I promised all of you a post about culture differences, and now a month later, I’m back to try to explain some of the differences I’ve noticed. The first thing is that most of the women, especially in the villages and more remote areas, wear skirts or dresses rather than pants. Another thing is that no one knocks when they are visitng a house. They yell out, “Hodi!” and to welcome them, you say, “Karibu.” I’m sure when I get back to the states, I will have to remind myself to ring the doorbell instead of just shouting out. Another thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gone and visited different families and had meals at their houses, is that they’ve asked to share a meal with you, but they usually leave you to eat it without them. I have not actually eaten with a family I’m visiting. They serve us the food and then they either watch us eat or spend the time in the kitchen cleaning up. Also, when you shake someone’s hand or give them something, you always do it with the right hand and grab your elbow with your left hand.
Another thing that would be unusual in the States is that cars are not normal transportation. Most people either walk or ride their bicycles. This makes sense because most of them can’t afford a car. But the unusual thing is that they are willing to walk long distances to get where they want to go. If we couldn’t afford cars in the states, we would stay very close to home. The people here are willing to walk a few hours to reach their destination.
As far as the food goes, there’s less variety than in the states. I usually eat rice for at least one meal sometimes with beans and a vegetable similar to collard greens. Most of the time we have meat (chicken is the most often meat served) when we’re at home and sometimes when we’re out visitng people. Meat is not a normal part of most villagers’ meals.
I’ve gotten a few gifts from families that I have visited. The first gift was several eggs. The next was a live chicken. As you can tell, the gifts are more practical but also more valuable. The chicken that I took home might have fed the family a special meal or provided numerous eggs for breakfasts. Instead, I will enjoy eating the chicken with the missionary family here for one meal. Of course, I didn’t kill or prepare the chicken. We had the guard of the compound take care of that for me. I carried the chicken home and that was as far as I was willing to go with handling my present :)
The final thing I’ll mention about culture involves the culture of the churches I’ve visited here. The first thing you notice is that women sit on one side and men on the other. They also don’t usually have a worship leader standing up front as we sing worship songs. They are standing in the audience with the other church members. More than just the person who chose songs for the week can start songs too. They just start singing and sing the chorus and then everybody repeats the chorus. Then the person who started the song sings a verse or the chorus again depending on the song and we repeat the chorus. There’s not very many instruments unless the church has raised money to buy a generator and keyboard (which only 3 churches have done). They have a drum and perhaps some homemade percussion instruments. Also, during worship songs, almost everybody is moving an dancing at least a little bit. Some churches have more people dancing and are more energetic in their dancing.
All in all, I’ve had a very good learning experience of some typical African culture. I don’t think I’ve offended anyone and I pray I continue that trend.