A lesson from my yogurt
Sleeping in, even on a Saturday isn’t really possible yet, since I’m not accustomed to the 5:30 sunrise, so this morning I hit the books again and tackled some of the homework I have this weekend. After awhile, I decided to help myself to some yogurt and have a little “pre-breakfast” snack. The yogurt was Joel’s pick — all-natural plain (I prefer vanilla) so I sprinkled a little sugar on top to make up for the sour taste. Imagine my disgust when I put a spoonful of salty yogurt in my mouth!
“Now, why would they put SALT in a SUGAR bowl!?! Clearly, this is a sugar bowl, complete with a spoon. Where on earth is the sugar, if this is the salt!?!”
And then I realized I have to look at everything in a new culture with a new definition.
Things that I may feel quite confident in may actually prove to be frustrating here in a new environment. Not all of them are big changes, and although I’m not overwhelmed with it all yet, I can see how dozens of “new definitions” each day can pile up to be overwhelming.
Things like getting excited about finally having “salsa” (a staple in our house, maybe even more than bread and milk) and then realizing that really means “Tabasco sauce.”
When “hot water” is now a lukewarm liquid that would have previously resulted in a call to the plumber. And something that is completely non-existent in dishwashing and yet, no one is ill and we have not yet shared any viruses.
Here “safety” means taking different routes to school in the morning and making certain the gate is locked and bars on the windows of houses in even the nicest of neighborhoods. It used to mean….oh, I don’t even remember, it’s been so redefined here. I dream of taking walks at night around my neighborhood and not looking over my shoulder.
“Crossing the street” requires a great deal of prayer and divine guidance as one embarks on a real life version of Frogger. I’m not even sure it was necessary to look both ways when we crossed streets in our home neighborhood.
“Doing well in school” meant that I mastered the alphabet in one week and was permitted to move on to nouns, adjectives and a few basic verbs. Quite humbling to not even have the vocabulary of a 3 year old.
But then there are the wonderful new definitions that are much easier to embrace:
“Fresh squeezed orange juice” is no longer something only enjoyed on special occasions at fancy restaurants with white tablecloths. It’s such a common drink in the farmer’s market and we can stop and watch them squeeze a glass of sweet juice for less than 40 cents.
For Joel, “going for a ride” now means winding miles and miles through the countryside and mountain villages and seeing Ticos carrying fresh milk in old wine bottles back from the farm or harvesting coffee. It no longer has the predictability of straight unending roads through Midwestern prairies.
“Lunch” is a small savory feast that awaits us when we come home from school each day before starting homework, not a quick sandwich in the kitchen before heading back to the office to edit or having to stop in the middle of making progress on a project to make a meal.
And although we haven’t tried it, nearly every restaurant in the city delivers…even McDonalds! So when I get that craving for good ol’ American fat, I’m only a phone call away from obesity.
“Getting lost” isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be. Even in the worst of scenarios, I can hail an ever-present cab, utter less than 5 words in my faulty new language, and I’ll be whisked away from an unfamiliar territory to my new home, for less than $2, even from the farthest end of the city!
“Work” now means getting to be daily with people from around the world who share many of the same passions I have and are at a similar stage in their lives, whether single, married, 20 or 60 years old. The passion of the student body at our school is invigorating and encourages us to soak in our language classes to be able to use our Spanish in creative and effective work.
And so when I look at a sugar bowl and expect to taste sweet fine powder and am instead disappointed for getting salt, I am learning to take it in stride and embrace the new definition and thank God for the opportunity for my world to be enlarged beyond my tiny borders.
May I be a person that can be molded to accept new definitions.