Remember how I said I did not feel up to this assignment? I spent all of December and January wondering if I needed to sit down with Matthew and Graham and explain the 100 ways I expected to fail and the difference between journalism and photojournalism, and also remind them that I majored in neither one.
I wanted to beg them not to send me on this one.
Okay, so I am not an investigative journalist, but maybe that is exactly how God wanted it. I don’t know how to ask the hard questions or dig deeper into an issue. I don’t know how to get a person to answer in a way that I’d like to hear.
But is that what you want to read anyway? Or would you prefer the non-manipulated truth? Their truth.
No, I did not figure it all out in 2 weeks. This stuff is hard. And this is not my culture.
The biggest part of learning was to phrase my questions in a culturally appropriate way. I had to be careful not ever to ask something that made someone uncomfortable to answer. In America, that’s a lot easier because people will generally just spill it. I mean, have you ever asked a woman you only just met about how her birth experience went?
There is also a difference between how Americans use the English language and how a Ugandan uses it. We both know the meanings of all the words we are using to converse, but you cannot ask someone who lives outside of American culture how they feel about “doing life” with each other. Really. That makes no sense. In fact, I suggest we take it out of our vocabulary. Please.
And then there is the shame issue. Ugandans will go to lengths to avoid saying things that will bring shame either upon themselves or others, although they might answer by talking around the issue. I could end up thinking we really just had a conversation about warthogs and the economy when what I asked about was their church. So could I just ask someone if they still face problems and trials since their baptism? Yes, but not in those words. It took a lot of thinking and talking with American expats who have lived here awhile to get to a wording that would be acceptable, comfortable, and open the dialogue well. And then I got into interviews and forgot it all and just spit the questions out all wrong anyway.
I had plenty of help from all the right people, which was another avenue to get to know them better too. So in the end, this assignment for which I felt completely inadequate and was totally dreading has turned out to be one of my favorite and most valuable EMI experiences to date.
Thank you, Matthew and Graham.
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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