So I went to meet a Spanish tutor this morning. We reviewed irregular conjugations for preterito perfecto. It was painful. But, she did teach me some bad words in Spanish which I’m sure I’ll find useful. And, her command of English swear words was….well…..wow. Let me just say, I’ve never known anyone that could fit “m-f-er” into conversation so naturally. But, we have to remember that swearing is viewed differently in different cultures, so what seemed a bit shocking to me was just “girl talk” to her. Next week we’re moving on to the 6th rule of subjunctive and dirty jokes. Haha.
Yesterday, Jamison came home from school with a bite mark on the inside of his arm:
“Jamison, how’d that happen?”
-“Mom, Mom, Mom!!! You know how you only give someone a Nuggy in friendship?”
“Do you mean a Noogie? “
-“Yeah,…a Nuggy…..,but you only give Nuggys to friends cuz it’s a friendly thing, for friends.”
– “Well, I was giving my FRIEND a Nuggy, like friends do” (Here he demonstrates by holding an imaginary head in a HEAD LOCK, while wildly grinding his knuckles into the top of aforementioned head) “when he BIT me for NOOOOO reason!!!”
“It seems to me that he had a reason.”
-“No, Mom, Nuggys are, like, a sign of friendship!”
“Does your “friend” know this?”
-“He does now! But the teacher made me apologize.”
“Good! You can’t go around grabbing people in headlocks. Even if you think it’s nice.” (Something else to put on the list of things I’d never imagine saying out loud.)
Unfortunately, that little episode could be used to illustrate a scenario that repeats itself over and over again, worldwide, in Christian Missions. Missionaries swoop in, thinking they know how things ought to be done, and before you know it, they’ve got a whole community in a headlock, happily grinding away with sharp knuckles while the people wince and writhe to get away. And when they finally bite their way to freedom, the missionary steps back, surprised at the ungratefulness of the people they’ve come to help.
Now, the smart ones will apologize and explain that they were just trying to be friends and ask the people how it’s done. Others will get offended, or angry. They will insist that they were right from the start and that it is the people who should be apologizing.
I’ve met both types here, the ones who see their errors, and the ones who don’t. You would be amazed at the damage we can leave in our wake when we are insensitive to the culture of the people around us.
Today, I’m especially happy to have people in my life here like my new tutor, Grace. Friends who are taking the time to teach me important things like “when you greet someone, gently put your right cheek to their right cheek and make a chirpy kissing sound” and things that seem silly, like “if you knock something out of someone’s hands and they mutter the word ‘puta’ (whore), don’t worry about it, that’s just what we say when something happens by accident”. Who knew??? They are teaching me how to be more Tica and less Gringa, and in doing so, I’m learning to be more Jesus and less Jamie.