Living cross-culturally continues to have it’s surprises and tensions, 2 1/2 years in. Here are some moments that weren’t big enough for a post of their own. (Some others from around this time last year here.)
One of the TAFES staff was explaining to us how some of the Associates (graduates) had been connecting more with one another. The sign that the relationship between their families would continue was that one family opened a bank account in the name of one of the children from the other family.
At the post office one day I 1,2,3’d Elliot. The post office lady wanted to know how I got him to behave using words rather than hitting. When I explained 1,2,3 was giving him the choice to obey, she said, ‘Oh, and after that you hit him?’ Then I had to try to explain the whole concept of a time out!
At a TAFES conference over Easter, Arthur and I tried to join the queue for food. Everyone was horrified by this and insisted we go to the front. I told them about the term ‘queue jumping‘ and they couldn’t understand it being used negatively.
A high school student complained to me about age-ism in Tanzania. He wasn’t referring to neglect or discrimination against old people but of youth being disrespected, de-valued and voiceless.
I get told all the time we need to have another baby because Elliot needs a little companion to play with. Fair enough, but probe a little deeper and I discover the assumption is that Elliot is simply left to his own devices all day i.e. that I do not play with him. The idea isn’t that he needs someone closer to his own age to play with him, but anyone at all.
After a conference I received some feedback on my teaching in Swahili. It was very positive about my Swahili, but the students felt the onus was on them to get better English so that I would be able to speak in my native tongue. While I’m doing everything I can to change myself for their sake, they feel that my doing that is somehow a failure of their hospitality.
Talking about Bible reading with one of the girls I was mentoring, I asked her if she had a favourite Bible passage. She looked blank, and then I remembered that it’s my culture that ranks and systematises, which is really all a ‘favourite’ is.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.