Friday, February 22, 2008

UPDATE - February 22, 2008

February 15, 2008

I’m standing in the security line in Johannesburg trying to catch a flight along with many other people who are possibly trying to hurry. And a large plain-clothes lady (some would call fat) walks down our line singing loudly (as if humming to herself) in an operatic voice,

“It’s Toooo Laaaaaaaaate. It’s Toooooo Laaaaaaaaaaaate!”

At this point I knew it was over. No one else seemed to find this comical.

Strangely, I made my flight. But maybe some of the others didn’t.


I have a bit of a headache. I’ve been running between people and groups and family and friends. In my culture, I have to talk to people on the phone who I don’t know but who want to talk to me to greet me. Some can talk. Some aren’t good at holding conversations. So it’s very strange to talk to someone like you know them but you don’t. But you’ve heard the phrase “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” It’s really true. So I’ll have someone I have never met come and see me for the first time and say “I miss you. I missed you soooo much.” I think in American cultural English the person would have said “Oh, I’ve heard so much about you. It’s nice to meet you. Your mother has been missing you.” But it doesn’t quite capture it because the person is actually expressing some vicarious or transferring longing experienced because everyone raises you even if some of your “parents” have only done it from afar. But it’s always a shock or jolt as I’m within the American culture as well.

So I’m in Texas and many travel plans have changed. I made it in time for a wedding I was attending. And I visited a church my father opened up (I was expected to lead the music—not asked). I visited with many family and friends and “family” and missed many family and friends and “family.” I was told by someone how another person doesn’t like who I chose for a wife and received prayer from the person telling me this because she saw a vision of a diamond rusting and me trying to love someone (she said “make love”) but in the end, withdrawing that love. I’ve had people not respond to me and received e-mail from others wishing they could meet. I’ve heard from many students. I’ve played the piano for a gig (wonderful to do that again after such a long time of irregular playing), had Ethiopian food, Latin danced.

I had the chance to early vote since my absentee registration was only in time for the November election. I even worked (or am working) on a new diseducation piece on a comparison between Obama and Clinton (which are less pronounced than the difference between Huckabee and McCain). It was very difficult for me, though, because the candidates are not forced to list their stances on the same topics. So they can be group their issues into whatever topics they want. This means you might find a topic on Hillary’s site that is a subtopic of another topic on Obama’s site. Or you’ll find a topic on Obama’s site that is spread between many topics on Hillary’s site. Also information is doubled on the same person’s site since it falls into multiple categories. So it’s really a mess. And the process of running a country is so huge that the task was daunting and overly-time consuming. I did not enjoy it. I was able to go to an Obama rally. It was interesting to see people treat him like a rock star or something. They are truly taken with him.

I also deal with people who misunderstand when I say “in my culture.” It doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in American culture. It doesn’t mean that it goes for everyone in my culture. It doesn’t mean I’m not American. It simply represents a trend that occurs with higher frequency in the corresponding culture (earlier I was talking about Nigerian culture) than in American culture. That’s all. It’s hard because some people take my generalizations as absolutes. They are not absolutes and don’t apply to everyone. They are simply generalizations for simplicity. They are always exceptions and outliers. I’m only pointing out a trend or tendency, that’s all. For example. . .

In my culture (and in many others) a host hosts people. It’s ok if a host takes great care of a guest because it’s a family affair. To try to pay a host back for food or gas or anything is like trying to pay your mother back for caring for you. It doesn’t make sense because we’re all family. It especially doesn’t make sense because there will come a time (and has) when I will be the guest and the roles reversed. So we all take care of each other. But in American culture there seems to be more of the tendency to refuse help or be independent, or when given help or things (even from a host) to pay it back. I definitely understand trying to both pay for a meal or something. But when the meal (or flight or gift or ride) is already paid, it’s strange for me to see someone try to repay it pay it back. It’s done and one day the roles will be reversed. But most importantly, it’s a family affair. I was never seeking to be paid back. We give of ourselves for each other. That’s just what we do. Sometimes, Americans teach me though this more independent style and pay-back style. So I vascillate. But I’m so glad I have been taught how to graciously accept. It’s SOO important as you can offend by not accepting. There is gracing in knowing how to receive or learning how to do such.

So sometimes Americans (even my mom a Nigerian) have to remind me that I should pay for this or pay this or that back because it doesn’t occur to me sometimes because of my family mentality with family (I remember house sitting for a friend and being told to pay a small rent for the luxurious place). When I went to Chicago for a visit of a pastor friend, he paid for everything the entire trip (gas, food, any activity we did, etc.). This was what I am used to from a host (he’s Korean). I did offer to pay for everything as we went, but I accepted what he tried to do because it’s more according to what I understand. And he was showing love. I really appreciated it. So I get a lot of culture clash, not just outside but within me as I move and back and forth and forget and remember. So it was interesting being home.

It was good to hear our language, again. It was good to sit around the table with Africans and discuss the world. You know how in some cultures people don’t like to discuss religion and politics. That doesn’t exist with Africans in general. The most controversial things are the very things you DO discuss and discuss with passion (Nigerians on the passion part). So it was great to see that and to hear people outline various things from the first Nigerian to Clinton vs Obama to Nigeria’s role in ending apartheid in South African and Black South African xenophobia. And to hear languages is great.

Jeannie and Haley studied Xhosa for 3 weeks while in Cape Town, and they would watch these videos, so I wanted to show you only ONE of the Black South African languages here. This one is called Xhosa and is the largest Black South African ethnic group where I am (but not the most spoken language as English and Afrikaans trump it).

Interesting video about appearances and pre-guesses (prejudging).

When most people come to South Africa (from a wealthy country outside), they do a safari or visit a game reserve. These are the places where you get to see if it is really true that lions are the king of the jungle. While it’s true, I want you to see a video that might show a slightly different perspective and show you the nuances of courage, defense, love, and courage among the animals. Welcome to the Battle!

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