Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gringo With A Machete

We had a funny moment last month when we took a day trip to the pacific coast. For the last 8 miles of the trip, we drive along a dirt road. As we were driving along, we had to stop because there were some large branches in the road and 2 men were cutting up the limbs. There was also an older gentleman who had been riding his bike, but was now chatting with the other guys as he waited to pass.

We stopped the car, and now I (Jeff) had a choice to make. 1) I could wait in the vehicle until they were done, and look like a priveledged gringo, or 2) I could get out and help and end up looking like a crazy gringo. Well, it is a forgone conclusion that I am crazy, so I hopped out of the car, with my machete in hand (you never leave home without one ... it is more useful than a credit card).

Now, without knowing the culture this next part may be hard to understand, but this was one of those rare days that I went out of the house in non-cultural garb. Because we were headed to the beach, I looked more like a tourist wearing my bathing suit, a t-shirt and crocks.

The men were wide-eyed with astonishment as I approached them with my machete in hand. They were probably afraid for their lives, and blinded by the whites of my legs, as they thought: "Oh-no, here comes a crazy - crock wearing - machete wielding Gringo.

I asked for permission to help them and they gave it with a bewildered shrug, and then our machetes began to sing together as we made short work of the branches. I thanked them for their help in clearing the road, and as I got back into the car my wife was having a hard time controlling her laughter at the sight me and the men's response to me. She tried to take a picture without appearing too conspicuous and here it is for your enjoyment as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sanctity of Life

***My (Bethany's) disclaimer:  I am working off my own definition of 'sanctity of life'.  This is my attempt at putting thoughts into words and needing to define something that may not be definable.  AND...I want to be clear that this is not a 'slam' on culture.  This is merely my observation and attempt at interpreting what I observe.  This aspect of culture is something that I want to continue to observe and examine.  Ok, that said....here I go.***

There is a part of the culture here that places a great emphasis on the "sanctity of life".  However, sanctity of life doesn't necessarily imply that there is a 'nurturing' of life.  There appears to be a struggle for survival here.  You know that saying, "If it doesn't kill you, it'll just make you stronger."  That gets played out on several different levels around me.  Our western mindset seems to have less of an emphasis on the sanctity of life and more of an emphasis on the reduction of suffering.  It seems that when there is a struggle to survive; nurturing seems to be put aside.  I don't think it is intentional neglect...in fact, I believe that if given the resources, nurturing would happen.  I think that here, it [nurturing] is perhaps more of a luxury that can't be afforded.  It is almost like there is a greater emphasis on the existence and preservation of life than on the quality of life.  Honestly, I've never had to struggle to survive...so therefore it is the 'extras' of life that I focus on and work toward.  It would make sense that I'd desire to reduce struggling and suffering.  However, that perspective is filtered through MY worldview and birth culture.   There is a degree of hopelessness that I've observed combined with (or because of) a lack of resources (not just money) that makes it essential to place an greater emphasis on survival, as opposed to improving quality of life (nurturing life).  This is not to say that the culture, as a whole, is hopeless and could care less about 'tender, loving, care'.  However, there is a gap between survival and nurturence.  From my perspective, I see this on the human level. 

However, I think that it is a little more obvious (or easier to make example of) on the animal level.  Let me give you an example. There are many street dogs in this city.  They look thin and malnourished...but they do look both ways before they cross the street and they do manage to survive.  The strong survive...survival of the fittest, so-to-speak.  It seems that the culture says that it would be incomprehensible to euthanize a suffering dog (or any animal) because regardless of the level of suffering, if there is 'life'...then let it be.  Putting an end to life is unthinkable..that is up to God.  Let me tell you a little story that might help illustrate my jumble of thoughts.  A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home along the main road that leads out of the 'barrio' where our kids go to school.  I was behind a big dumptruck.  Suddenly, the big truck slowed down and came to a stop.  As I was slowing down to honk my horn and pass the truck (because that is what you do), I noticed a little fledging bird in the road.  Try not to judge me...but I thought, 'Aw, poor little bird, it is going to get hit...but at least then it will be out of its misery.'  Then I saw a big, burly guy get out of the dump truck, run to the baby bird, gently scoop it up and head back to the truck.  Sanctity of Life...regardless of suffering or potential suffering...preserve life.  Let me go a step further and say, that while in this example, there appears to be a tender, loving, care element...and perhaps there is...yet, the care that is required of caring for a fledging may be too intensive to maintain.  Suffering may result.  Regardless, it was a very thought-provoking thing to witness.

Glimpses of "LIFE"
We found a cocoon, detached it from its hiding place, glued it to a stick and waited.  This is the butterfly that emerged!

A Morpho Butterly that landed on Andrew's hand!

These bright crabs seem to live in the grasses near the coast at the beach that we enjoying visiting.  So, I guess you could call it 'crab grass'. (sorry, couldn't help it.)

This momma and baby belong to some friends of ours.  The baby is only about 10 days old when we took this photo.