Lessons from the Mission Field: The Top Ten List

Mary Ann and David Taylor are Creekstone’s missionaries in Tanzania, Africa. Mary Ann has learned some significant lessons while being in Tanzania—lessons that just might come in hand some day for any of us. Here is her top ten list:

  1. Flipping a light switch doesn’t necessarily mean the light will come on.
  2. A dishwasher is a person, not a machine.
  3. An “indicator” is a turn signal on an automobile.  If the left indicator is blinking on the vehicle in front of you, it could mean they are turning left.  It could also mean the road ahead is clear and you can overtake.  If the right indicator is blinking, they could be turning right. Or it could mean the road ahead is not clear and you shouldn’t try to overtake.  It could also mean they are intending to overtake.
  4. Overtake means pass.
  5. When an approaching vehicle flashes their lights at you, the possible meanings are quite diverse.
    • It could mean there is a police speed trap ahead.
    • It could also mean “get out of my lane, you idiot, before we have a head-on collision” (usually only seen if you are overtaking and are still in the other lane).
    • If you are in heavy traffic and need to make a right turn (like a left turn in the US, it means you must cut across oncoming traffic), you flash your lights.  When a kind soul coming towards you from the opposite direction wants to let you make the turn, he will slow down and flash his lights at you, meaning you can safely make the turn in front of him.
    • It could also mean, “Hey, your lights are on.”  The custom here is to only turn on your headlights one or two hours after dark.  And then, only if absolutely necessary.  ‘Necessary’ being a relative term here.  Apparently, headlights here must cost a small fortune and therefore should be conserved at all costs.
    • And sometimes, vehicles flash their lights at us and we have no earthly idea why.
  6. For fun, we turn on our headlights before dark and watch as every passing car, every single one, flashes their lights at us.
  7. When learning a new language, one is bound to make mistakes.  That’s normal.  However, not all mispronunciations are created equal.  For example, jambo means “hello,” while jamba means “fart.”  And naelewa means “I understand,” but nalewa means ‘I’m drunk’.
  8. This one is based on a true story, but we won’t use their name to protect the guilty party (hint: it wasn’t me, but I’m married to him).  When trying to sweet talk your way out of a speeding ticket, it is a bad idea to use the same sob story twice on the same cop.  This is especially true when you don’t recognize him as the one who let you off when you were passing through a few days before.  And it is a really, really bad idea if he recognizes you!
  9. Parking in downtown Arusha costs 200 Tanzanian Shillings per hour.  That’s about 12 cents. And yet, we’ve met folks who try to sneak off without paying.  “Hey, it adds up,” they reason.  I did the math.  No, it doesn’t.
  10. If your water is solar heated, waiting until the morning to take your shower is a really bad idea.

Thanks for the helpful lessons, Mary Ann!

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