Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The World

Jayde wearing her traditional Ye'kwana face paint.

When you live in a small, closed community, such as an indian village, it is easy to lose touch with the larger world. The universe contracts and becomes the space you occupy and the people you see daily.

As an outsider and an adult, I still found this would happen to me occasionally, but for my children it could become normal for them to think the world revolved around our little village. The other villages along our river were 'foreign' like other countries even, and town, where Spanish was spoken, was down right alien. The strangest of all would be the 'gringo' people who would appear in our world from time to time.

Once, when my youngest daughter was but a toddler, we found ourselves in the village for a longer stretch than normal. We had not left the village in over 6 months and in the mind of a toddler, that was forever.

About that time a North American man and his grown son decided to fly out and visit us. When they arrived we were quite happy to visit and chat with them in English. They stayed with us for several days and were very kind and generous to our children. They had brought them coveted books and goodies from the US, so the kids were thrilled to have them as visitors.

Except for the baby.

She seemed very upset the first few days. Although normally a bubbly, out going child, she withdrew and became shy, even rude to the guests. After one meal where she refused to speak with the gentlemen, I had to take her aside and try to figure out her problem.

She began to cry and informed me that these men were speaking 'our' language! How did they know 'our' language? They we not 'our' family! Who had taught them to talk like us? Of course, this was all expressed in the vocabulary of a 3 and a half year old.

I was floored! My blond, blue eyed child thought that our family alone spoke the English language! She felt threatened that strangers, who looked a lot like us, could waltz into her life and communicate intimately with us in our family's private language! Her entire world view had been shaken, she was insecure in who she was and where she fit into the big picture.

Because of this, we learned that we had to make an effort to leave the village fairly often, every two to three months, and spend a few weeks out of the jungle and away from the tribe so that the children would not get over whelmed with the outside world. Even so, we still had times when the children would come up with something that totally blew our minds as parents.

Such as when I was teaching my daughter about the US flag and that each state was represented by its own star. She wanted to know which star represented our village.

Another daughter was learning map skills and I was called away for a few moments. I handed her a piece of chalk and asked her to draw a map of the world while I was out. Our school room had untreated cement floors, so I used the floor as a work space for the kids to do their drawings, spelling words, and even math drills.

When I returned, she had covered the floor with an amazingly accurate map of the world.

Her world.

In other words, the village.

The World


Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Wow! That's definitely a missionary moment! It's difficult enough to deal with it as adults; it's interesting to see what children think about it!

Brenda said...

My son spent an entire furlough believing we had 2 washing machines, he had never seen a dryer before.

On our first Sunday back in the US once, one of my kids leaned over and whispered to me during worship, "I think they translated all of these songs from Spanish', lol.

Linda said...

My BIL and SIL are missionaries in Argentina. When they first went there, they spoke in Spanish all the time. When it was getting nearer to furlough, they discovered their boys didn't even know English, so from then on, they spoke English in their home.

There are many times I wish I spoke a different language.

Your 'Missionary' word pictures are great!

Shilo said...

I really enjoyed this post, Rita!

Z said...

I'm with Shilo...what an absolutely wonderful post. You explain so well and your insight to the situation and your solution to help your children, again, was so good.
There are adults who think EVERYBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH ... or SHOULD. I saw it frequently while living in France and Germany.
How sweet.....how rich your children are for your adventures.

Kristi said...

That's sweet. :)


Hatless in Hattiesburg said...

off topic: local malcontent is ok.