Minority - 5 Years (Section 5)

Along with the process of language learning, comes the inescapable fact that, no matter how much you want to just blend in, you do not. All of the lovely integration, cross-cultural understanding, and community-building discussed previously only comes through a period of patience, frustration, and feeling like “other.”

Clearly the process is not an easy one – and at first it generates quite a bit of heat. Some challenges were foreseeable, others not as much. Having always been a member of the majority ethnic group in the United States, becoming a minority in a biased culture that does not shy away from emphasizing the difference between ethnicities has been a challenge. Not only do many Honduras naturally- and internally-assume us to be strange, wealthy people seeking to give away our presumed fortune to every acquaintance, they often have no hesitation in expressing that feeling by candidly or indirectly asking for a piece of that pie. Not only do we deal with unbreaking stares and solicitations from passersby, we are often ignorantly (and innocently) addressed as “Gringo” and “Gringa” by complete strangers. Every trip to town involves multiple conversations surrounding our US identity. Many just address me according their perception of me – Chele Pel√≥n (Bald White Guy*). 


Tuesday Morning Photo

A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sits on her nest in a chain-link fence at our next-door neighbor's house. This is our most common of a plethora of hummingbirds. We've seen multiple nests in our yards over the past several years. They're always a sight to see.


Language - 5 Years (Section 4)

It would be a mistake to reflect on our cross-cultural learning experience without mentioning the critical role of language in culture. The interplay between language and culture is often subtle, but occasionally we see evidence of the strong correlation. Jokes often famously fail to translate well across languages – Monty Python humor and the jokes of Kung Fu movies come to mind. It’s not that the words are unfamiliar or unintelligible, they just often fail to strike a chord. Like looking at the face of a CGI human face that falls in the uncanny valley. To directly translate words without really understanding the social context often does little more than communicate the basic elements of a conversation while leaving it devoid of meaningful emotion. The true implications of a conversation come when squarely-placed in local context and culture.

When we learn to not only speak a language, but to understand the marriage of language and culture, our relationships with our brothers and sisters of different cultures are enriched exponentially. We begin to not only receive information, but absorb unspoken words and hidden meanings. When I talk about biscuits and sausage gravy, my subconscious mind is silently-filled with memories of well-fed Saturday mornings that kicked off a summer’s day of fishing with my brother. A rich tapestry of flavors, feelings, smells, and sensations back up the simple words “biscuits and gravy.” I have discovered that those outside of my native Appalachian culture do not always share my appreciation of those words. I say “biscuits and gravy” – they hear “lumpy bread smeared in cardiac death lard.” Each of us react viscerally to our understanding of what those words represent. I salivate; they recoil.


Tuesday Morning Photo

Alida, Abi, and Kensi play in the goat house/play house. They're pretty big fans of chasing the bantam chickens around the enclosure.