Cultural learning in everyday mundaneness is always amazing, at least to me as a curious learner in this interesting world we all share. But before I go on, happy January 2017!
I thought it was fitting to write about ‘dry January’, well, … in January.
I would not have considered this topic if not for recent conversations with two acquaintances; just your normal mundane conversation. These two acquaintances mentioned they were having a dry January. So what’s the story? Well, I was puzzled. ‘Dry January? I asked; mind you, with my expressive face! To cut the long story short, they explained that having a dry January means abstinence from alcohol in the month of January. So, I get the logic behind ‘dry January’. However, I also have another cultural frame of understanding which had led to my puzzlement.
In Nigeria, when you have a ‘dry month’ (this could be any month in the year), to the best of my knowledge, it means either one of two things; first, you could be engaging in dry fasting. This means abstaining from food and water for a period of time. This is also practised in the West. But fasting in Nigeria (for most, I would say) is a personal affair so people do not normally tell others that they are fasting. I mean, why would I need the information? Interestingly, people will likely tell you that they are having a ‘dry month’. This simply means that the person is ‘broke’ (as in, having completely run out of money). So, in conversation, it would be quite normal for someone to say that “the month is dry”. Curiously, January is normally the ‘dry month’ (or should I say the driest month, because any other month can be dry – depends on prevailing financial circumstances). In any case, most times, January is ‘dry’ because folks have spent too much money during Christmas and are waiting for the January paycheck. You will likely get that information from someone who might be trying to subtly request for your assistance!
Now that you understand where I am coming from, you should not be surprised when I was puzzled (that is, putting it mildly) when an acquaintance mentioned casually; ‘I am having a dry January’; I was not sure whether it was due to ‘fasting’ or just plain ‘broke’? And I was wondering, what was going on here! [mis] Communication, I’d say.
Both acquaintances talked about the amazing benefits of embarking on a dry January and the conversations flowed freely. Of course, it was an opportunity to share cultural interpretations of what we understood to mean ‘dry January’. It was cultural learning.
I get mildly amused when people do not ask questions so as not to appear ignorant. Questions are needed to get answers. In any case, I have not met anyone with all the world’s knowledge, not yet. Till, then, I have my knowledge and you have yours. We could choose to share and exchange ideas. I have had a lot of fun asking questions about cultural practices. I also enjoy sharing my cultural understanding with others. Surprise! Importantly, I try to do this with an open mind and engaging attitude. That works, most times. And even if the conversation goes awry, it still is what it is; an education.
Considering the discussion so far, and with reference to the context discussed here … I am still curious though, can one have a ‘dry January’ in July?
Image @ http://www.examiner.co.uk/lifestyle/health-family/samantha-robinson-end-dry-january-8517385