Africa is a unique place. It robs you of any comfort zone you might have created for yourself and replaces it with peace. It removes any expectations you have and trumps them with flexibility. It steals any insecurities you have and restores you with sufficiency in your Creator.
I’m a different person in Africa. I smile bigger. I laugh harder. My life is free of all media (social or otherwise). I don’t have to use a cell phone. I’m fine living without air conditioning. I don’t care if what I’m wearing is in fashion or cute, I just want to be comfortable (well, that may not be much of a change to life in the States…) But most importantly, I’m relieved of the pressures that come with being an adult. For those few weeks I’m just there. Living every moment to the fullest. Choosing others over myself. Loving deeply.
Because of this, I’ve compiled a list of ten things that I never do in America but just come naturally to me in Africa. Be prepared to learn a whole new Hayley.
#1. Clean my fingernails with a knife.
It’s true, I did this. I don’t even own a knife in America. In fact, much to the chagrin of my grill-loving friends, I didn’t own steak knives until a few months ago. And I didn’t even realize what I was doing, either. We were sitting at dinner one night and someone said “Hayley, are you cleaning your fingernails with a knife?? You’re so hard core!” Let’s not mention the fact that I immediately felt like throwing the knife across the room and making it stick into the wall. But I refrained. Probably because I wouldn’t even be able to get it across the table.
#2. Ignore the spiders in my bed and fall asleep just hoping I don’t swallow one.
Now this took a bit longer to accept, that I was sleeping with spiders, but I am positive that I snoozed with at least half a dozen at one time or another. And I’m sure I swallowed a few as well. Oh, protein.
#3. Walk in darkness through a Game Park Lodge not even caring that at any given moment a warthog could jump out and attack me.
Pumba may have made warthog attacks less scary to me, I’m not sure. But I do know that when I saw them, I started singing to them. “He’s a big pig! You can be a big pig too, oy!”
Speaking of talking/singing to animals…
#4. Talk to lions, elephants, giraffes, baboons, impala, zebra, and any other given animal I saw in the wild… in my puppy voice.
…And get in trouble for it.
For some reason I talked to every animal we saw while on safari. I called them “honey” and “buddy” and whistled at them to get their attention and asked them to come play. And halfway through the day our driver finally said, “Um, we aren’t supposed to call them”. Oops.
#5. Take 16,000 Rand out of the ATM and think nothing of it.
Because I had to pay our remaining balance once we got to South Africa, and because Captivate Church in Baltimore gave a very generous donation towards us purchasing things for the people of SA, I had to visit the ATM twice to take out very large sums of money. The rand to dollar ratio is 8 to 1, so I may have been carrying around $2100 but it was 16,000 rand, in 100R bills. All I wanted to do was roll around in the cash. I didn’t. But I may have made it rain.
#6. Stand up in front of a large group of people and speak about what the Lord has done and is doing.
As is the case with almost everyone, I’m not a huge fan of public speaking. Even though I took two courses in college, including Advanced Public Speaking, I’m still never completely comfortable behind a microphone or speaking in large groups. Let me blog about it and I’ll be just fine hiding my tears behind the computer screen. Make me stand up and talk about it, and you’ll probably be witness to a shaky voice behind a soaking wet microphone. Talking about what is so near and dear to my heart stirs up emotions that are not easily pushed back down. Just ask Susan, who asked me about my trip the day after I got home, and got in return a blubbering mess of a woman. However, this is not the case in Africa. I am so grateful that throughout my time there, I was able to stand up and talk in front of large crowds of people close to a dozen times, and each time I felt completely comfortable and at ease. He surely is the Great Sustainer!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:7-8
#7. Eat a cold fried chicken drumstick for breakfast.
For those of you who don’t know, South Africans LOVE meat. Any kind. Any time. We ate meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And at dinner we’d have 4-5 different types of meat. One thing we learned in orientation was that if you want to hinder the gospel, leave food on your plate, because it is considered highly disrespectful to do so. Thankfully most of the time we were able to serve ourselves, so we got only as much as we wanted, but I’m not lying when I said that I considered being a vegetarian after about two days. I went to the grocery store the day we came home and all I bought was fruit, which was surprisingly scarce in South Africa.
#8. Have morning devotions with the police department.
Believers in the Musina Police Department have devotions once a week, and they invited us to join them for theirs. We sang and Joe preached about putting on the whole armor of God, and then the head of the department told us to go home and tell our police departments that we were “handled with care” at the Musina station, and that we were allowed to preach the Word of God. I wonder if this would even be possible in America.
#9. Wake up at 5:30 every morning to watch the sun rise.
There is something about a sunrise in another country that inspires me. I almost always get up to watch the sun rise while traveling overseas. However, this is NOT the case in America. Not even when I’m traveling in America. I’m the girl who wakes up at 7:30 am for her 8:00 am job. Sleep is a precious thing. However, I woke up every single morning in South Africa to watch daylight arrive. It was a nice way to start my morning, but I don’t think I’ll be making it a habit by any means.
#10. Pick up and hug on children I’ve never met before.
This is actually a tricky one, because if it were up to me, this wouldn’t just be an Africa thing. Every time I see a “little baby kid” out in public, all I want to do is go pick it up and play with it. Especially when it is obvious that they are adopted. Don’t even get my started on how excited that makes me. But unlike Africans, I’m pretty sure American parents wouldn’t approve of strangers holding and kissing on their children. I know if I were a parent I’d be creeped out by it, which is why I do my best to refrain. But don’t think I’m not wishing that momma would ask me to hold her child. Or that I’m not wondering just where the creepy line is.
So maybe now you feel like you have been to Africa with me? No? Okay, well I guess we’re just going to have go back, then!