It didn’t take long to spot differences between our home in the heartland of America, and the quirky and wonderful country of New Zealand:

 

One wonders what that last town’s sports teams are nicknamed, and if the cheerleaders can root them on without collapsing of oxygen depletion.

The language differences were delightful and endless:

It’s not “trash.” It’s “rubbish.”

It’s not a meat store. It’s a “butchery.”

They aren’t car “tires.” They’re “tyres.”

It isn’t “carry-out food.” It’s “takeaways.”

It’s not a “recreational vehicle.” It’s a “road maggot.”

They are young people in college who would rather spend any excess money in the pub than on heating their apartment. So they add another scarf to keep warm. But they aren’t “students.” They’re “Scarfies.”

Those aren’t “slot machines.” They’re “pokies.”

The starkest contrast was apparent in the Auckland airport sports bar as we awaited our flight home. The American college football bowl games were on. A really exciting, high-scoring one was displayed in the corner on about a 12″ TV screen. We were the only ones in the crowded bar watching that screen, and we had to crane our necks and squint. Strangers in a strange land!

Meanwhile, there was a ginormous screen showing a hilariously intense dart-throwing competition with super closeups of the competitors’ nostrils flaring and facial muscles tensing, complete with fans in pink wigs and body paint going wild after every endlessly-aimed throw.

On an even more ginormous screen, there was a cricket match, which went along at a pace of about .001 kilometer per hour.

Everybody in the place was watching those two sports, and cheering and clapping enthusiastically though it seemed to us that nothing was happening, because we didn’t know how those sports were played or scored. Meanwhile, we exclaimed and clapped after every lead change in the fast-moving football game, which went down to the final gun. But the Kiwis paid us no mind, because THEY didn’t realize anything was happening, because THEY didn’t know how OUR sport was played or scored. So they were probably thinking we were crazy weirdos, and vice versa.

Finally, the old chap who shared our table leaned toward us, probably realizing how isolated and different we felt.

“Americans, eh?” he said, kindly. “Here on holiday? Liking your football, do ye?”

“Yes!” we replied, gratefully. “We love it.”

He smiled. “Good on ya, Mates.”

Instant common ground! We no longer felt foreign and far from home. We’re all the same, whether we’re focusing on a dart or a funny flat bat or a football.

Between that and contemplating a nation with five times as many sheep as people, it reminded me of the perfect unity that Jesus promised in John 10:16:

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”