What time is that meeting again?
I often pray for patience…patience to see things through to fruition or patience with tourist who often overwhelm Washington, DC’s subways and sidewalks or patience with friends and family members. I truly believe that God teaches us patience through various experiences in our lives – maybe it’s being stuck in traffic or queuing in a very long and slow moving line OR living in a culture where the social norms are drastically different than what you have grown accustom to expect. While I have only been in South Sudan for a week, I am learning to have patience in all situations. Meetings causally begin 20 to 40 minutes after the start time and it’s not automatically assumed when you enter a restaurant that you will need a table or a menu. Those things come at your request. And the friendly, chipper waiter/waitress that meets you at your table in the US is nonexistent in South Sudan.
Patience is important when you are experiencing a new culture and the ability to leave your social norms at home will allow you to have a greater appreciation for your new environment. I like to think of myself as a patience person and living in South Sudan will only help me grow in that matter.
A few years ago I was visiting friends in Rwanda and we decided to take a camping/safari/rafting trip through Uganda. It was a pretty amazing experience sleeping along the river banks as the hippos moaned and groaned below and seeing lions resting in the savannah. However, our trip back to Rwanda on one of the cross country buses tested my patience and desire to experience new cultures. While the six of us wanted to be on the same bus, we were unable to buy tickets in advance because the operator told us that the bus was sold out and he would not know if there were available seats until the bus arrived in Kampala (the capital of Uganda). Afraid that we would be stuck in Kampala another day, we booked tickets on two separate buses. I was paired with one of my friend’s roommates who was use to Africa’s rugged travel accommodations. The bus was expected in from Nairobi, Kenya at 10pm and we were supposed to arrive in Kigali, Rwanda at 6am. The bus did not arrive in Kampala until 1am and once we started the boarding process we noticed the ticket agent had over sold the bus and I initially did not have a seat. I was exhausted, sleepy and hungry. I was also saddled with three bags and in no mood to handle the situation. Luckily, there were two Dutch women on the bus who also didn’t have seats and they complained loudly and in the end people were forced out of their seats to make room for us. As I look back, maybe I should have been ashamed that people were forced to sit in the aisle on the bus trip but at that time, that small measure was the least the driver could do to placate my frustration. I was hoping to get some sleep on the bus but if you are familiar with the roads in East Africa, you know that potholes are used to limit speeders. The 12 hours bus ride consisted of the bus driver speeding forward only to slam on breaks to navigate the potholes. Each time I would dose off the bus would come to a screeching halt. When we arrived in Kigali at 1:30pm that afternoon, my cup was overflowing with anger. When I finally got to my friend’s house, I needed to rest. I laid across the bed at 3:30pm to take a short nap. I didn’t wake up until 9:00am the next morning. Not only did I need sleep, I needed to allow my anger to pass.
But I learned a valuable lesson during that nightmare bus ride across Uganda. It was important to check my American attitude at the country border and embrace the culture that I was experiencing. And that’s my goal while living in South Sudan. Although I recognize that there will be times when I will get annoyed and frustrated but I will embrace what is around me and go with the flow. Someone the other day used the phrase, “let go and let God…” and that is exactly what I will do, let go and not try to control the situation. That phrase makes complete sense in South Sudan…
My colleagues surprised me with a cake to celebrate my birthday on Friday. It was a very nice gesture.