Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Day

So I had a really good day today, and I am going to explain that briefly for keeping-tabs purposes, and then I am going to tell you about the analogy I came up with today for Latin America as a locked front door, and probably bore you, but bear with me. 

-I went to school where I was very productive, and I think, miracle of all miracles, I may actually be ready when the kids come on Wednesday
-My principal wrote me a really nice note saying that the hard work I've been doing has not gone unnoticed, which was totally unexpected and made my day
-I went to lunch with Stacy and Melissa at the same place we went yesterday, I might start going there more often, there aren't a lot of people but it's delicious
-I came back to school and went to a meeting with the owner, and then finished up some other work
-I left, came home to pick up JP, and we went out for drinks with some other teachers
-JP and I went to the store to get some bread to give to the cute Haitian kids (we like to think of ourselves as really giving but mostly it's just fun to give them food, it's very selfishly driven)

Okay, so those are the events of the day. Here's my analogy.

So when I left school today I had stayed later to work and so as I tried to get out I found that the front door was locked. I'm not talking about a key lock, I'm talking about a huge metal grate pulled down over the door like the ones they use in the city or the mall at night. Because it was locked I had to go out the back door and walk two more block around the school so that I could get to where I would have started to walk home. On the way I saw a maid walking a pug which obviously wasn't hers and we said hello to each other, I passed a twenty-something girl and her way home from work and we also said hello, and then I went by Sergio's fruit stand and we waved to each other enthusiastically. By the time I got to the front door I had 3 interactions that I would not have had if the door had not been locked. This situation, to me, describes everything I think, love and hate about Latin America, and it struck me as the perfect way to communicate it to everyone else. Now for the explanation.

Okay, so in Latin America it sometimes seems that social relationships, and not hard work, are what get people what they want. I stayed late to work and so was locked in. Had I been friends with the door guy I would have found him (even if this took longer than walking) and he would have let me out. If I had been related to the door guy I would have a secret key to the front door of my own. Because this door was locked I had to go very far out of my way to get to where I should have started, which seems to be how everything works in Latin America. There are roadblocks, and even though no one can explain why they are there no one seems willing or able to do something about them, unless you have a connection through a friend or a relative. So as a foreigner I usually have to go around the block instead of through the front gate, because I don't generally have the connections I need. The front gate represents what I don't like about Latin America. The rest represents what I love. 

As an American, I tend to get very frustrated by these roadblocks, especially those with no explanation or reason for being, because I have been raised being used to efficiency. However, on my walk around the block I had three short interactions with people who I would not have seen if I had gotten out the quick way, and here those mean a lot more than efficiency. Stronger networks exist here than in the U.S. because it is necessary to have a large number of people around you who can help you get the gate unlocked if you need them too. Sure I had to walk around some garbage in the street, and walk in the road in the places where the sidewalk is patchy, and hop over the parts that were still wet from the flash flood earlier in the afternoon, but at least I got to see some people and talk to them instead of just getting to my apartment more quickly, which sometimes I have to fight against being annoyed about.

I hope this makes sense to everyone. These things are why I'm here. Even when things are frustrating I just love the value of relationships that I have observed here. I know that I'm being stereotypical but it's my blog and I'll stereotype if I want to (you would stereotype too if it happened to you... BA BA BA BA BA)


  1. Caitlin, I think your analogy is wonderful. If life always took a predictable path, just think of all of those experiences we would miss out on. Even the bad experiences serve a purpose-- the lessons that they teach make us wiser people...