an international in the home - explaining things that are simple (to me) while remembering that the person next to me is absolutely brilliant in mathematics, chemistry, physics and also speaks several languages, including  English with a French accent, unencumbered by such words as "You-all" and " 'at's the way it is 'round here."   (Well, I once spoke pig-Latin when I was a kid.  Does that count??? )  Right now, we are teaching/demonstrating  the basics of  the "how-tos" of  American culture. But it is good to remember that within a short time, the one we are helping will be speaking fluent English and at that time we'll realize just how wide his world actually is and how small our own is in comparison.

   But to fully understand how wide his world is, I'd have to fly to another country and within a matter of days, learn to adjust to life without a lot of machines, adapt to his culture where people have more time to visit with each other even though they have less labor-saving devices (like as in: make bread without a bread machine???), and then become fully immersed in a rigorous academic course, in a third language, no less.  
   And for all that, I simply don't have the skills or the courage.
   Que Dieu vous benisse to all the new internationals who have come or are coming to study here in 2012.


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