We awoke to festive street music at 4:30 this morning. Trumpets, trombones and drums marched by our house, rattling our windows and interrupting our dreams. October is a month full of celebration in Baños, Ecuador. Every day, a different barrio (neighborhood) takes it’s turn to lead a processional to the basilica in the city center. People parading with flowers, bands blasting, and fireworks booming – all for the celebration of life in Baños de Agua Santa. The Virgin Mary is the patron saint and protector of this sacred town which lies at the base of an active volcano.
Until now, I have been so focused on learning the language that I have only brush-stroked the surface of culture. This week, while developing teaching materials to facilitate the Story Portrait Project (in Spanish), I was reminded of the intricate and somewhat delicate layers of culture that build over decades and centuries, as societies evolve. As foreigners, we first encounter the tip of the iceberg, noticing and reporting the visible aspects of culture. I have taken thousands of pictures of surface-level culture; the way people dress, typical foods, transportation, housing, festivals, holidays… After seven months in South America, my family is beginning to experience latin culture at a deeper level. These aspects of culture are more difficult to capture with a camera or even a pen. But the experiences make for good family discussions and learning opportunities. Why do people do what they do? What influences our behaviors? Which differences in lifestyle, if even subtle, bump our boat or jerk our chain?
Acknowledging these abrasions (and congruencies) is foundational for cultural adaptation. At our core is a need to fit in – to be accepted and appreciated. Becoming multi-cultural in our understanding of the human spirit is the essence of cross-cultural living. We are learning to swim in Ecuadorian waters. Priceless.
I savor these last 3 months of our sabbatical year. What a ride it has been. Every day brings new experiences, lovely people, unique challenges, and opportunities to GoGiveLearn!