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January 30, 2006
I have been trying to think how my family and the culture in general might react to my behaviors as a foreigner. My everyday actions are those that are most likely to cause the “Type II” reactions we learned about, those host culture responses to foreigners’ behaviors. For instance, my day would begin like any other day. I would come downstairs to eat breakfast. Instead of the usual eggs and bread my host mother serves me some unusual (to me) dish that I just cannot stomach. I thank my mom for the food but throw most of it away. Throwing away the food she has lovingly prepared is offensive. In turn this may cause her to react by thinking I have an ungrateful attitude even though this was never my intent. Her reaction to my actions continues when I head out the door without a sweatshirt. My mom believes I do not value or heed her advice to bundle up for the cold. I did not mean to offend; I just do not think it is cold enough for a sweatshirt. My innocent reactions each day could cause a reaction by offending the ones I love the most here in Guatemala. While I hope this does not happen often, I know I have caused Type II reactions like those described. I must do my best to prevent such reactions, but cannot be so hard on myself when they do happen. This is part of adjusting to a new culture. But each day I am here I am learning more and more- that gives me hope that my actions will stick out less and less!
Today has been a day of intense Spanish. Learning and talking Spanish for hours and hours is very tiring. My mouth rebels and does not want to form the words correctly. In spite of that I am grateful for this opportunity. As Henri Nouwen says, “I am always surrounded by Spanish and I hope these sounds will become more and more familiar to me.”