I went to a women’s bible study this morning. This past Sunday Daniel, Naomi and I did end up visiting St. John’s, the Anglican church that Google Maps claimed was a 5-minute walk from our house. It is in fact a 5-min walk, and Anglican, and I think it will be a lovely church home for us for the next 3 months. When I initially realized that living in a new country for 3 months meant I couldn’t take communion each week at my home church, my heart sank. It could potentially take us 3 months just to find a new church here, forget about feeling at home or connected there. Then later I realized that, since no church is perfect, if we can manage to find a church that seems biblical and at least somewhat alive, we should just plant there regardless of any other quirks it may have, and not worry about finding “the best church” (whatever the heck that is anyway). As long as the church worships the same God we do, it’s more important that we connect with other believers for 3 months, than that we find the church with the fewest points of conflict.
So back to the women’s Bible study. I’m really glad I went. It was really nice to connect with other women. Most of them are young moms too, so there was nursery care for Naomi. Except they call nursery “creche,” which threw me at first. (I remember years ago when I felt somewhat sophisticated after realizing that our church calls the Nativity scene that’s set out at the front of the church during Christmas a “creche” – it sounded so foreign and elegant. So why were these people talking about a Nativity scene during August? I know it’s winter here, but they still celebrate Christmas in December don’t they?)
That was only one of many things that caused the whole morning to be simultaneously both pleasant and refreshing, and stressful and anxiety-producing. I was surprised at how stressed I was the whole time! I mean, all the women were incredibly kind people whom I would like to get to know better. They made me feel very welcome, they were saying things I believe and agree with about God, they were speaking English, etc. … but half the time I couldn’t for the life of me make out what they were saying! I cannot believe how hard it is to feel comfortable in a peer setting when there is a difference as subtle as that of an accent. That little way they have of twisting their words made it really difficult over the course of the 2 hours I was there, to just relax in conversation. It’s anxiety-producing enough (for an introvert like me, at least) to be in a new social setting where you know no one but would like to make friends. But if you can’t understand 40% of what they’re saying, it’s even harder to feel at ease. The accent issue was underscored by small differences in phrasing for certain things. For example, the woman next to me kept mentioning “Caesars.” This one was pretty easy actually, since she is pregnant – Caesarean sections. Another one was, “How are you going?” This is the Australian version of, “How are you doing?” Instead of “stroller” there’s “pram,” instead of “diaper” there’s “nappy,” and “tea” is I think a catch-all for snack and/or supper, as the toddlers all had “morning tea” this morning… which meant crackers. Little things like that really threw me, because it made me pause for a second to think, “Wait. What did they just say?” and while I was puzzling over that and double checking that I heard them right, I was missing the next 5 seconds of what they’re saying, so I got even further lost.
Then, add to that the difference in pronunciation of words and phrases I AM familiar with, and it’s quite a mess (British accent is hard enough – have you ever tried watching British TV? That’s a lot of what it’s like. For me personally, it’s not usually very hard to understand a British accent in general, but then on TV they talk faster and their voices sometimes go quieter [like we all do in more familiar conversations], plus they have a slightly different sense of humor, so I’m always sort of on the edge of my seat with my head cocked to the side, trying to catch what they’re saying. That’s how I felt today.)
Then of course I don’t know a lot of popular Australian figures like people in entertainment or government. This was one place I got pretty lost in the Bible study, as someone made reference to a local politician. In the first place I couldn’t even understand the name she said, so I spent a few minutes just figuring out that she was talking about a person, then another few moments puzzling over whether this was a world figure I should know, or if it was a member of the church, or what. BUT, I made sure to look up the name of the Australian prime minister because I figure I should at least know who that is, right? She lives down the street from me, after all. So now hopefully if someone mentions Julia Gillard I will be totally in the know.
But, all that aside, I was really glad I went. Naomi had a great time after her initial separation anxiety (in which she took me by the hand to each and every toy, so I could play with it with her). It was really good to be around other Christian young moms, and I have really missed being part of a Bible study. They meet every Tuesday morning, and on Thursday mornings there is a play group, and I’m looking forward to being involved in both of those times. It will add some nice structure to Naomi’s and my week, and I’m looking forward to getting to know some of the women better. I’m sure after awhile I’ll get more familiar with the Australian twang too. :)