Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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5/27/12 Today, I learned a big lesson in cultural differences and how our actions (or lack thereof) can be perceived by others. Because of the language barrier we share with our host family, we need to try to be extra careful to not put on any kind of facial expression or emit body language that could possibly be misconstrued due to the lack of dialogue that accompanies it. There are so many things I am trying to get used to when it comes to being here, and at times I have found myself forgetting that there are cultural differences at play here and that it’s too easy to get complacent. For example, the family here gets up super early, even on the weekends. Nobody sleeps in, whereas I didn’t get up today until 9, and didn’t emerge from my room until 10:30 or so. Later, I learned that Dona Helena had gone through all the trouble of making breakfast for us, and eventually put it away because nobody was there to eat it. Upon hearing this, I felt devastated. She works so incredibly hard to make sure that everybody is taken care of in every way possible; from what I’ve seen, she hardly ever sits down to take a break for herself, she is the first one up in the morning and one of the last people to go to bed, and she is constantly making sure that nobody has want or need for anything. When I had a stomachache, she boiled me a pot of special tea to make me feel better. Whenever she prepares a snack for herself, she always brings it out to share. It’s little things like that that make her so special; she always puts the needs of others before herself. The last thing I want for her is to feel like we are taking advantage of her, and I want her to know that I appreciate everything she does. Another example would be our obsession with technology and the kind of presence we emit while we’re fixated on it. We used our “free day” to catch up on homework, get news from back home, Skype, etc., not really realizing what kind of message it sends when we’re glued to our computers. I think while we are here, we’re partly using them as a way to feel a familiar connection; as badly as we want to talk to the family here – converse with them, take part in the dialogue, stories, laughter, etc. – we just can’t because we can’t follow along… and it is FRUSTRATING! So on the flip-side, our lack of involvement can be misconstrued as a lack of interest. We need to learn how to find that delicate medium so we can make sure there’s no ambiguity in our actions. -Shayla

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