Culturally Appropriate Conversation
Names are omitted to protect the innocent, although they probably wouldn’t care or see anything wrong with it if their names were included, because they have no issue with the topic or the fact that this occurred, but… well, just read on.
I am always amazed at the things that we talk about when I am with my other-culture friends. Topics of conversation are a very cultural thing, in case you didn’t know. Things that we would never talk about in polite company in The South are common conversation fodder here. Take my breakfast group the other day, for example. I went to my friend’s home for breakfast and a small devotional time. By the way, “short time of breakfast and devotional” means that I was there from 9:15 – 12:15 and the only reason it ended was because I said that I needed to get some things done in town before I picked up Sarah from school! Time is cultural, too. Anyway, I went to my friend’s house. It was an unusually cold day for May, and it was dreary and rainy. In her home, all the lights were off. The only light was coming from the television and it was showing cartoons (my friend and her spouse are both in their 50s, no children in the home). We sat on the sofa and chatted while we waited for another friend to arrive. Husband joined us in the chatter. When Friend 2 arrived, the TV was turned off, the lights were turned on, and we pulled up to the table and began to have breakfast. Coffee was poured. My friend made a traditional cornbread-type cake for breakfast, which she served with a bowl of fruit. There was a basket of individual pre-wrapped store bought cookies on the table, too, since Husband won’t eat cornbread for breakfast... another story.
I had eaten Friend 1’s cornbread before (delicious!), but today it was covered – I mean COVERED thick – in sesame seeds. I thought that was interesting, but I am forever in “learner mode”, so I just observed and took mental note. Pretty soon, she announces that she read an article on Facebook about the incredible health properties of sesame seeds and how they could be the cure for cancer. The others at the table were impressed with this and pronounced it wonderful that she had added sesame seeds to the cornbread and that we would not die of cancer, Hallelujah Gloria a Dios.
This started a conversation on another article that Friend 2 had read on “the Facey Booky” regarding bananas (she never ceases to make me smile when she says “the Facey Booky”). She read that very ripe bananas also have incredible anti-cancer properties. So she has been buying bananas and letting them go brown before she eats them so she won’t get cancer. And she has been eating several bananas each week as a preventative. Friend 1 pronounced this as good, as she had also heard that bananas were excellent for our health and that all the ‘futbolistas’ (professional soccer players) eat bananas and drink a certain bottled water to keep them in top form. Friend 1 only buys Aquarius brand bottled water for this reason (guess the marketing campaign is working).
Well, now, Husband had to chime in with a skepticism on the fruit article. He just didn’t think that we should be eating so many bananas. Here it comes, Folks… When he eats bananas, he gets constipated. Therefore, bananas couldn’t be good for you, because it is not good to be constipated. If he eats bananas, and he gets constipated, then he has to have Friend 1 cook special foods for him to get him moving again. And when he finally gets moving again, it is a diarrhea explosion. I can’t believe we are having this conversation. I want to crawl under the table. Can this man truly be telling these three ladies all about his constipation and diarrhea??? Friend 1 supports his claim and goes in to even more detail as to his potty habits. She says that Husband potties at the same time every day, and she knows that something is intestinally wrong when he doesn’t potty at the right time. So she commences to cooking the special diet that will make him potty. Husband says, “No. Bananas could not be good for you.” He says this as he opens his third pre-packaged store bought cookies for breakfast.
Just as quickly as it started, it was over and the question was raised as to what the Bible has to say about the sanctity of marriage. WHAT?! Did we really just make that dramatic jump and switch from constipation and diarrhea to the sanctity of marriage? Yep, we did.
Then we flopped over to the Great Commandments and how they fit in with the 10 Commandments. Whew! Another dramatic swing in topic!
A knock on the door brought Friend 3 in to the game, and she brought a new topic to the table… being lazy in our prayer lives. My head feels like it is spinning. Did we just spend half of our breakfast and study time talking about potty habits, and now we are talking at the depth of comparing the Great Commandment to the 10 Commandments and the importance of prayer in our lives? Yes, yes we did and yes we are… that is exactly how it happened.
I think about how time is so much a part of culture. In my home culture, if a breakfast conversation spent an hour or so talking about potty habits and intestinal issues, people would have left the table. Not only because of the topic of conversation, but because it wasn’t an “efficient or effective use of time”… how could you spend devotional and study time talking about this? But I’m so glad that relationship and conversation trumps time in my new culture. Sitting for half of the time talking about bodily functions and food and life is just a part of how this culture works, and it leads in to deep conversations about the good stuff! So, I’m learning how to just roll with it – to just roll with the fact that bowel movements and The Gospel somehow do have a place together at the table. It’s a tough one for this Southern girl who was raised on manners and proper etiquette, but I think that God was sitting at the table, too, and He was probably just laughing at watching me squirm in the cultural intrigue of the day. And I’m sure that He was very happy with the whole scenario, because deeper relationship was built and a lot of love was sitting at the table, talking about whatever came up, and enjoying each other’s company in it all, and learning about The Word along the way.
PATRICIA A GOINS
5/29/2014 01:01:20 am
LOL I could see your face through this whole thing. You were uncomfortable but polite and used the manners you had learned way back then. We all have situations like this, I was thinking as I read. Isn't it wonderful to get to the place in life where you can look past the "really?" part and wait for the "relationship" part which leads to the "real" part. I like that. Thanks for the early morning smile today!
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In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!