By Aimee Johnson, Missionary to Bolivia
Living overseas is ripe with opportunities to have all kinds of new experiences that you never would have imagined before stepping on that plane. Sometimes these experiences, or even discoveries, make us marvel at God’s creativity or the diversity of His creation. Other times we are left scratching our heads as to why things are done the way they are or we find ourselves with a strong desire to get right back on that plane and return to the familiar ASAP.
The following are just some of my “never would have imagined” experiences/discoveries I’ve been able to have through leaving what was my known to step into the unknown:
- Learning to use an electric shower courtesy of what is often known overseas as the widow-maker for its tendency to shock you on occasion when you touch those metal faucets while wet.
- Hanging out the doors of an overcrowded bus on my way to church.
- Having my horizons expand through the discovery of yellow (not red) watermelons, off-white sweet potatoes, grapefruits with an inch-thick rind, potatoes that turn black when boiled, kiwis three times the size of what I previously conceived of as “normal” and a plethora of fruits I’d never even heard of before, let alone tasted.
- Using a syringe to refill my printer’s ink cartridges.
- Coming to appreciate what it is to drink mate with one’s friends, passing it back and forth whether at home, at the beach or in a church service. (Mate is a drink that involves filling a hollow gourd with yerba leaves and then adding hot water from a thermos before using a straw-like metal bombilla with a filter at the bottom to drink the tea-like infusion. Everyone drinks from the same bombilla, something us Americans cringe at for seeming unsanitary.)
- Visiting Iguazu Falls between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, the most beautiful place I’ve been to, to date.
- Tasting the excellence that is peanut soup and further enjoying it because of the addition of French fries, making it a wonder to behold (and savor).
- Hearing a “plop” and immediately looking around to try and spot the latest gecko to have lost the battle against gravity while making his way across the ceiling.
- Living in a culture that has no concept of a personal bubble and learning to not move away when someone you are conversing with is only inches from your face.
- Discovering a tarantula on my front porch and watching it progress towards the door.
- Hunting for the right size in clothes or shoes that are labeled according to European sizes.
- Purchasing picture frames only to realize a couple months later that the wood they were made from was infested with termites. Hanging on to them anyway but for good measure, pouring powdered ant poison into the holes as they appeared so as to kill said termites.
- Finding myself alone in a theater because it’s the middle of the day and I’m the only one presently interested in seeing a movie in English.
- Experimenting the seeds of mistrust that creep up as I stare down a seemingly harmless box of mac and cheese, weighing the risk of buying it only to find it contains a certain type of protein that this girl doesn’t want (namely bugs).
- Having mangoes, avocados and various citrus fruits grow right in my front yard.
- Finding worms in the toilet, crawling out of the shower drain or even just scaling the outside walls of the house after a heavy rain, somehow managing to make it a good six feet up.
- Learning to make a variety of ethnic foods it took forever to learn just how to spell.
- Suppressing a grin when someone walks by wearing a t-shirt with an English slogan that does not match up with their age, ancestral heritage or gender.
- Touching one of several meandering sloths at the Santa Cruz zoo (Eat your heart out Kristen Bell! J) and then watching in horror as one crawled through the crocodile enclosure and right beside a wide awake croc, thankfully without coming to harm.
- Loving up on babies who have been abandoned or mistreated and watching their faces light up when I walk in the door and they recognize me. Seeing their spirits intact and personalities absolutely endearing despite how their stories began.
Living overseas isn’t always easy. There are moments when you are terribly homesick, moments when you crave hearing SOMEONE speak English, moments when you, figuratively speaking, could kill for a hot shower with good water pressure, and yes, moments when you feel more at home in a coffee shop than you do in the neighborhood you live in. But that doesn’t mean that living overseas ceases to be a blessing. Sometimes it’s all about perspective. And who doesn’t like an adventure?