“Mommy, look – she carry it on her head! That silly!”
Keturah pointed and chuckled and didn’t seem to realize that she was the only one who thought this sight was “silly”. She is only 2 years old, but already she has a basic understanding of cultural “norms”. After a year in the U.S. it has been an adjustment for her to come back to Africa. There are so many new and strange things to see and discover. So many new things to learn about living in a new culture – one that challenges her idea of what is normal.
When we go out in the village it is very common that all the kids come running when they see her. They love to touch her white skin and soft curls. They like to play with her and laugh at all the silly things she does. She is perfectly content with all of this and actually really enjoys all the attention.
“They’re my new friends!” she says, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, . . . 12! LOTS of new friends!”
She gets along well with the village kids and enjoys playing with them. It’s a beautiful thing to see how freely they interact with each other without hardly noticing any language barrier.
And yet, there is ONE thing that really bothers Keturah – the way the kids pronounce her name . . .
“Ket – too – rlah!”
It really bothers her to hear this “mispronunciation”.
“I’m not ‘too-rlah’!” she calls out in response. Over a dozen times on our walks she’ll be repeating this over and over again, telling everyone who calls out to her, “I’m not ‘too-rlah’!”
We have tried explaining things to her in a number of different ways. We’ve tried explaining that they say her name differently here in Africa. We’ve tried explaining that she has TWO names and that this one is her AFRICAN name. We’ve tried to explain that they speak a different language which makes her name sound different. So many ways of trying to help her understand it, but one thing we have been careful about is NOT to say that they “can’t say it right” – that would give her the impression that our way is right and their way is wrong, which will not be helpful to he at all in her cultural adaptations.
When we moved into the village we became the minority. Our language is in the minority. Our skin color is in the minority. Our culture and way of doing things is in the minority. One is not better than the other, they’re just different. But if anything, WE are the strange ones here.
We are strangers in this land. Our ways of doing things, our way of talking, WE are the strange ones!And in spite of our efforts to adapt, or fit in, or embrace the culture around us, we will still always stand out. It can’t be helped. We are different in ways that are very obvious – different in ways that can never change.
Some of these differences are a disadvantage to us, while others serve as a huge advantage that empowers us to help others around us. Good or bad, advantaged or disadvantaged, for better or worse, we are different!
“By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land . . . for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. . . . These all died in faith, having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (selections from Hebrews 11)
“But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20