Culture shock happens, it is what you do with it that counts. And, there is culture shock present even in the close recesses of your own backyard, if you look. It doesn’t have to be ‘shocking’, if you can observe from a place of detachment – meaning without judgments – and simply observe for the sake of observing. This is what I do here in this land that I am fully invested in living – fully.
The biggest obstacles are of course in the subtleties of cultural ‘norms’, ours and theirs. What we may do out of lifelong habit may be and can be completely misinterpreted here, which can be disastrous or if you are lucky, laughable. So it is important to really observe and be careful what you say and do before you jump in and ‘react’ to any given situation. Of course in my opinion to merely react to anything, here or there or home or wherever, is not a preferable thing to do, but in another culture you can blow it pretty quick if you react. Humans are creatures of habit, and to be caught in the habits – well, that happens, especially in another country. But people are people everywhere, they are creatures of habit as much as we are, and everyone – no matter what side of the fence you may exist on – needs to become self-aware of habitual patterns, patterns of reaction, and very importantly the reactions of others to your own!
Well that was a mouthful, but certainly important when people are dealing with people, no matter where you live. We have witnessed some pretty interesting situations, both with locals that are open and quite tolerant of gringos, and those that are not. It is awesome living here in that the intolerance is seldom, however people being people, it is very easy to be taken advantage of, or let’s call it downright hoodwinked, if you don’t really pay attention and do your homework.
I would say that a weakness (so to say) of ourse has been, and still tends to be in some cases, the desire to see the good in people, believe in them, and thus establish a trust or fellowship. This is probably more often good rather than not, however there are always (so it seems for us) those that want to cajole you into believing that they are ‘with you’, when they are clearly in it for themselves. This has been a large part of the mishaps of our life here as well as elsewhere, but again – people are still simply people (my Mama says that people will somewhere somehow try to take advantage of you, tsk). So where is the common ground, or should I say the neutral ground? If you want to look at life through rose colored glasses and believe that everyone is good, and indeed everyone is good somewhere inside, the goodness and God spark is there always, however how buried is it? How camouflaged is it? Yes, we can turn the other cheek and simply see the goodness, but this does not mean that you need to do ‘business’ with them! LOL, the harsh lessons, right? (aka Universal 4×4 WHACK right upside the head – ouch.)
We have heard some horror stories that are direct results from trusting those that are ‘there for you’. We have some of our own, but that is another life. Here we have been fortunate to be able to offer gifts of opportunities to a few that had a choice to make good of the opportunities, or throw them away into the habitual sea of ‘that’s me’. Twice now we have taken young men into employment, muchachos that wanted to make a change in their lives and do better for them. They could not do it, they insisted on falling back into old patterns. We are not a part of their misfortunes, but we were a part of their short lived good times. And for this we can be thankful.
On the other hand, we have met so many people that will bend over backwards to help us out in a myriad of ways, and for this we are most grateful. They go out of their way to make connections (simply amazing how they have ‘a friend’ for anything and every situation) and assist us on our journey. What a beautiful thing! They have honor and integrity and truthfulness in their own lives, and that is evident. What a joy to know them and work with them! We watch their ways of helping one another, and it seems that no matter how they feel about someone they will not neglect a need for help. Here again the family aspect is strong here, blood is certainly thicker than water, but even so they will draw the line when it comes to being the central go-to source for all things, and yes, there are family members here as well that are leeches, sad to say. People are people.
One other thing that is interesting, this country has no understanding or cultural ‘training’ in confrontation, at least from a programmed military point of view. The country was taken over by the Spanish inquisition, yes, and once again taken over by the western commercialism of the 80’s, but as far as one-on-one stuff, their fighting has been limited to adolescence and alcohol, and recently road rage. Driving is a relatively recent addition to their culture, here where we live the roads have only just become drivable in the past several years, and these folks have absolutely no skills for driving, but they have no problem playing chicken or doing really stupid things on the road! Live and learn, si? Perhaps the hard way. These folks confront in non-direct and anything but subtle ways.
The past six months have been an intense time of serious introspection as we have mulled and pondered ‘which way do we go’, as we view and consider different opportunities for the next step of our lives here. And, just recently we have made a serious decision…one that ultimately resulted from the way people are here, now. Recall that foreigners have only recently (in the past 30 years, roughly) arrived here and the influence of this has created major cultural transformations – such is life. However, an attitude developed with this regarding the ‘theory’ that all foreigners have money, an unlimited amount. Not true, of course, but needless to say this has been imprinted culturally and they all believe this. Recently with the economic worldwide crisis, this concept has led to much antagonism toward the foreigners, as the locals are barely able to live with the high cost of living here (which is the result of politics as well as other things, duh) – but the locals see the foreigners as the cause of the problems, and the source of their survival. We almost decided to move up into the mountains…until we found out that because the property has been vacated for several years, the neighbors ‘moved in’, using it as their own, hunting and pilfering primarily. BIG PROBLEM. Old saying: don’t piss off the locals. And if you do, they will NEVER let you forget it.
Isn’t this the same thing that is stuck on repeat just about everywhere else on this planet? Aren’t we all wondering if and when this will ever change? Suffice it to say that we made a big decision to NOT go play that game – again. The problem is there, we cannot make it go away, and someone else (if anyone) will have to step up to that plate, not us. We’re goin’ fishin’ instead. People are people, and the wave of change will have to engulf them…it is possible, but the remote areas of this planet are where the strongholds of those that choose to hold on to their ways of life and NOT let go to the ‘new ways’ of foreigners, no matter how ‘good’ those ways might be. There is simply no allowing for those possibilities. Sad but true, they are stuck in that rut.
We are all human, each and every one of us. And, we all reside on this planet – together. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you believe or eat or do, each one of us is on this journey of life and trying to figure things out along the way, for the most part- the figuring I mean. We all live within what is called ‘3-D consciousness’, this is the reality base of Earth, and each of us lives within this while we are here, aware of it accepting of it or not.
However, times they are a changin’. We have all stepped into the realms of a new paradigm, an opportunity for a shift in consciousness, up the evolutionary ladder of consciousness. The 100dredth Monkey Effect will happen when enough people wake up, and we will all know how to wash our food before we eat it, no matter how stubborn or stuck we are. Bless the evolution of consciousness! We are in the process, however in the meantime there is no point in arguing with those that insist on fighting for their ignorance, there are more important things to focus on. It is about time we retired from trying to ‘fix’ the world we live in and simply BE the change. Thoughts become things, focus on the dream – the changes will follow.
One step at a time.