One thing that I love about my life is the sheer variety of people that I live with. I live in a community of people from literally all over the world. I will never get bored of the fact that I have friends from every continent on earth (with the exception of Antarctica of course) and that I get to share life with them, learning about their cultures and home countries along the way.
A few months ago we had a visiting speaker from Nepal and he made a joke that is funny, purely because for us, it reflects the daily reality of our lives. He said “what is the most spoken language on earth?” The answer? “Broken English!” Now that may not be funny to you, but if you lived my life for a day, where at any given moment you could be communicating to somebody whose mother language is Korean, Chinese, German, French, Spanish or some other language that you have never even heard of, whose level of English ranges anywhere from just a few words to you would hardly even notice that they haven’t spoken English their whole lives, then you would begin to get a glimpse of what “broken English” really is. My broken English has improved vast amounts since I came here. I’m actually getting quite good at it.
And not only is my broken English improving, I now have a vast array of words from all sorts of different countries in my vocabulary. I’m still not fluent in any language other than my own – but I know the word for lip in Polish and can say welcome in Swahili. I can even tell you to “hurry up beloved” in Arabic. So yes, random words and phrases in a variety of languages probably doesn’t get you very far, but it sure is fun.
The other week my housemates got together to have a house meal and eat Mexican food. In my house at the moment I have 1 girl from Switzerland who speaks French, 2 Australians, 1 girl from Hong Kong, 1 American who is fluent in Chinese and speaks a bit of Spanish, 1 girl from China, 1 girl from Korea who also speaks Chinese, 1 girl from the Reunion Island (where they speak French) and me. Oh. And my old house mate who is American, but fluent in Spanish. And we sat down in a circle and went round taking it in turns to say a word in different languages. It could be any word we liked, as long as we knew what it meant, and nobody else had already said a word in that language. Ie, no repeated languages allowed. Baring in mind that we are all missionaries, and that we have all been to lots of different countries in the world, between the lot of us we came up with a lot of countries and a lot of languages! I was really very impressed. e went around the circle at least 3 times before people started to get knocked out, when they couldn’t think of any more words. I’m happy to announce that I did really very well, making it to the top 4, but alas fell to my fellow comrades longer experiences in missions. Oh…. plus the fact that we made the big mistake of allowing different dialects, meaning that none of us had a chance of winning against our Chinese friend who knows many of the even more many different dialects of China. Apparently there are around 70 of them. Who knew!
So yes. Life is never boring. Every day I get share my experiences of growing up in the UK with other people, and learn about their experiences of growing up somewhere else. I learn about different ways of life, different views, opinions, ideas, world views. I get to be caught between the ultimate dilemma of whether to take all the cookies from your friend, thus going against your western beliefs of taking something that belongs to them, or against their Korean belief that if I don’t take their cookie, then I don’t want to be their friend (yes that has happened to me… on numerous occasions). I get to train my mind to think outside of the box that I grew up in and see the world from an entirely different perspective. And when I’m old and retired (IF I retire – it isn’t really possible on a missionary salary!) I will have friends from all over the world that I can go visit on my holidays!
Now who wouldn’t want that kind of life?!