Life is never boring in Zambia. I mean, who else can say their truck survived a close encounter with a giraffe? It’s funny how quickly these types of stories just seem normal after awhile. The other day I was meeting with some friends for coffee and were exchanging ministry stories. And one I had nearly forgotten came back to me.

There was a day when I learned the true meaning of pants.

It was a pretty normal day. I was meeting with our leaders in Sekute. We were seated in our falling apart shelter, trying to come to grips with the 120 degree heat, when somehow we started talking about malaria. Not an uncommon conversation but this one has stuck in my mind for a good reason.

Pastor Enoch had started talking about how it was starting to become malaria season. “We must be careful of the water. Malaria comes from drinking bad water.” I kinda looked around but everyone seemed in agreement. The sad thing is that there’s a big clinic in their village, yet the truth of how malaria’s contracted was still misunderstood. “No, you notice more cases of malaria when there’s standing water because mosquitoes breed in water. Malaria actually comes from infected mosquitoes.”

“Okay, Laura. So how do we protect ourselves from the mosquitoes?” After discussing mosquito nets and even smoke from the fire, the best advice I had was “Make sure you’re putting on long pants and shirts with sleeves at sunset. It helps to protect your skin from the bugs.” My advice was met by very confused looks. A discussion broke out in Chitonga, which had me wondering what I just said that was controversial.

“Where do we find these long pants?”

Now I was very confused. “But you’re wearing them! What you have on now is fine!” Laughter then rang out. “Oh! Laura, pants in Zambia means underpants!” I couldn’t help but laugh and remember the British education system. Yup, pants indeed means underpants. Please excuse my American English! We had a good laugh and all managed to learn something new that day!

What’s been your big culture blunder?