My wife and I lived in Scotland for a couple of years. And, in many ways, making the transition to Scotland was much easier than moving to a place like Papua New Guinea. The language and culture of Scotland are similar enough to America that we could navigate through society fairly easily.
One thing we noticed, though, is that when two cultures are rather similar, it really makes the differences stand out. You have a nice breakfast with bacon, eggs, and toast, all things that any American would be quick comfortable eating, and then they hit you with some smoked haddock, which will stay with you all day long…and then some. You get the hang of driving on the other side of the road, and then you run across a road sign you’ve never seen before. (It took me a long time to figure out what the “no parking” sign was trying to tell me.)
When something seems mostly familiar, the differences really stand out.
That’s been my experience this week. In many ways, the summer camp that we’re helping with in Slovakia is just like the many camps I’ve attended in America. And that’s not surprising given that my church in America has a long-standing partnership with this one. We’ve been helping with camps here for years, and many of the Slovak leaders have interned at my church for as long as a year. So the games, the format of the evening program, the small groups, the free time, these all feel like home.
And, as I discussed in my last post, the students here face the same challenges as early adolescents everywhere. So even new students are old friends.
But the similarities just make the differences stand out that much more.
What do I mean? Here are six differences between a Slovakian summer camp and one in America. Or, to be more accurate, here are six differences between this Slovakian summer camp and the ones I’ve attended in America.