Before we left the USA in 2009 to start this new missions life, I (DeAnna) thought it was impossible to not only have partners that want to be on our team for monthly living finances, but also the huge amount for French language study. I also thought it was impossible for me to learn French. I studied German in High School and at University of Central Missouri back when it was called CMSU. During my German studies at CMSU, I was at a higher level in the language and just wasn’t getting it. My professor during my final oral presentation told me he would pass me if I promise to never take another German class. I agreed, changed my minor from German to Recreation and thought learning a second language was done in my lifetime. It also shows God’s sense of humor that more than ten years later I was preparing to spend one year in intense language learning as a student, wife, mother, foreigner and missionary.
Although we studied just outside of Paris, it was an extremely hard year for our family, for our marriage and individually. It was not a vacation! We often refer to language study as Humility 101.
The saying “can’t see the forest through the trees,” has described many times in our lives. During language study we couldn’t see the forest because of all the language learning/steep living learning curve trees, not being able to stand up for our son who was being ridiculed in school by his teacher, not being able to stand up for our youngest who was being hurt at school by a fellow student, not being able to express ourselves, shopping at a store staring at cans of products needing to shop by the picture, not knowing the metric system for measuring and temperatures, etc…
You know how it’s said that hindsight is 20/20. I think we’ve all experienced this in our lives. I also think hindsight sheds perspective on past situations. We’ve been finished with language study for four years now and have had the 20/20 hindsight and a better perspective on our time in France. What we appreciate and/or miss about our time in France.
- We are appreciative we learned French before arriving in Cameroon. We think we would’ve been so overwhelmed if we couldn’t communicate, didn’t already have exposure to food products, didn’t already have a French vocabulary, didn’t already experience French bureaucracy and would’ve been terrified of public transportation if we didn’t spend a year in France only using public transportation to get around.
- We miss entertainment options and out to eat options. We enjoyed hopping on the RER and going into Paris to see historical sites, beautiful gardens, go to Museums, eat at McDonald’s, eat at Pizza Hut, taking the boys to different parks, taking the boys to the Playmobil visitor’s center, going to stores that are like Wal-Mart, the wonderful bakeries, electronic stores, etc…
- We are appreciative that we had our first experience with culture shock/adjustment in France before arriving in Cameroon. It snuck up on us in France, because we thought American’s go there all the time for vacation, so how could we experience culture shock/adjustment issues. Anytime anyone is living more than six months outside of his/her passport country, culture shock/adjustment will come. At least having been through it in France gave us perspective that it comes and will pass, so when it started in Cameroon we knew what it was.
- We are appreciative we learned how things are packaged in France before arriving. It made it so much easier to purchase food in Cameroon. For example, vanilla being powdered, baking powder sold in small packets.
- We are appreciative we were forced to learn the metric system in France before arriving. The conversion of fahrenheit to centigrade, grams instead of cups, kilometers to miles, meters to feet, etc…
- We are appreciative that although it was a breakdown time for us in France, meaning tears flowing down our cheeks when we didn’t understand the bureaucracy of going from this office to purchase an official lick-on stamp for a document to another office for another piece of the puzzle and so on to be able to finish the documentation and paperwork needed. The same type of system is in place in Cameroon, it helps us have perspective when waiting in lines and wanting to cry over the difficulty to get what’s needed.