There are some major differences between our culture and latino culture. If you've ever traveled to a Latin American country, you probably know what I mean. Robin and I have studied this culture for many years and each spent time living abroad. So, you could say that we have a pretty good understanding of it, but that doesn't mean we're used to it yet.
Let me give you an example.
Yesterday, we had an appointment to sign the contract for our apartment at 9:00. I made the appointment for 9:00 because I knew it could take awhile, and we had to get back for class at 12:30. Difference #1: Things take a long time to get done here. In the US, we want things done right away (i.e. car repairs, cable hookup, medical test results . . .etc.), and they usually are done in a timely manner. In Latin America, things don't work quite the same. When you call to have cable installed, it usually takes about 10 days. So anyway, I made sure that we had plenty of time to get things taken care of . . . or so I thought.
Difference #2 (one of the main reasons for difference #1): Time is not near as important in latino culture. In the US, we are slaves to the clock. We keep super tight schedules and do whatever it takes to follow them. I am a great example of this. Being late for something is one of my biggest fears in life (most of you know what fear #1 is for me). I used to go into school an hour and a half early even when I didn't have much to do. In Latin America, they value relationships more than time. So, if a person is talking to a friend, and its time to get to a meeting, they would rather be late to the meeting than be rude and end their conversation. Being late has just become part of their culture. If you're invited to a party here at 7:00, don't show up at 7:00. They will still be setting up, and they'll wonder why you are so early. Yesterday, we took two buses and a taxi to get to the apartment. We were a bit worried because we didn't get there til about 9:05 (remember, it was a 9:00 appointment). We were about an hour early.
Difference #3: Latinos will do anything to avoid confrontation and to "save face": This difference can seem dishonest to us. If you stop someone on the street to ask directions, and that person doesn't know the answer, they will still tell you something. Rather than let you down by not knowing what to tell you, they'll just make something up. You can imagine the problems this can cause. I learned this first hand in Guatemala. I would ask my host brother if he could come pick me up after school. He wouldn't want to disappoint me by saying "no", so he'd say "sure, I'll be there." When the time came to go home, he wouldn't show up. Likewise, if a latino is late or doesn't show up, he will give you an excuse in order to save face. This is the part that we would consider very dishonest. Yesterday, when the landlord showed up an hour late, he told us that he thought we were going to meet in the office. I know darn well that we had said 9:00 at the apartment. He wasn't waiting for us in the office; he just forgot, but he wouldn't dare tell us that.
But, it all worked out. We went to his office to sign everything. He said that we could leave our documents with him, and he would type everything up later. But, I was familiar enough with difference #1 to know better. We made him do it while we were there. It took quite awhile. Then, thanks to late buses and crazy traffic, we ended up a half hour late to our first class. It wasn't a big deal.
Now, our main focus is finding furniture.
Last night, we had OWBS (Old Women Bible Study). Robin always yells at me for calling it that, but its the truth. Its usually abunch of old women and us. Tonight was neat, because another group joined us. They were from a Catholic church in the neighborhood. It was neat to hear their thoughts on evangelism, missions and unity among believers, especially considering Catholic traditions in Latin America (That would be another long blog, and I'm sure you're already bored with this one).
Robin also made chocolate chip cookies last night. They were a smash hit. There is a major lack of good cookies in this country. So, when they tasted Robin's cookies, they were blown away. They hoisted her up on their shoulders and carried her around the neighborhood chanting, "la reina de las galletas".
While Robin and Miriam were gone getting ingredients for the cookies, I had a chance to record a song. Its about a news story I saw on one of the local stations here. The station set up a microphone on the street with a handwriiten sign that said "quejese aqui" (complain here). People took turns walking up to the microphone and complaining about whatever. It was pretty interesting.