Definition of FLATLINE
1 a: to register on an electronic monitor as having no brain waves or heartbeat  b: die
2 a: to be in a state of no progress or advancement  b: to come to an end

I have been thinking a lot about this word lately. She flatlined. Does this, could this, describe me?
Moving to a new country that doesn’t speak English forced me to learn Malagasy. I had to learn the number system, how to get around, get anything I needed and solve any problems that came up. But now the question is how do I keep learning language and not just flatline where I am at? My langauge skills allow me to go anywhere, get anything, solve any issue that has come up so far, communicate and have friendships. So, there is no built in motivation, it is up to me to keep pushing, keep striving. As I have been pondering this issue, wondering if I have flatlined and what to do about it, one of my missionary friends sent me this video. Why don’t you watch it.  
Ouch. I thought this was suppose to be an encouraging little video but instead it very accurately nailed my problem and shined a light on part of my heart I would rather keep hidden: pride. I am sick of making mistakes and sounding like a kindergartener when I talk, so I just use words I know instead of pushing myself, instead of risking mistakes, instead of risking my pride. And the problem is, I know enough words that I can just replace a word I am not sure of with one I already know and can say without messing up. If I am not sure of the sentence structure, I can simply use a sentence structure I know well instead of stretching myself. If someone gives me the price of something in French, I can just ask them to repeat it in Malagasy instead of learning the widely used French numbers. So the problem is actually worse than I had imagined. I am not suffering from a case of flatlining, but the heart issue of pride. And so the climb out of the flatline has begun.
The stores here have everything lined up on selves behind a counter. You walk up to the counter and ask for what you want. This is not a problem if you know how to ask for what you want. I always nail it because if I don’t know what something is and it’s not important, I just wait till I am at a bigger store where I can pick what I want then go through the checkout. So the other day, standing in front of the counter,  I asked for what I needed, then spotted Nesquik powdered chocolate milk. Knowing I needed to stretch myself and kill the pride, I decided to get some instead of waiting until I was at a bigger story. Just as I was about to make an attempt, in walks the girl who helps at the store and the storekeepers son who much be around 5 years old. Now I have an audience. I attempt, the storekeeper is confused and points to several things that I usually get….and then I do it. I say, “Um, the one with a bunny on it.” (the nesquik chocolate bunny was on the front of the container) The little boy starts laughing and says, “the one with the bunny?!?!” The helper starts laughing. The storekeeper is laughing. Sheepishly, I pay and place the hard earned item in my bag, as the little boy keeps giggling about what I said. As I walk out of the store, leaving a wake of laughter behind, I know that this is the key. Refusing to flatline comes at a price, my pride. It means forcing myself to try new words and sentence structures even if I end up sounding like a kindergartener or making people laugh (which I love to do, just not at the cost of my pride….) So I will not avoid new words. I will not ask someone to repeat a number they said in French in Malagasy so that I can stay in my comfort zone. I will use the sentence structures I have a hard time with. I refuse to let it be said of me, ‘she flatlined.’


The Phone Conversation

The ensuing phone conversation took place between me and one of the girls about something I needed to get to her.

Ezra: Well how about I stop by your house in the morning and get it?

Tara: That’s fine except I still need to get it at the store.

Ezra: How about I stop by your house in the morning and we can both go to the store and get it, then I will just head to school from there.

Tara: Yeah, or we can just meet at the store and I can give it to you there since the store is down by your house.

Ezra: Yeah, but I could just stop by your house and then we could go together.

Tara: Ok, that sounds great, I’ll see you at 7 tomorrow morning.

This isn’t the first of these kind of conversations I have had. It’s actually one of quite a few. Why am I even telling you this? Well, this is one of my culture lessons. Even as the conversation started previous conversations that went along these lines flashed through my mind. I am always about the most efficient way to get things done. How can we get that done in less time? What is most cost effective? Thus, my choice is simply meeting outside the store and handing the things I need to get to her. It saves time and money. I am trying to help her out. It will take up less of her time if we do it that way, the store is walking distance from her house. It will be cheaper because she won’t have to pay for the taxi bus to get to my house and then to the store. It’s the perfect idea. But for Ezra, those things aren’t important. She isn’t looking for the most efficient way of getting the things from me. The time and money aren’t the issue. Our relationship is. So my great idea is actually a terrible idea to her because I have just eliminated the whole point. And thus another one of my lessons in culture goes down. The lesson that life here is about building and maintaining relationships. Time isn’t a factor. Money isn’t the issue. Next time, I will get it right. And tomorrow, when Ezra and I go to the store at 7am, I will just simply enjoy being with her.