Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The siesta is a lost art.

I'm finding that more and more of what I was taught about both the Spanish language and Latino culture is unfortunately not true. Like, the word for pen? It's apparently pencilito. Not bolígrafo or pluma or lápiz or any of the other words we learned in high school Spanish. And the siesta, which we all believe Latin Americans take every day in the hot afternoon hours? No such thing. Well, at least not here in our part of Mexico.

In fact, when I was trying to get some of the local kids out of our house a few days ago (because we've somehow become the main attraction for the neighborhood kids), I told them, "Vamos a echar siesta ahora," which means, "We're going to take a nap now." One of the girls looked around at the other kids and then back at me and asked in utter disbelief, "¿Van a...dormir?" Yes. We're going to sleep. Or, at the very least, we'd like some quiet time to ourselves. In the middle of the afternoon. Isn't this something they should understand? Didn't our Spanish teachers tell us that they take siestas? Like...every day?

Our Spanish teachers, or at least mine, were wrong.

This neighborhood is wide awake from about 6:30am until 10:30pm. Kids, adults, babies, dogs, and cats. Our little family wakes up later, occasionally sleeps in the middle of the day, and goes to bed long before the rest of the neighborhood. I'm sure we seem, to them, like very lazy North Americans.

One thing I'm figuring out as we work through this is that I like structure. And privacy. And predictability. I'm not used to hearing knocks on my door over and over again throughout the day. I don't really like to be called on unexpectedly. A few times a week is what I'm used to, but not six or seven times a day. Because, seriously, sometimes I need to go to the bathroom. And sometimes I just want to write and not be bothered. And sometimes I don't WANT all of the neighborhood kids in my house. Especially when Scott is on the phone for work, which is pretty much all day from 8:30-5:00. We get grouchy when Scott is working and there are loud kids in and around our house. Because nothing says "I'm not actually working" like a bunch of screaming kids in the background during a conference call. Hopefully the kids getting back to school next week will take care of some of this.

I'm thinking that getting used to this very open neighborhood, where the children treat everyone like they are part of the family, is one of the challenges I'll have to overcome in order to adapt to this culture. That kind of openness is not in my nature, so it may be a bit of a struggle. In terms of the phases of culture shock (honeymoon, crisis, recovery, adjustment), I think we're rattling back and forth between the first three stages. As we recover from each mini-crisis, we edge a little closer to adaptation. At least...that's the hope!


Fulton said...

ive always been taught that "siestas" were just "from the country of Spain" thing and not just a spanish culture thing. im not surprised that the Mexican kids were confused, but I would be surprised if you were in Barcelona and they had the same reaction.

I'm loving hearing about your experiences, keep them coming!

Bri!!! said...

Wow that would be very annoying. I don't like unexpected visitors either. I often don't answer my door:-). As for siestas, in Dan's mission they did take them EVERY DAY. Maybe it's just a south american thing. I think it will get better once school starts.

Hillary Dickman said...

I'm hoping that things improve with school starting! I often don't answer my door at home, but here it seems to be impossible. The kids are very determined. And really sweet and polite, too, I should say.

Where was Dan's mission -- I can't remember. Uruguay maybe? Or Peru? Where did you go for yours?

I need all the Latin American cultural help I can get!!

Grandpa Foy said...

There are some of the smaller businesses that close between 2:00 and 4:00. I don't know what they actually do during those 2 hours, but it's probably related to a long lunch. If you need something done during that period it can be a bit frustrating.

Many people have the misconception that Mexicans are lazy. Our experience over the last 18 months has shown most all of them to be the exact opposite. They may only work long enough to get the money needed to live and then take it easy for a while. What's wrong with that??