Thursday, October 7, 2010

Culture Shock

Tremors deep under the surface send shock waves through solid rock and the earth quakes. Buildings sway, shelves teeter, books and living paraphernalia scatter everywhere. Things disconnect, solid things seem liquid, nothing is where it was.

No matter how many years you live overseas, culture shock can creep up and blindside you. The more “acclimated” you are, the less likely you are to beware. We knew that life was different in Zim, but we thought we were used to “Africa.” That big, dark continent that confounds aid and relief organizations and has absorbed countless missionaries.

Moving to Zimbabwe has been a “step up.” Although we read tragic stories of deterioration since 1980 (independence), Zimbabwe still has vestiges of being a developed country: supermarkets, used car lots, hospitals and clinics, schools with pools and immense sports grounds, hardware stores with hardware, roads in pretty good condition, traffic signals (which work when electricity is on), internet cafes (ditto), landscaped parks, lovely homes with pools and gardens.

There are elements which reflect years of neglect and deliberate exploitation: erratic power because the bills are not paid to countries of production, use of the US dollar and SA rand because the Zim dollar could not survive the inflation it generated, prices 5 to 10 times the value of the items, police randomly pulling drivers over for imagined offenses.

We have the added mix of moving to a city probably five times larger than Quelimane. A new language (Shona), a new culture (not all African cultures are alike), a new map, new transport (our bikes are out of the question for “getting” there), new people to get to know, a new ministry. It gets a bit overwhelming at times. But it’s part of the price you pay to be where you believe you should be, doing what you trust you should be doing.

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