The Life of Liz

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Plays Nicely With Others

On the News:

At first, I thought it would be a good idea to watch the evening news, not only to practice listening to Spanish, but to keep abreast of what’s happening in my new country and the world.  Yeah, I don’t think I’m gonna do that anymore.  The news program here isn’t like the news you watch – it is graphic.  I mean really graphic.  They will show, with prolonged and close-up shots, the dismembered leg from a traffic accident or the murder victim found in a ditch.  This is not something I particularly want to watch over my supper.  Therefore, if anything major happens in the world, please e-mail me, as I will have no idea.

On Siblings:

One of the things I love about Nicaraguan culture is how family-oriented it is.  There is all the close-knit extended family-ness common to most Hispanic cultures, but what really strikes me is how well siblings take care of each other.  For example, three of Rosa’s grandchildren live in the same compound as I do.  The oldest, Isidro (called Chilo for no reason I can figure out), is 14; then there is Celeste, who is 6; and the baby, Ceasar (called Chucky {“Choo-key”} after the crazy doll), age 3 (he is cute as a button, but a bucket of trouble!).  I cannot think of too many 14 year old boys in the States that would so willingly and happily play for hours with his 6 year old sister and 3 year old brother.  It’s very cool to see.

On Orientation:

A group of study-abroaders came from the States and were given an orientation about health and safety topics.  Since I hadn’t really had one yet, and since Belinda (missionary in residence that I met at the conference) was giving half the talk, I was invited to tag along.  Most of the information was basically review (wash your hands, don’t walk alone particularly after dark, remember to floss) but I did learn a few things that made me happy deep in the heart of my soul.  One is that the tap water here in Managua is clean.  You have no idea how happy that makes me! I know I’ve been consuming loads of it, but the part of my brain that has only gone to Mexico no longer need gibber in fear that I’m being slowly poisoned. 

On Pride:

One of the great lessons I am learning is how to play nicely with others.  Now, I am not a stuck up person, and I don’t really find it hard to get along with people.  I am, however, pretty fiercely independent.  Part of that is my nature and the fact that I am just extremely capable.  There seldom is much need to have others help me (I don’t want to come off as bragging, but possible it’s inevitable).  Part of it is a life experience that has taught me that people are often terribly unreliable and it is usually best to depend on others as little as possible. 

These two things combine to create in me an almost pathological hatred of being a bother.  But there’s no getting around it here.  I am completely dependent on others.  I can’t feed myself, get around on my own, or communicate effectively with every single person.  It grates on me. 

This independent (dare I say American) spirit is a form of pride, I think.  Humility is a true assessment of one’s self and a piece of wisdom lies in knowing, not only what you are capable of, but what you simple cannot do and allowing someone else the opportunity to fail you.  If I never learn another word of Spanish, but can somehow attain a measure of such humility, I will have succeeded mightily.

On Failure:

Another bitter lesson I am learning is how to fail.  As I mentioned earlier, I am really good at stuff.  That being said, I fear I may not have the capacity to learn another language.  I am beginning to think maybe language is a skill like drawing or shooting a free-throw and I simply don’t have it.  I am unused to not being able to do something or learn something extremely quickly (this may all be nonsense and in three month’s time when I’m fluent, we’ll all have a big laugh back at the hideout, but that isn’t my central point).

My central point is this.  They give you tons and tons of information on how to stay safe, how to stay healthy, how to adjust and adapt to a new culture, and basically they teach you the holistic face of success.  They never teach you how to fail.  I think one of the most important things to learn is how to stand in a place of failure.  Because there will be days when people roll their eyes in exasperation because they have repeated themselves for the third time and you aren’t merely not understanding them, you aren’t convinced that mumble of sounds is actually made up of words.  This experience is made up of extremes.  Some days are joyous beyond measure; other days you want to punch a baby.  So how does one person live in both spaces?  Well, I will tell you, right after I find out.


Maeve's Momma February 15, 2011 at 9:24:00 PM MST  

No baby punches. Bad juju. Punch bananas or something. Love, Me.

beckala February 16, 2011 at 8:58:00 PM MST  

Learning to how to fail. That is definitely underrated.

Marissa February 17, 2011 at 9:30:00 AM MST  

Clara told me one time how good it can be to experience complete dependency on other people. I've not managed yet to actually force myself to do that. Kudos to you. I remain impressed.

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A brand new mom trying to navigate the crazy world of mixed families, babies, and working full time. Phew! Just writing that makes me want to lie down.


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