Friday, April 15, 2016

Notes from a Changing Culture

Note: this was written a month ago. We are now in America, walking through culture shock and the dramatic difference between our two cultures!


I love relaxed Sunday afternoons, especially ones like today where it's rainy and cool and we all managed to nap together, snuggled and close in the AC room. I feel this baby kick and roll and I marvel at Elly's tousled curls and Judah's steady even sleeping breath and am so thankful for all of this, for the beauty of family, and Sabbath, and worship.

It has been a fun weekend, full of surprises as life here usually is, but it is nice to feel like we roll with the punches without feeling quite as overwhelmed as we once did. We came home today to find a bird flying around the house. We don't know where it got in, but however it got in is probably where the mice get in, so... that would be good to know. Also found in our house this week – three or four little frogs, an enormous centipede (in contrast to the regular sized ones, of which we may see six a day), a crab, and a few other creepy crawlies.

Judah and I got invited to a wedding of a family we know from his school so I took him on a date, all dressed up, to the reception at a local hotel. Since weddings in this culture these days are largely in imitation of Western-style ceremonies, much was familiar. But then there are random twists, like the five foot tall 7 tiered fake wedding cake which was on top of a table on the stage, making it basically a 10 foot tall cake. There was a fake cutting of the fake cake with a fake samurai sword. Judah thought it was the best part of the whole thing.

Then there's church. I have said I love our church, and that's not because it's comfortable. It's often not comfortable as a foreigner, but truly, it is a highlight of life here. I know so many people living overseas say they miss worship and sermons in English, but I don't. I love this, my soul is nourished in this body and joining in worship is a great privilege. This week they sang this song that is set to some American jazz/rock tune that I can't place for the life of me but that we recognize. Luckily the pianist at our church is a blind Papuan man with an afro and dark glasses who also plays with the skill of Ray Charles and dude, the congregation was rocking out because Indonesians love to sing at the top of their lungs. And the words, the words are truth, and I wish you could have been there and sung it with us.

The speaker opened by saying he'd been informed the day before that he was on the schedule to preach today, which was a prequel to us finding out in the announcements that this week an all-church meeting will be at our house. No, it's not really okay here either to find out such things at the last minute, but it happens at the time, a symptom of a culture in which things are trying to be organized but it doesn't always completely happen?

It's so interesting to watch the cultural change happening. We have talked a lot about the timing of things, and how nothing ever starts on time. Except that that doesn't show that in actuality most people want to start on time, and they keenly feel that they need to adjust to the practices of the developed world and so they are really working to implement timeliness. That's not our influence, we see the "rubber time" thing as a cultural difference that we have to adjust to, but they are embarrassed by it and are trying to change. So, for instance, our assistant pastor preached shockingly directly to the church congregation about timeliness being respectful and lateness/laziness (he equated the two) not being okay, directly calling out the ladies Bible study (which started an hour late the first week I was there) and asking for a verbal agreement for timeliness. And since then it has taken me three weeks to realize that it was serious and they actually start on time now, even if only a couple of people are there.

The guest pastor this week, having had the preaching schedule failed to be communicated to him, came to church just 10 minutes before the listed start time thinking he probably had 30 minutes, and was shocked to find the leaders all present and all having prayed, and worship starting a couple of minutes before start time. Unheard of!

Or then we had a baptism service off site on Easter and the leadership exhorted the congregation to arrive 30 minutes before the buses were to depart. "Not Papuan time, ON TIME." Mostly people did arrive on time, but then one bus arrived at the departure time, one bus arrived 30 minutes later, and one bus never showed up. You can work to change one thing, but the rest of the culture may not be ready to adjust with you! So.... things are changing, but it's not always consistent or easy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like "Irish time" ( and I'm Irish, so I'm allowed to say that-- there's even a term for it in Gaelic.). :)