Short Term

While we do have many visitors who stay for a few weeks or a few months, in missionary terms 2 years is still considered short term. There was a time when I may have questioned that definition but, now that I'm coming to the end of that term in Kibuye, I affirm it wholeheartedly.  I've heard it said that when living in a new culture you learn 1% of that culture each year. In those terms I'll leave with a 2% comprehension of Burundian culture, which sounds about right.

Over the last 2 years our team has regularly been blessed with new teammates and visitors and each come in with new perspectives and new inquiries that remind me anew how little I truly understand.. I know the general expectations at the hospital and at most events and ceremonies - staff meetings, church services, dowry ceremonies, weddings - but on many occasions realize I have come to accept my limited understanding without questioning. This culture is so different from the one I grew up in that it can generally be expected that any assumptions I make based on my world view will be wrong. How this culture functions on a societal level is completely fascinating and incomprehensible to me.

Here are just a few glimpses into my 2% of understanding:

morning staff devotionals
There are devotional books used on most mornings which involve reading a portion of Scripture, reading an explanatory paragraph, and answering some designated questions.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to understand this process and I still don't understand anything that is being said..
(I shouldn't say nothing, sometimes I'll pick up that someone said the number 6 or some other obviously crucial word)

I have been to many, many Burundian weddings. It usually involves a choir singing, a sermon, someone to throw confetti at the bride and groom, some sitting/standing/kneeling on a pillow, many amateur photographers (the couple holds their hands in the air when they put the rings on, I assume so everyone can see over the heads of said amateur photographers), paper decorations, and very somber expressions. I follow the basic pattern of when to sit, stand, pray, give the offering, and present gifts but, because of our team guideline of returning to the compound before dark I rarely make it to the reception so there are many more traditions I could be confused about.

women's day celebration
Last year I had the privilege of attending the local celebration of International Women's Day. It involved a parade, signs, singing, speeches and dancing. The only speech that was translated for me seemed to be something about calling women to be perfect but, who knows what was really being said or how it was to be understood. Overall everyone appeared to have a great time. When I asked why our group from the hospital didn't have a sign in the parade they said 'we have you!', it's always nice to feel noticed I guess..

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