Recognizing one´s own cultural lens is a critical part of understanding the way other cultures operate. Instead of viewing a new place and how its people live day-to-day as inferior, it becomes simply different. Not better, not worse, just different.
Now fully settled into our homes here in tiny Tiquipaya (AKA Tiqui), the group is learning to understand and appreciate these cultural differences. As part of a conversation about American values, this morning we discussed one of the most obvious cultural differences: how we think about time. Americans are, by and large, driven by schedules and it is considered rude to be late for any kind of appointment. In Western English, there are an absurd number of ways to frame the concept of time itself — we ¨kill¨, ¨waste¨, ¨maximize¨, ¨spend¨, ¨gain¨, and ¨lose¨time, to name a few.
In other languages and cultures, you won’t find half as many verb constructs for time, which in itself is an interesting indicator of how differently time is viewed. Students reflected on life at Thacher, for example – ¨Everything revolves around time. If you’re even 2 minutes late for lunch, you’re not eating lunch that day. Yesterday I was a full 30 minutes late for lunch and my homestay mom was just glad to see me. It’s very different here, much more relaxed.¨
Aside from time, the students have been contemplating a completely different way of living here in Tiquipaya. I’ll let them share their observations in upcoming posts, but suffice it to say, the group is starting to see this place, its people, and its many cultural idiosyncracies through a new lens. Our mornings have been filled with small-group Spanish lessons and afternoons with ISP (Independent Study Project) mentors. Students have taken topics of their own interest and been diving into them with local mentors. Everything from cooking to art, and history to sustainable agriculture.
More to come soon but Jessie and I wanted to let everyone back home that all is well and we’re looking forward to sinking even deeper into our experience here in rural Bolivia. Today, the group left with their Spanish teachers on public transportation (known as ¨trufis¨, or shared taxis) to the big market in Cochabamba to buy food for a big group meal we have planned at the program house tonight.
Hard to believe we´re already on the final stretch of the course but we’re encouraging everyone to be just as present as ever…To embrace Tiqui time.
Over and out for now!
Britten + Jessie