Sunday, March 11, 2012

White Man Country

I arrived in America, or White Man Country as it is known in Cameroonian Pidgin, two weeks ago.  Before I left Cameroon I stayed with a Canadian Baptist Missionary for a few days.  She's been in Cameroon for over sixteen years and told me that each time she goes back to Canada she experiences it differently.  I would say that is also true for me as I've experienced this re-entry to America very differently then the first time.  Generally I feel a huge sense of relief to not constantly be thinking of alternatives if the electricity goes off, the internet stops working, if money isn't transferred, if the participants don't show up, if I lose the data or is stolen, if the car breaks down.

Since being away from America for over a year I anticipated having a hard time readjusting, but besides some initial shocks of how much more technology is integrated in the American way of life, I feel the adjustment has gone pretty smoothly. I'm not speaking Pidgin to everyone and the words "ashia" and "you are welcome" aren't coming out of my mouth at the beginning or end of every sentence, as I feared.  I almost started a conversation with man on the plane by stating the obvious, "You are studying?" but stopped myself and after spending the next 10 minutes reassessing I successfully started it the American way.  For the first couple of days back I greeted everyone on the running trail with holding up two hands, which is appropriate in Cameroon, but looks like I'm declaring surrender in America.  However, I will say that the lack of greetings in America is a bit of a culture-shock.  I'm not saying we have to go through all of the questions of how you slept the night before, how is your health, how is your family, and make an obvious statement about their presence or their work that is typical of Cameroonian greetings, but a simple, "Hello" or "Good morning"would be nice.  The last night I spent with Peter, Lord, Babila, and Lord I told Peter that in America we don't say "ashia."  He asked me what we do when we pass someone who is working and I explained that we just pass on by without saying anything. He was flabbergasted.

As I've reflected on why this re-entry has been less of a shock then the first time, I've come up with a couple of thoughts.  The predominant thought is that life is just different in Cameroon then it is in America.  I speak differently, dress differently, eat differently, travel differently, and interact with friends differently.  Its not bad, its just different.  I can't make America more like Cameroon and I can't make Cameroon like America.  When I first had that realization I worried that it would result in feeling like I was two different people, Cameroon Kate and America Kate, but it actually hasn't and instead has brought reassurance.  God is still the same and His call to serve Him is still the same.  Here and everywhere else in the world.      

Grateful for the advances in science and technology, we make careful use of their products, on guard against idolatry and harmful research,
and careful to use them in ways that answer God's demands to love our neighbor and to care for the earth and its creatures.
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world--which some seek to control, but which others view with despair--we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
Our World Belongs to God Contemporary Testimony 52, 1