I know that as a missionary it’s good to become accustomed to your host culture. Those who can’t do it don’t make it. That’s a fact. But is there such a thing as overdoing it? Take certain food items for example: cakes in Bolivia tend to be heavy and not overly sweet. Generally they look a whole lot prettier than they taste to a North American palate. But lately I find myself thinking “Is this cake really that good or have I been here too long?” The same thing seems to be the case with corn on the cob. One of the things that my wife particularly misses is that good Midwestern sweet corn. Bolivian corn tends to be big and tough, like field corn but even less sweet. Again I ask, have I been here too long when “choclo” tastes great? I could go on about Stateside steak being flavorless and too tender, or the way food cooked under unsanitary conditions in Bolivia tastes better than that in many health-inspector-approved US restaurants, but I think you get my point.
And it’s not just food. I used to be a very punctual person, by the clock, on time. Not anymore. The clock doesn’t mean that much here. Events are more important than schedules and relationships are more important than jobs. I wonder how that will play out when I arrive an hour late to a speaking engagement at a US church? Or when I go over my allotted time by 45 minutes? Will anyone still be there to hear me?
There’s also the problem of mañana (tomorrow). Mañana is when everything will be done—passports, visas, car repairs, you name it. Mañana explains why, with only three weeks left to go before leaving Bolivia, I am trying to give blood that I could have given a long time ago. Mañana is also why I’ve received an invitation to teach at the Easter Junta (the biggest event of the year in the life of our church) only a week before it begins.
Will I have some problems readjusting to life in the States? Probably. In fact I am certain of it. I expect to make a few blunders, maybe a few driving errors (Bolivian rules are a bit different) or social shockers. So I’m glad that our Lord understands what it means to move between cultures. Did Jesus grow to prefer the food on earth to whatever fare heaven may have offered him? Did he adjust and enjoy a new form of friendship and camaraderie with his disciples? Did he feel any sadness at saying goodbye and returning to his native culture?
Those are good questions. Maybe I’ll have to give them some more thought and ponder all the ramifications. When I do I’ll be sure to share them with you—mañana.