Have you ever wondered, ‘ what do other people think of me? or in general of the country where I’m from?’ Well, having lived outside of the US for over a year, we’ve had the chance to get a glimpse into how Americans are viewed and how others view the US. It’s really interesting and sometimes surprising to hear what people assume about you or about where you’re from. On the other hand, it can be very enlightening as well. Sometimes what seems to be normal to you, in reality, is not normal for everyone.
As you know Antoine and I teach English for our secular work. The majority of our students are from France and Germany. Recently I was doing a language evaluation with a student (this is just testing to see the level of spoken English the student has) and we started talking about the US. He didn’t realize I was American so he was speaking quite freely:) Well, he was saying how terrified he was of the US. When I asked why he explained that he felt the country was very strange. He told me that he had to visit a few years after 9/11 for work. Seeing all the patriotism was frightening to him. He hasn’t visited again. He also mentioned how violent the US is and how very scared he is of visiting. Of course this is just one person’s opinion but coming here to Spain from Oakland, I could say I had gotten used to daily news of shootings and incidents of violence. However, living outside of the States as we have for the last year, I could see his point. Even on the international news stations, cases of violence are reported on at a least weekly basis from the US. I could see how people could think of it as being an extremely violent country.
On the other hand, in the ministry, we often speak to people who have the extreme opposite viewpoint. This week I accompanied a bible student on the bus to the meeting. The whole 30 minute or so ride, we were talking about his hopes to visit the US. He was convinced that his dreams would be realized plentiful work, no discrimination and a life of peace. Well I tried to convince him, that he would be rudely awakened to the reality of life, especially for an immigrant of color- plentiful work (possibly and quite likely) no discrimination (sadly not true) a life of peace (not at all). We read some verses that showed the only hope for those conditions is under the rule of God’s Kingdom. This conversation is had quite frequently in the territory, where many Africans believe that America holds the key to future happiness.
Anyways, in other news… the last month or so has been very busy! So much going on. That’s why we are a bit late in posting this month. So much so that I (Kanicia) am actually writing! 🙂 Let me share a few tidbits from the last month or so. Well, one exciting bit of news is that Antoine and I were invited to pioneer school this year! It’s very nice that we get to go together. You see, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to go again for quite some years actually. Because of various circumstances and timing issues, I’ve had to wait almost 8 years! Technically, as some others who were able to go with my same number of years, I’d be on my third round. But the wait has made it all the more sweeter! Even better that I get to attend with Antoine! So I’m happy that with Jehovah’s help I’ve been able to continue pioneering, and have the opportunity to go now! 🙂
Some other news is that we now have the privilege of having a service meeting at our home on Thursday mornings. Even though I work on Thursday mornings and therefore don’t get to be present, it’s really cool that we have the privilege. It does mean some extra work on Antoine’s part. How? Well, even though we really like our apartment, the street we live on and the building leave much to be desired. (I’m sparing you the details) So to make things more presentable for the friends, Antoine cleans the stairwell every morning before the group arrives. This means sweeping more than 100 stairs! Good exercise I say!
Another new bit of news is that Antoine is now learning a bit of Bengali. I know what a random language, right?! Well, actually at this year’s pioneer session before the assembly, we were encouraged to look at our territory with ‘new eyes’. What do I mean? Well, here in Spain the majority of the English speaking territory is in most people’s minds are English speaking Africans. However, because of the on-going financial crisis in Spain, for many congregations in the English field, the territory (that is English speaking Africans) is shrinking. As a result, many are moving into other language fields like Chinese. However, our CO encouraged us to not just focus on the Africans in the territory. So we’ve been trying to look at our territory in a new light. There are some families who run some small stores and shops, who we’ve found speak some English but Bengali is their mother tongue. Also the special pioneer couple in our hall has been spending one day a week in a city a bit farther out and have found a sizable Nepalese community. They have a few studies even! So as always, being quick to adjust has helped many to continue to be effective in the territory despite changes. Antoine recently tried out his Bengali and the man was surprised and even helped him to realize that there are some differences in the language depending on whether the person is Hindu or Muslim. So definitely much more to learn!
Also, we enjoyed this month having a gathering with our service group. Almost all were able to attend and I think it has helped everyone feel closer. We even had a family come in service the following weekend, who we hadn’t seen for some time. So it was nice. Hopefully we can do more of these things to keep close to each other.
A quick update about our studies. Both of Antoine’s studies attended the meeting this past week and they both seem to be making good progress. One, Peter, has even started to dress differently for meetings- with a dress shirt and slacks. He even came to our service group gathering and enjoyed himself! This weekend also two of my students came to the meeting also. Both are young, one 17 and the other a ripe old 9 years old 🙂 For the youngest, it was her first meeting and her mom (who studies with another sister) brought her…it was also the mother’s first meeting. I recently started studying with the youngest girl, Favor. I really wasn’t sure if she enjoyed it, actually. She is so shy and I thought maybe her mom was pushing her. However, this past week I was able to go on her mother’s study and the sister explained that Favor loves her study! The week before I was sick and could not go, Favor was so disappointed that she sulked around all day! On the study her mom and father kept thanking me for coming to study with her. So I feel a bit better making the 40 minute trip now:) Also my other student that came to meeting, Sylvia, is making good progress. She’s studied before but is now working to make the truth her own.
Another quick experience…in recent months we had a KM article about how to respond when someone is irate at the door. Well recently Antoine had a chance to practice the points. While out with the invitation work, he approached (a bit reluctantly) a group of men talking. You see, his service partner was full of zeal 🙂 So he approached and one of the men was very rude. Telling them that people are trying to live and have something to eat, the Bible is not going to help them right now. Well, Antoine left a few invitations on the bench near them and took his leave. Later that morning after finishing service, Antoine did some grocery shopping. On his way home, one of the men from that morning approached him. He apologized for his friend and told him that he should continue in the good work he is doing. He expressed his appreciation for the invitation as well.
I feel like there’s much more I could say, but I’ll leave it for another time. We hope you are all doing well and enjoying this time of the memorial season! Thanks for reading and as always we love reading your comments as well! Until next time…
~ Antoine and Kanicia