Something that I have noticed since being here in Benin and Togo is that these people are, much like Clark Gable's character in "Gone with the Wind", very frank. I think that would be the nicest way to put it anyway! I'm not sure if it's just a culture difference or because they just don't care, but people here are always very open and tell it how it is.
The thing that made me think about that quote is from this really funny moment that happened this past week with one of our amis, Rebecca. During one of our lessons, she was telling us this story and all of a sudden she made the comment along the lines of, yeah, it was really hard especially because I was constipated the whole day...
Now, you've got to understand, this isn't just a regular conversation between good guy friends that talk about weird stuff all the time (i.e. Sean and I haha) but this was between 3 twenty something year old missionaries and a mother in her mid-40s... if this kind of conversation were back in the US, awkward would not even begin to describe the feelings that would have filled the room.
But, this isn't the United States, this is AFRIKA. And to be honest, when she said that, I didn't think it was even that weird until Elder Oliverson whispered in my ear "Only in Africa" right after she said that.
That's just one example of the many, many times people here just say random things that you would never, ever expect to come up in regular conversation back home. To give you another example, the one that comes to mind the most is when people compliment others on being fat. Well, I know they mean it as a compliment, but it sure doesn't sound like it when somebody just comes up to you and says "you're fat" or "have you gained some weight?" As you can imagine, those are always my favvooorrrriiite things to talk about with people. Of course, they don't mean to be mean, but here it's actually a compliment to be big because that means you're successful and that things are going well.
Another example of people being frank is when the kids scream yovo at me. Quite frankly, I am white so I guess that works.
I think it's just really interesting to see how people don't beat around the bush too much here. Of course, there are a lot of exceptions but I think one of the reasons that people are so frank here is because of the vocabulary too! People don't usually know what the more formal way to say something is... like for example, you don't ask where the bathroom or restroom is but you have to ask where the toilet is!
Another example is sarcasm... it doesn't work here... at all. A common thing that we say among missionaries to describe each other is by calling each other "sick". Like if a missionary did something crazy, we'll say that he is "malade." Make sure you don't say that in front of a member because they'll think the missionary is actually sick and start to worry about them. Another example is when I tell everybody I like patte... people actually think I really like patte...
I can't think of very many other examples but I think everybody gets the point... people here tend to be very frank... and whether it's just because of the culture or the language, it's just how they are!
The thing that I have learned from that is how sometimes, we really need to be frank with people! We can't always hide behind pretty language or formalities just to avoid awkward situations or avoid reality even! Sometimes, we just have to be frank with one another, express our feelings when we really need to.
Yesterday, I was having a rough time with Elder Izekor just because it seemed like we were both doing stuff that got on each other's nerves. I really didn't want to confront it because it would have just been so much easier and at the end of the day, I know I would have gotten what I wanted if I had played the "well I'm the senior companion/district leader, so just do what I say" card (which, I am sorry to say that I have used that card before! Cut me some slack, I'm an oldest child.)
But... I knew that in order to be a good district leader/senior companion/friend/person, I just needed to be frank with him in order to figure out how we could go forward in our companionship without it being super weird between us. So, we sat down together and I told him I'm sorry about anything I did to offend him and just got everything out on the table so that we would all be on the same page. Well, as it turns out, Elder Izekor just likes playing mind games with me and likes me to think that he wants to do everything opposite of what I want to do. For what purpose? I think it's just to annoy me in a joking way... but the point is that I was really glad I was frank with Elder Izekor so that we could move forward from the misunderstanding we were having!
Other than that, this week has been good! Amis are progressing, there are people to see, I still spend a lot of time in AC and a car. So let's be frank, I really can't complain!
Hope you all have a wonderful week!
The two cutest things in all of Africa:
|We found this little puppy at an amis house. It was so dang cute.|
|Not so cute: Roadside meat stand! However, the best and cheapest way to get all your beef and pork needs!|
|One of our regulars at Church...|