Thursday, April 16, 2015

lessons // cultural physical gestures

I have been obsessing over reading expat blogs lately and loving the hilarious culture mixing stories and, honestly, how much I can relate to them. It's really fun to read something that isn't like what my life used to be back home, what my life could be like (again, at home in the US), or what I could imagine life as. It's stuff that we're going through right now, and it is quite the breath of fresh air. (Currently, I really resonating with this post, and definitely this one, and still laughing from reading this one.) Jamey and I seriously need more expat friends so they can tell us more funny stories like the ones we've experienced being in our host culture.

One of the things that I was recently laughing about was the differences in common physical mannerisms used here in Honduras in contrast to the ones used in the States that I was explaining in one of my English class lessons. Trust me, my friend that I was teaching was laughing just as hard as I was. I would describe a situation and ask her to show me how she would do whatever phrase without words. Knowing what her answers would be (very different than mine), I asked her to go first and said that I would show her the way I do it second. She was amazed at the results, simply because some things I did made absolutely no sense to her. She said "What are you doing? That means the same thing to you as what I just did?". Yes, the same thing.... just in different cultures.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a few Honduran physical mannerisms that were the topic of conversation, that over the last year and a half Jamey and I have learned to love to use here. We'll place the GIF before the description just for fun, so that you can try to guess what it is before you read about it. (Please excuse our not-so-high-quality GIF making. We put these together quickly!)

Example #1: The Lip Point

Thought it may seem like I'm blowing the most intense kiss ever to Jamey, I'm not. This is how Honduran's point! It's rude to point with your finger, unless whatever it is that you're talking about is rather far away. Instead, you purse your lips strongly and raise your chin in the general direction of the object. Sometimes it's not always extremely specific, but it can definitely get someone to look behind them or take another look more closely. It's extremely effective, and if done quickly, discrete as well.

Example #2: The Hand Slap

Now, yes, there has to be a better name for this one but, to me, it's not really able to be described in a few words. Though here it is show really fast and not exactly clear, what you do is put the tips of your thumb and middle finger together like you are going to snap with your index finger limp. Instead of snapping, you shake your hand rapidly, which causes you index finger to flap around and make a loud noise when it hits your hand. Jamey can actually do it well, but I still can't... mainly because I think my mind knows that my index finger might get injured and doesn't allow it to move like that! This motion is commonly done in moments where we might say "Ohhh ouch", "Ohhhhhhhhhh my GOSH", or "Holy crap!", like when someone says something that they shouldn't have, you paid a price for something way over the fair/reasonable price, etc. Again, very hard to explain but any Latino instantly recognizes it!

Example #3: The Elbow Tap

The elbow tap is another motion that requires absolutely no words, but carries a big meaning. If you tap you elbow like this, or maybe say something like "need a little oil for this spot?" while touching your elbow, this means you are calling someone tight, stingy, or a penny-pincher. Many people look to make jokes with this move.

Example #4: The "Come Here" Motion

So we're still trying to master this one, but to do a "come here" motion, you hold your arm out, make your wrist fall limp, then flop your hand up and down a little. Now, imagine this in contrast to our custom, which is to fold in our elbow, hold our hand upward, and move it away from us then towards us. My friend especially thinks the way we do it makes absolutely no sense to her. She laughed about our differences on this motion for a good 5 minutes and told me that ours looks like we are fanning ourselves!

We hope you enjoyed this post and our attempt to do this physical gestures correctly. Now imagine -- we have described here only physical gesture differences in culture!! There are so many other differences that you would never guess, that we will have to report on another day.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

personal // gracia -- easter conference 2015

As some of you may know from us talking about it last year, the whole week of Easter is celebrated in Honduras. Mostly everyone is off from work and goes on some sort of vacation or on a trip to see family that lives further away. Within GCLA, we celebrate "Semana Santa" (Holy Week) with an annual Easter conference that takes place from Wednesday to Friday in San Pedro Sula. It concludes on Friday, as Good Friday is the major celebrated day of the week (rather than Resurrection Sunday, as it is for us back in the U.S.).

The annual conference is really big; it gathers together various people from the over 30 churches in the network. 
This year the conference was called "Gracia" (grace). We especially enjoyed talks about how God can work in our lives when we live in humility, about how there comes a point in every lost person's life that only grace can truly save them, and much more. Obviously, grace is an absolutely crucial topic for our faith.

While we could list out all of the things we did on our trip, we think it is more important to be real and honest about our week. Missionary life is far from perfect and sometimes would not even be described as good. Any missionary will tell you that your purpose in being here is God teaching you about all of the ugly in yourself just as much as it is you attempting to be the hands and feet. But sometimes we feel that people expect a lot of of us (and sometimes we even expect a lot of ourselves) and for that reason, we can easily get caught up in listing all of the things we did. It can often be a product of our U.S. "do, do, do" checklist mentality.

But we are broken. Yes, even especially missionaries. So not only did we celebrate that Christ is Risen, but this Easter we took extra time to take moments to introspectively look at all of the other blessings and examples of grace in our lives. We'd like to share those moments of blessing and thanksgiving with you.

1) When we traveled on Tuesday to San Pedro Sula, a dangerous city in Honduras, we had something unfortunate happen to us and were able to be taken advantage of because of the large amount of corruption that exists in Honduras with the government, police, people, etc.

But we clearly felt the hand of God protecting us every bit of the way. Also, we were never alone, and felt so loved on by the extended large family of Hondurans we were traveling with. Each moment of being with them was an extension of the love of Christ.

2) This year we did not have English translation like we did last year, but instead listened to and experienced every moment of the conference in Spanish. There were rapidly-spoken skits/plays, session talks that lasted at least 45 minutes each, and so many people to reconnect with from all over the various churches. Our brains were so exhausted at points, which the hot, HOT weather did not help.

But, quite literally by the grace of God, we were able to understand! We learned beautiful new songs that we actually understood the meaning of and could genuinely worship, rather than just trying to hum along. We pleasantly surprised many people as we were able to actually hold conversations with -- some that we hadn't seen since last year -- rather than just nod and smile, say hello, and say "I'm fine, how are you?". We took dozens of notes in a constructive meeting for all of the children's development centers (CDIs) and we are going home more educated -- even though it was all back and forth conversation in Spanish. God is so good!

3) We were busy and there was a lot more going on for us this year. We felt like it was not really a time of rest and "a week off", but actually a time where we would crawl into the bed at midnight and immediately fall asleep. There were times when we felt out of our element, not in control, and we were internally conflicted once again by cultural differences about various things. 

But, we spent some really good time with great friends, got to help out friends, and even help put on a birthday party. We felt more like we knew what was going on this time around, but more importantly we were able to accept that wherever our time was spent is not always our call. It's always a good stretching experience when you have to practice giving up control especially for us as North Americans.  I think that God could teach us all something about that.  

Happy Easter everyone! We hope that you end the holiday feeling just loved, cared for, taught, and guided by Christ as we did.