So I thought I would throw up some stories that we have not yet shared with you all. I think that I will start with how much children are doted on. First of all I should begin by saying that when we first meet people, we are asked our names, places of origin, and ages almost always. For a married couple though we are always asked if we have kids. I guess that is not surprising. Anyway, one day I was hanging out in the Centro making faces at this woman’s baby. She saw me doing this and when she passed by me she stopped so that I could love on the baby. Basically if someone puts a baby in your face, which happens rather frequently, you had better praise it and at least touch it if you are not going to hold, perhaps, a complete strangers child. Unless you want people to think you are a jerk! There is a woman in the Centro who has a 4 month old baby girl. She is a very chill baby and everyone holds her. This past Monday, the janitor was playing with her and then, BAM, she was in my arms. I am not really accustomed to holding babies, especially babies whose parents I do not know well. Finally he took her back, but took that opportunity to thrust her into Mat’s arms. Mat was maxed out after about a minute. And when he tried to give her back, the janitor called him “mala gente” or bad people. A little strong but I think it was supposed to be a joke. Then later that day, they asked us how much milk babies in the US drink in a day. We had no idea and they certainly seemed surprised by our lack of baby knowledge. Silly gringo!
Mat and I are finally settled into this new house, right? Well, it is pretty great. The other couple that is supposedly living here has a few, ah, children that look in on the house. One is a boy who could not be older than 12. We always chat a bit when he comes in to feed the birds. So the other day, he pulls out an egg from his pocket. “Oh,” I say. Then he asks if I would like to buy the egg. “No thanks. We have plenty right now.” Two days later, he tried to sell Mat a wallet. While it is always a little funny in the moment, it is actually a sad story. He doesn’t have parents and so he is obviously working already to help provide from himself and his siblings. Although, he does not come during school hours, which makes me think that he does go.
Oh yes, so I refer above to the fun questions we get asked when we first meet people. Those are the most common. However, I would like to share some of my other favorites. How tall are you? How much do you weigh? What size shoe do you wear? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Are you a Catholic or an Evangelical?
Are you a Mennonite (yes they do exist here, ah, home sweet home)? What size shoe do you wear? We have one friend whose family during training wanted to know her weight and would not leave her alone about it. She is a tall woman, just shorter than Mat, and women just do not come in this size. So when she finally told them her weight, her host mother’s mouth dropped wide open. They just could not comprehend it. I find these questions hilarious. We talk so much about how indirect this culture is and then they ask these sorts of questions. They are very direct about that stuff, which is totally opposite from the States. For example, wait, let me back up and first say that when I arrived here I weighed around 133. Within two to three weeks I had lost about 10-12 pounds. It certainly was not intentional. Let me just say, my body did not handle the change in food so well and I dropped all of my weight Wiegand (for those of you not privy, that is my maternal side of my family) style, if you all feel me. Back to my example: when people see photos of Mat and I, EVERYONE tells me how much more gorda (fat) I was in past. They point and say, “Tú eras más gorda aquí.” My family in Dueñas used to grab my arms, belly, and cheeks and tell me I needed more meat in those places. Plus everyone refers to themselves here as gordo/a. Being from the US where practically everyone hates their bodies, I am programmed to say, “No, no, that is crazy.” Being gordo/a here is fine, in fact, it is preferred. It is very refreshing to see that most people here have good body images, although I am sure insecurities exist. They are probably coming on strong with so much influence from the US. Hopefully it doesn’t change, but practically every female newscaster here has breasts of the plastic variety. It is beautiful while it lasts (yikes, there is some pessimism for you).
Okay, lastly. There is a very heated debate on what we call pop in the US. Is it soda, soda pop, pop, or coke? People strongly defend their regional word of choice. Well try this one on for size. Here pop (Midwest! What, what!) is called agua, or for those of you that need the translation, that would be water. So when you tell someone you would like “a water” you may end up with a coke. I must admit that the pop here is better than the US. They use real sugar, instead of corn syrup, so it is not overwhelmingly sweet. And it still comes in glass bottles. Just remember to always ask for Agua Pura!
---Sarah (even though it says Mateo underneath this) @ 8-22-2008