Sunday, September 16, 2007

Navigating the Faux Pas

Well, I'm writing this one off the cuff. My host mom sits next to me, laughing at the pictures of herself, we're bonding today but more on that later.

Until now I've considered myself somewhat culturally sensitive. And yesterday and today it has really hit me in the face that one of the things that is deeply ingrained in US culture is directly at odds with the culture here in Catilluc. That thing is eating, food, and accepting invitations.

So I'm not much of an eater. Anyone who knows me knows that I have to be hungry to eat. Now depending on the time of my life I might be hungry all of the time, or I might not eat for days. I used to worry my parents to death. Here, it's bad to not accept an invitation and I refused three in a row all pertaining to food. In Catilluc, they believe that if you don't want to eat their food, you don't like it. So usually you have to suck it up and eat it, but for me this comes with an added consequence (those with queezy stomachs be duly warned), I'll throw up if I eat when I don't want to. In essence, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place...oh, and I'm a people pleaser. Not a good combination. So I rejected, and I rejected, and I rejected. Bad, bad, bad. Then I went home and cried, cried, cried, because I knew I was doing the wrong thing in the eyes of the people of this culture. Even worse, I cried in front of my host family at lunch, and they thought I didn't like the food. Which is crazy, I love the food! I just don't want to eat potatoes and rice the size of my head. Is that too much to ask?

So the new solution, garnered with the help of my family, is that I accept all invitations and what I can't eat, I take away in a bag. I don't like the idea, but it's a small sacrifice to make in the name of cultural sensitivity. And even though I cried in front of them, my mom took it in stride. She really seemed to understand the difficulties of transitioning to a new culture. She said she had a similar problem when she moved to Catilluc. So I feel like we have broken through some wall and now we're heading in the direction of a really great friendship. I hope so. I think she's great so I'm hoping that this only grows and grows. I really do love it here. I guess it was just one of the days that I needed to get out of my system. There's always a lot of adapting that happens in the first couple of months (and beyond). I'm glad I'm getting the full experience. Tomorrow will be a better day filled with invitations, acceptance, and bags of food.


Tiffany in Peru! said...

okay, first things first.. it is okay to cry, ari!! if i didnt cry at least once a week, i would be committed into a mental hospital.

you are more culturally sensitive than most people i know, so i know you are going to navigate the mishaps quite well and come out as an awesome volunteer that your town will talk about for years!!

see you soon in san miguel, living it up at the fiesta! i miss you!

Mardy said...

Hey sis! I know you might struggle occasionally, but you're too hard on yourself. I'm sure the people love you like we do, faux pas and all. Keep your head up and cry whenever you need to-- I know it helps me relieve some stress.