Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not What I Expected

We researched. We sought counsel. We read books, watched documentaries, and took a survey trip. We had ideas, pictures, and plans. We thought we had an idea of what to expect. Boy were we way off on some things!

The Romantic View Change

"Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14

Before we came here, we had an idea of what we thought our home would be like. At first we thought that we would live in a small, modest, humble abode one step up from a shack. In our minds, we wanted to live like the poorer people. We had a romantic view of how we would reach these people. We sought counsel on the matter and discovered our romantic view would not work like we thought it would here. Matter of fact, it would hinder much of our efforts. These people know we can live better than that and would think we were crazy.

After reading stories of great men and women who lived in pitiful conditions to relate to the people, I wanted to be like them. In my mind, that was the perfect way to reach the people! But the longer I stay here, the more I realize that the counsel we received was right. The culture and mindset of the people in this country is different, unique. What works in one place may not always work in another. Matter of fact, I dare say that if we lived in the village setting in this country instead of in the city, the people would expect us to live a lot more rustically.

Sometimes I get strange looks when I re-purpose jugs, jars, toilet paper rolls, etc. In their thinking, I can just run down to the store and buy what I need. Even just today, we tried to explain to a gardener that we were going to use old newspaper as a weed block. In his thinking, we should just hire someone to continually pull the weeds. It is such a difficult balance to not look completely nuts to these people who think we are millionaires, and trying to be good stewards with God's money.

So we have a home that is not a shack. It is actually pretty nice and much larger than we expected. But God knew. He gave us this house for almost half the price! (That definitely helps to sooth my penny-pinching mind!) So we live in a nice house with a lovely yard for the price of a home much smaller. And we praise God for it. He has allowed us to host fellowships and dinners that would not have fit in a little shack. If He wants to give us a nice home, I want to use it for His glory as much as possible!

The Rosy Glasses View Change

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time..." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Before coming here, I studied some of the language on my own. It was definitely a blessing and got me started, but when I arrived I expected the language to come much faster than it has. I expected to learn and understand the culture much quicker. I expected with my love for the people that they would open up much quicker, too. But I have come to learn that no matter how many cakes I bake for my neighbors, it will still take time! It will take time for me to understand how they think. They do not just DO things differently. They THINK differently.

As far as the language, I am learning there is no substitute for full immersion. It is so easy to revert to English with our worker because she speaks English. But that small detail is hindering my growth. It is really convenient that she speaks English, but it is more valuable that she speaks her native tongue. I look forward to being able to hold full conversations in her language, but that will not happen unless I force myself to avoid English with as many people as possible.

The End of the World View Change

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

We planned for the worst. We expected the worst. We expected protests that closed down everything, and we would have to stay inside. We expected to have to conserve water so tightly that we would have to strategically plan showers and only flush the toilets when they contained solid waste. We expected monsoon to be rain every day and all day and night with no break. We expected to only have a couple of hours of power during a 24 hour period in the winter. We expected to freeze to death during the winter because of a lack of heat. I personally expected not to have to iron clothes very often!

But after ten months of living here, we learned so much of what we thought just was not necessarily true for where we live.

There are protests that close down the roads and shops, but we live on the outskirts of the city. Many of the small pasals still operate. People on the outskirts of town still walk on the streets. We thought we would have to stay in our house on protest days for safety. We can actually walk down to the small shops and grab potatoes or fruit if we need to.

Water is an interesting situation here. There are some places that have trouble with water shortages here in the city. We had assumed we would be in one of those places. We practiced taking showers using minimal water even before we came here. When we arrived, it was time to put what we practiced into action! We caught water in buckets while we waited for the water to heat up for showers. We carefully used every drop of water, and the greatest sin would be to flush the toilet unnecessarily! Then, one day we were talking to the landlord about how we have gotten really good at our water use. He looked at us like we had grown a second head. Well, apparently in our area the water supply is really, really good. And our house in particular has access to well water, city water, and delivery truck water if we need it. (Yes, we blushed sheepishly when we realized our mistake.)

So we were killing ourselves trying to conserve water, and we had more water supply than we could have imagined. We still catch the water in the tub in buckets while it heats up. There is no sense in deliberately wasting water, but now we flush our toilets with every visit regardless of contents. ( I know it brings you great peace to know that fact.)

It is raining right now. Monsoon is almost over. Yes, during monsoon it does rain every day, but often there are periods of sunny skies in between each rain. Another thing I did not realize is how much I would enjoy the freshness and quietness that the rain brings. When it rains at night, I sleep very well. The rain makes me smile... well, unless I have to drive skooty in it and my poncho leaks. Then, it is not quite as pleasant. I thought I would be just as content riding around on two wheels as in a car, but the soupy mud that monsoon often creates has made me understand the value of a car here. We still get around on bike and skooty, but now we are saving up for a car. They are very expensive; so it will take a while.

During monsoon is also when there is a lot of electricity. In the winter there is very little power, but more than I expected. The nice thing is that there is actually a schedule of when the power will be turned off. I can even access the schedule from my phone! So planning around power outages really isn't as difficult as I thought it would be.

Winter time, by the way, is pretty cold. I knew it would be. There is nothing like sitting in church and seeing your breath. There was a period of record-breaking cold for our first winter here, too. But it is amazing how our bodies adapt. It is also amazing how when the need arises, people find a way to make do.

This past winter, we ate meals in the kitchen and closed the doors so the heat would stay in. We learned to dress in layers. We learned to take showers in midday and turn a propane heater on to heat up the room a little so we did not become icicles  The heaters are just enough to take the chill off. These concrete homes are nearly impossible to heat, especially when the windows have half inch gaps in them. But we have learned routines that make it not so torturous.

One thing that totally blind sided me was how the women are so meticulous about their appearance here. Their hair is always fixed, clothes ironed, make-up on. They always dress their best, even to go do hard physical labor! So I have had to mend my frumpy ways a little. I now have to wake up in the morning and dress for success... make-up and all. I still wear my jean skirts when I work out in the yard or in the house, but I never where them to church. My t-shirts have become pajamas.

So Much to Learn

There is so much to learn, so much adjusting to do. But at least I am getting past my expectations and into reality. My heart's desire is to glorify God and reach these people. I cannot do that if I am strapped to preconceived ideas. I must be willing to follow God's lead and be flexible. It has taught me to trust His leading even more.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:5,6So, what expectations did you have that were different from reality? Did you have a change in plans, change of mind, change of heart?

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