Monday, October 26, 2009

Personal Space

People, people, everywhere!!!






You are never really alone. Not in an indian village. There is no concept of "personal space". Actually, the Ye'kwana language does not even have a true translation for "privacy" or "being alone" as a positive thing. The translation is a negative, like "lonely". Something sad. Something to be avoided. Something dangerous, as being alone is an invitation to the evil spirits to come and attack you. Especially "Canaima"(the death angel) who flies around at night, looking for some poor soul who is alone. Canaima will set in and give that person a beating and death within 3 days. That is why no one would ever think of walking around the jungle alone, even to go down the path to the river alone is risky.

I share all of this, so that you can understand how different the culture is in regards to privacy. We had NO privacy. Our home was always open, and often full of people. We even had indians standing around looking in our windows most of the time. Especially at night. Our house had large windows to afford us with light and cross ventilation. But with our lights on at night, we were watched by the entire tribe. We were their entertainment, " Live, in Technicolor and Surround Sound". Even in the house, under the palm roof, with no inside ceilings, what was said in one room was heard through out the entire house.

Being very aware that our entire lives were under scrutiny, we had to discipline ourselves at every moment. Even when speaking English or Spanish, our body language, facial expressions, and reactions were all being watched. They wanted to see how a christian re-acted to things, we needed to show them patience, love, gentleness...self control. Christ in us.

My husband and I learned to not show our irritation with each other in public, and we were always "in public". If an issue came up that absolutely had to be "discussed" in private, that meant, going to the river, getting in a canoe, paddling for 10 to 15 minutes to get out of hearing range from the village, in order to have a private discussion.

Frankly, not many things are worth that effort! By the time you get done paddling, you don't have the energy to argue. Or it no longer seems important enough, you may even forget what had annoyed you to begin with, or, you find yourself alone and don't want to waste that precious privacy in anger!

I think every married couple ought to buy a couple of rowing machines and make a rule that before responding to one another in anger, you both have to row for 15 minutes!

12 comments:

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I started laughing because I know that experience all too well. Our huts in Peru didn't have walls. And culturally it's very similar in Africa and India. In India, usually the best furniture and the fans are in the master bedroom, so as the temps rise, more and more people start to sleep in there. It's more about being comfortable than having privacy.

Introversion seems to be a Western thing too. I struggle with being too quiet when I'm in Africa. It's not something the culture really understands. It's seen as rude if you don't jump in and interact as everyone else does. Definitely energy draining!

Betty said...

Oh that would do ME so well!! Good suggestion!

Gringo said...

That is a good suggestion for dealing with disagreements: strenuous physical exercise before talking about it. Get your ya yas out.

A friend was recently talking about how a teacher in middle school resolved a quarrel that the friend and another student had. The teacher had them run 100 yards and run back. End of quarrel.

Kathy said...

This is so interesting--and would have been VERY difficult for me to get used to! Was it hard for you? Do you sometimes, for old times sake, take a walk when you would have canoed in the jungle?! :)

Harry said...

So curling up with a good book is out of the question. Or do you have to read out loud to the assembled multitude?

Karen said...

Wow...God bless ya! I can't even imagine :-) I don't have much alone time but I sure am overwhelmed if I have to be around people for long periods of time. It exhausts me. I guess it just shows that God gives each of us the grace we need to deal with the situations he puts us in!

Webutante said...

Rita, what a wonderful idea for controlling anger until it has been worked out physically by rowing....I rarely get really bent out of shape to any huge degree but if I do, I have a commitment to myself to go to a favorite quarry and throw rocks until I'm too tired be mad. And can speak kindly about the issue. Terrific post.

Brenda said...

I'm sure that took a lot of getting used to! What an amazing experience for your kids too.

marion said...

.... or a couple of jet skis sounds good aswell =)

Rancher said...

My wife doesn't allow me to argue. I am very much a private person, I could not handle living under those circumstances. Kudos to you for doing so. How are the Ye'kwana doing, have you had any contact?

firepig said...

Rita ..I know what you mean because my political family of mostly indigenous ancestry was the same way.At first I almost went crazy, but later I felt fine with it though I still appreciated my own privacy. when I had it.

The one thing that I loved so much always was the way the women pitched in to help without being asked and how we all worked together in perfect sync without any hassles whatsoever.It really felt like a family.This must have been because of the closeness.

I miss that.

MightyMom said...

I'm beginning to wonder how you managed to have so many children.......