Monday, August 8, 2011

The Mustard Isn't By the Ketchup

While at the grocery store in Guatemala City this weekend Kemmel was looking for mustard and came to the realization that Guatemalan stores and American stores don't exactly group their products on the shelf in the same way.

Sometimes it's frustrating to keep realizing that no matter how long you live somewhere you don't think like the locals. Just this last month Kemmel has been on the hunt for a replacement part for one of the work trucks.  This part is nowhere to be found apparently, including the dealership (although they tried to slip us a part that supposedly would fit--after looking up our VIN number and model number for confirmation), three different parts outfits in Zone 8 (crazy chop-shop area of the city) and a popular used parts store. So far the best answer is bring in the old one and we'll take a bigger one and cut it down to size...

A few days ago we were sitting at lunch after clinic and talking about the differences in life in the United States and here in Guatemala.  I was talking about how in the States it's common for young people to leave home and start their own home, sometimes hours away from their family.  They asked how far away our family lives from each other and were amazed to find out that people lived in different States even.  I was thinking about how Americans look at the small, cramped housing situations that families have here, and how we feel sorry for them for having to live with extended family in such small spaces, when all along, they feel sorry for us that we live so far removed from each other.

Likewise, healthcare workers in general are big proponents of birth control and family planning, always encouraging couples to be responsible and to think about limited  money and resources for raising and educating their children to be successful professionals.  On the flipside, people here are amazed to find out that we have so many nursing homes in the States and that not all people live with their children when they get older and can't work or take care of themselves anymore.  Or that people be worried about "retirement" funds to cover retirement living expenses if they have children who could take care of them.

While its frustrating sometimes to work with people that don't see life the way we do (and vice versa) it's eye-opening and helps put some of our priorities in perspective and make us want to see things the way God does rather than from our cultural lenses. Not easy, but a fun challenge and probably good for us!

By the way, the mustard and mayonaise are on an shelf together with the oils, and ketchup is by the spaghetti sauce and hot sauce and other tomato products two aisles over... who knew?


The Logans said...

Great perspectives. After living here for awhile, it does become easier to appreciate their viewpoints on things like caring for one's family. I remember other Guatemalans who have visited the States feeling as though the streets and neighborhoods there are so lonely. It sure made me look at things differently the next time we went back!

Jennifer said...

I can totally relate to this post! Even after 2.5 years back in the States, I still have to stop and think about where Americans would put certain things (like matches or soy sauce) in the grocery store. The majority of my grocery-shopping experience has still been in Brazil (although I couldn't find anything when I moved there!) I think that getting to know another worldview gives us a hint as to how big God is.