Any trip you take puts you in a position to learn many things if you look at your situation in a unbiased, open way. Whether that trip involves going across the street or across the ocean is entirely up to what you want to do and the resources you have with which to do it.
I have learned many useful things in my day to day life by keeping my eyes and ears open and when I did the math and realized that coming to Africa was more than just a dream, but actually a possibility, I was filled with excitement, anticipating all the learning that would come along with my travels.
I have learned about a few basics of swahili, how modern weddings take place, how bill gates infects people with malaria, how to hash, how to name certain exotic animals by looking at their droppings, and how to live life by candel-light just to name a few things off the top of my head. I’m sad to say, I did NOT learn, however, how many people can fit in a dala-dala. I think that is one of those unanswerable mysteries ranking up there with; What is the meaning of life? and Is Global Warming a real threat?
But, more than learning, I have been asked some great questions by the kids at the orphanage. “Madam! Your hair, it is smelling good! What is this?” It’s shampoo, Peter. 🙂 hahaha. “Madam! Do all white people use this kind of soap?” Everybody uses a different kind, but i guess some white people might use the same one as me. haha! And then comes the anatomy questions; “Madam! What is this spot!” Mary asked grabbing my arm. That’s a freckle! And “Madam Zoe! Your nose goes like this” Elliona said pointing to his nose and bringing it away from his face, “And mine is like this” he said pushing down on my nose. Yep, they are different. haha. Then, the ever-so-serious, “Why.” Uhm, I don’t know!
My time with the kids was filled with learning on both sides about culture and language and the difference between us, but we shared laughter the whole time. Whenever i didn’t understand an accent, or an expression, the laughs definitely closed those gaps and I believe if they didn’t know a word of English and I didn’t know a word of Swahili we would still get along great by walking around, and teaching and learning from each other with the help of patience, smiles, and laughter.