"It's not better, it’s not worse, it's just different". Ask any one of Ernie's students about adjusting to culture and that is one of his first quotes. We have a tendency to think our culture is the best one; that the way we do things is the 'right' way of doing things - that others are doing it 'wrong'. Well, you can probably survive life with that attitude if you stay within your own culture, although the world is becoming more and more multi-cultural. The chance of running into someone who does things 'wrong' is more and more likely.
Having lived in Latin America before, we were not amazed when we ran into things that were 'different'. Another thing Ernie has said over the years is, "You can choose to try to change millions of people or you can change yourself." I think that the latter would be the better, and less frustrating, choice (although some people struggle with change).
I would like to share with you some of the things we absolutely LOVE about living in Latin American; Mexico in particular. The first thing is the people group. When God made Latins He did an amazing job! I have said this before and I will say it again - Latins are the warmest and most embracing people. From our neighbours, who have stopped to welcome us and offer to help us with anything, to the friendly smiling faces we meet though-out the day, or to the car next to us who helps with directions (cause we are lost once again). The well known phrase, "Mi Casa es su Casa", is true in its deepest sense.
Time is another thing we love about this culture. In North America we are time conscious; driven and managed by our watches. Latins however are people conscious. If you are visiting with someone, and you have an appointment, you don't look at your watch and say you gotta go. But rather you take your time and finish with the people you are with. You get there when you get there.
The food! Oh la la...have we had some great food already. We did arrive a little flavourless as our typical Mennonite food is a tad bit bland compared to the spicy Mexican cuisine. We have enjoyed the tacos, the seafood, the flautas, the enchiladas, the avocados and mangos, and the list goes on. I was hoping to lose weight here...that might be a bit of a challenge.
I will refrain from mentioning the weather...just know that I LOVE IT!!
There are, of course, some things we are needing to learn to appreciate. The first thing that comes to mind is the whole ‘rules of the road’ and the actual roads themselves. Rules of the road are somewhat nebulous. You can make a left hand turn from the extreme right hand lane! The speed limit at times seems to be a suggestion. When the traffic light switches to red, that does not mean they are all gonna stop; several cars will often still drive through. Defensive driving is the only 'rule of the road'.
|smaller speed bumps!|
The actual roads themselves are my challenge. The streets have on average about three lanes. Said lanes are not made with painted lines but rather a 'knowing' to divide the street into thirds and stay roughly in your third! So as you are trying to stay in your third, you must watch all other vehicles (as they could do any random thing), watch the lights and stop signs, and be on the lookout for speed bumps! These are not your average little bumps, but small mountains which will give you air if you don't notice them. There are 2 kinds, your regular small mountain kind or the button kind. Slowing down is not an option but a must! New tires should probably be in the upcoming budget.
Another thing we will have to adapt to (the sooner the better) is the size of Guadalajara itself. I remember living in Managua, Nicaragua and being given directions like, "una cuadra arriba, 3 al lago y 300 metros abajo." Translated, 'one block up, 3 towards the lake and 300 meters down.' No street signs to speak of, just land marks and this up and down thing. Well, in GDL they have some street signs, and it might take you 6 blocks to find one, so you know what street you are on. There is also this funny thing of the same street changing its name as it meanders through the city. I am, at heart, a rural gal. Moving to a city the size of GDL has been overwhelming. Finding our way around has been daunting at times, an adventure at others, and occasionally frustrating. But, we figured out Managua, we figured out Chihuahua, and we shall figure out GDL. I said I would NEVER drive in Managua, and I drove. I said I wouldn't drive in Chihuahua, but did. So the other day, to get it over with, I drove to the grocery store. THERE!
I am so very thankful that we are not new, green, first time, missionaries. I don't have to battle with trying to communicate, I sort of speak Spanish :) I love the culture and the people. So, basically we are just adjusting to living in a city of 4-7 million - just a tad larger than Steinbach!! As Shrek said, "Change is good, Donkey!"