Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Understanding Ugandan Humor - August 26, 2013

Hello America,

Once again, this week has gone by quickly. I really enjoy it when we are busy and working hard. I always feel bad for the missionaries that say every week, "Oh man this has been a tough and long week. I don't know if I can do another one." I hope no one back home is having that kind of experience because that can really lead to a lot of gray hair. :)

One thing I have learned while being on my mission is that humor in Africa is a lot different than humor back home. Don’t get me wrong, both of them are pretty awesome but it just takes some time to get used to African humor. For example in Africa when you are eating dinner and the food is amazing, a compliment would be delivered in this manner. “This is so good, I’ll bite my tongue.” OR “It’s so nice you will bite your tongue."

The first time I heard this statement, I just sat and stared as everyone was laughing. Of course, I gave a token chuckle so I would not offend anyone. Yet now, I find these statements funny. I don’t really know why I find them funny, but I do. The tone of voice is a really big deal in Uganda. A comment can be funny just by the tone of voice. Before I came to Uganda, I didn’t notice the tone that much. But now I really do.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. On Monday night, we were invited to a member’s family home evening. During the home evening, they had a few spiritual thoughts and played some games. To my surprise half way through the appointment, the son of the home (30 years old) looked at me and said, “Alright now it is time for your assignment.”

I looked at him blankly. He repeated that I had to have some kind of assignment. No one is allowed to just sit. I smiled and said, “No problem! What’s my assignment?”

He replied, “Tell us a joke.” I was in the spotlight and I did not feel very funny. So I decided to use a classic joke used back home. This is how the joke went.

Elder Bitter: What do you call a cow with three legs?

Group: uhhhhhhhhh hmmmmmmmm? I don’t know. Tell us!

Elder Bitter: Lean beef! (All Americans get the idea that the cow is leaning because he has only three legs and beef is another word for cow. Lame I know, but it was the best I could do on the spur of the moment.)

Group: Silence and blank stares....

Elder Bitter: (Frantic thoughts: "Aha man, this joke isn’t happening. I can tell!") Hum, ya that’s the joke.

Group: WHAT?? That is not a joke! It doesn’t even make sense! A voice in the crowd says a little disgustedly, “American humor, I guess.”

Elder Bitter: Well that was a failure.

Group: Try again! It’s okay.

At this point, I feel completely lost. What would be funny to these people? In the end, I had to pull out another one of those lame “Laughy Taffy” jokes that are on the outside of the candy wrapper. This failed as well. I just gave up and laughing said, “I’m a joke!” Well that joke worked! Hahahaha :)

Ok that’s enough with the fun stories.

I have one significant story that I want to tell for this week. William called us and said that he wanted to make an appointment with us for a certain day at 7:00 p.m. He indicated that he wanted to talk to us about something. The request sounded ominous. This is very unusual. In Uganda, people wait for you to come to them, they don’t/won’t ask you to visit them. We arrived at his home at 7:03 p.m. He was not there so we called him. He asked us to wait a few minutes because he was almost home.

A few minutes later he showed up. We sat down with William and the rest of his family. We made small talk for a little bit but inside I was dying. What did he want to talk about? I decided to take control of the meeting and find out. I then said something like, "When we talked on the phone, you said you had something you wanted to talk to us about. Do you still have that question or is it okay now?" He then just looked at me, finally saying, “I would love to talk about it.”

The conversation proceeded as follows:

William: "Well, Elder Bitter you know that I can’t be baptized until I return from China."

Elder Bitter: "I know. Is that still okay? Or is there a problem now?"

William: "No, no! No problem! It’s just that I had a few questions I wanted to ask you."

Elder Bitter: "Okay what kind of questions?"

William: "Well to be honest my wife and I have been talking and we want to do a few things besides baptism."

Elder Bitter: Sitting still, nodding head, waiting for him to continue.

William: "Well I want to be baptized into the Church and my wife and I want to be married in your church. And we want to know what we have to do to get married in the temple."

Elder Bitter: (Thinking: "YYYYEEEEEESSSSSSS that’s the best thing I have ever heard on my mission!!") But I stay calm and just smile and say, “I think that is a perfect decision!” :)

William: "We would really like you to be there for it."

At this point I was pretty pumped! I explained to him that when he returns from China, I might not be in Jinja but that I would try in every way possible to be there. I would do this by speaking with the leaders in the mission. It was probably the best appointment for me on the mission yet.

Most likely, I won’t be in this area when he gets baptized. But it doesn’t matter because he will be getting baptized which is a saving ordinance and he will with time be getting married in the temple. It is so awesome for me to think of William and Sarah getting married in the temple forever. I am stoked! I would love to be there but we will have to wait and see the outcome. William and Sarah will go far.

To continue the amazing appointment, they then smiled and said, “This is a special occasion so we prepared something special.” (WOOT! WOOT! GO FOOD!) They had prepared Posho (This is not special. They eat it with everything.) and a special sauce that is made by the locals from this village. Apparently, it is hard to get the vegetables used for this sauce. In the sauce was Okra and g-nut mixed with a few spices. The sauce is simmered for a long time. It was pretty awesome! I don’t know if I will ever have that dish again but it may be my favorite sauce from Africa. It had a unique, intense flavor. I also liked the texture.

William and Sarah are just awesome and I really love visiting them. This letter kind of revolved around them but it was such an important step that they made this week. I was so happy for them. I just had to share it in detail. I hope everything is going well back home and that everyone is happy.

When times get tough, remember the Lord can help us. All we have to do is follow the advice in the bible in James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” It’s really true. If we need something or we don’t know what do, all that is needed is to pray to God with faith and He will answer us.

I love you and appreciate you all.


Elder Bitter/Steven

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