03 November 2011

Out of Context

Since coming to Uganda, I've discovered a number of things that are rather American (and/or Western) and are just plain weird when you try to explain them to people here. These things just sound so ridiculous in this context or are impossibly hard to explain to those learning English. They've all come up at one point or another...usually in my English class.

Here's my list so far:

Hiking: Driving somewhere to then walk around for a couple hours...for fun...um, as far as I can tell a lot of people here grow up walking everywhere.
Jogging: Because I live in Kampala, which is a bit more westernized, this isn't quite so weird. But like hiking, the idea of running for fun is a bit funny. Why are you in a hurry?
24-hour Supermarkets: Why do we have these anyway? I told my students people in the US do not have patience and cannot wait until the morning to buy milk. Quite sad, really.
Camping: Going out to the middle of nowhere, setting up a tent and sleeping in it...also for fun. Because in the US we live in great, sprawling suburbia we have to create ways to be in nature. Also funny to explain to people who simply experience nature as a normal part of life.
Halloween: No comment.
Surfing: Not internet surfing. Real surfing. Yes, this one came up in my English class. Just try explaining that to someone who has never seen the ocean. I dare you.
Electrical problems: We lose power here regularly (read: daily). Africans find it hilarious that in the US, if one region/city/state loses power for an hour, it will most likely make the news.

Anyway, that's my list for now. More to come, I'm sure. It's such an adventure learning about another culture and teaching people about where I come from. And learning how much our contexts determine our vocabulary and activities.


  1. Bob Goff set up land surfing in his school in Gulu... They had a big blue tarp that two people ran with to simulate a huge wave while the kids tried to skateboard through before the wave crashed over them. IT was awesome!

  2. My friend Courtney, a fan of your blog, suggested you try to explain dieting to them. Now that's weird!

  3. This is such a great list - can't wait for the sequel as I'm sure there will be one. Frozen food (tv dinners) are a mystery to many of our Mortenson visitors - why don't Americans eat fresh food?

  4. @Tiffany: That's so cool!

    @Lizz: Now that you mention it, dieting may have come up in my English class. At least things about food came up, which always makes for interesting conversations. Dieting would definitely be a good example.

    @Lisa: Yes! TV Dinners are a perfect example. I love that I get to eat so much fresh food here!