Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our guests, two Haitian teen-agers

My husband called yesterday to let me know we'd be having two guests for three days, two young men he met when he was teaching architectural drawing in Haiti. So my mind is looking through the cupboards and frig wondering what to feed them. It's been many years since I had a teen-ager in the house, and I seem to remember they eat constantly. Haitians actually appear healthier than Americans because most are not overweight. In fact, they are quite thin. From my husband's visits I know beans and rice, rice and beans, and the occasional chicken or goat are standard fare. You don't want me fixing rice anymore than you'd want my coffee, and well, goat meat's a bit scarce this time of year. E. and F., who speak 4 languages but are having some intensive training in English right now, are in for an amazing ride--they are coming to the U.S. with the help of Christian sponsors to become doctors. That's what--10 or 12 years of education? I guess no one from Communist Cuba or Venezuela offered. Their first Ohio winter should be a shocker to their systems. Right now it's hot and humid, with nothing to worry about except air conditioning. Not so Akron in February.

Last week I attended a seminar by Dr. Gene Swanger on Buddhism. He noted in passing that when he'd take college students to Japan for 6 weeks the first thing they'd notice were similarities, "They are just like us!" This is because we are all--everyone of us--mind restricted to the culture we know best. It's only after some familiarity that we notice and become comfortable (or uncomfortable) with the differences, which are so vast it could take years to really understand another culture. And you don't get this sitting in the classroom.

I've never seen a study on this, but I think we first notice color and clothing (or fashion if you are female) because everyone has skin and we all wear clothes! "They are just like us!" You see smiles, gestures, state of health, and then later begin to see that a gesture or movement doesn't mean what your culture taught you.

It should be an interesting three days of learning and sharing from both sides. If a Haitian woman found out on short notice she would be having guests, she'd also be thinking about what to feed them to make them feel at home and to put her family's situation in the best light. In that, we are very similar.

1 comment:

Norma said...

I noticed the similarities immediately. Their cell phones are never out of their hands.