10.14.2008

Note to self: Learn Spanish.

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."
"OooooKaaaayy?"
- "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.

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE your analogy! Would never have come up with that one off the top of my list, but wow did it work!

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  2. oh my goodness you made me laugh out loud! jamison has a way with words and i can totally see him giving another kid a noggy.

    ok seriously i think you need to start writing a book. just in these 3 post i have been inspired to know God more. thank you.

    still missing ya... b

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  3. I hope that I know more missionaries who would admit to the whole 'not-best-to-noogify' approach, and would be willing to own up when they have royally screwed it up and try to be a bit more culturally relevant...

    I hope I do. I mean I'm 'A MISSIONARY' and all, myself...

    so how many do I know like that? Ummmm...

    =)

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  4. Since you mentioned 'm-f-er' and 'puta' I just can't help myself and I have to tell you this story.

    So, I'm an Occupational Therapist . . . just spent 18 months 15km south of Paris attempting to learn French . . . 'OT' in French is 'Ergothérapeute'. That's 'peute' as in 'I PUT the glass on the table' . . . but with my anglophone phonetic logic, I was saying it as 'POOT' as in 'Southern Belles don't fart they POOT'.

    I started introducing myself that way: 'Je suis Déborah, je suis ergothéraPOOT'. Everyone would always look at me as if I was crazy and they'd ask me to repeat myself . . . sometimes two or three times . . . followed by a request for me to explain what it is that I do.

    It took about 5 months before a friend FINALLY told me that I was calling myself an Occupational Thera-M-F-er! Oops.

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  5. Haha, I love Deborah's story, too. I think that the root of all evil is basically not being able to see someone else's point of view. There is a big difference between intention and effect. Thank you for sharing.

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