Cultural Differences (by Colleen)

In two words: No Privacy! While adjusting to the heat of Panamá and lack of running water (fixed now!), nothing seems easy. Most of my days start out with “Why am I here?” While I´m sure the good Lord is testing my patience, he is also helping me to understand why I am here: to help ensure  that folks get good clean running water, always!

Back to privacy. Visiting is the thing to do here, and seeing as I have the only white baby in the country (ha! Ha! No but seriously, it does feel this way at times), she is pretty popular. Some days I have visitors what seems to be all day, and other days, I might only get one visit. Don´t forget it is more difficult for me to receive visitors, because I am still learning Spanish.

One day, I felt so frustrated and Alan came back with a really good analogy that hit home for me. He said, “Colleen, we might as well be from Mars. Some of these people have never left the countryside, if they do travel, it isn´t far from home. Some of the wives that visit you are lonely, their husbands are out working all day, the kids are in school…Picture a family moving next door to us from Mars…they build a funny house, and look and act a little differently from what we are accustomed. Of course we are going to be very curious to learn more about them.”

Sure enough, the next afternoon, while receiving a visit from Elena and her 2 young children, her little girl kept saying she wanted to go home. Elena responded with some words I didn´t understand, but I made sure to remember them and ask Alan later…She responded to her little girl with….I am lonely.

So while being from Mars helps me cope, little by little I have learned to appreciate my neighbors. They are all genuinely interested, friendly, helpful, and generous (and of course helping me learn Spanish faster). I really couldn´t have asked for nicer neighbors. I do realize as the language barrier lessens, I will be talking up a storm!

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