Tuesday, February 9, 2016

These Cry Out for Wisdom

Here in Ecuador, as in anywhere else in the world, one's life is made up from the small choices we make, not the big ones.  How do I know that?  By observing my own life as well as the lives of others.  

Earlier in my life, I became acquainted with a Los Angeles Police Department officer, Jim Harpster.  One of the themes he would refer to over and over as he shared from the Scriptures of the Bible to our Men's small group that met on Saturday mornings at the church where I met and married my wife was the big consequences of small choices.  In the context of his dealing with criminals that needed to have law enforcement presence in their lives for whatever reason, he would listen, learn, and then speak on the topic of how these folks' small choices could - and often did - land them before a judge, and even jail.  "But I was minding my own business until (fill in the blank) drove by!" they exclaimed.  "I was just having a good time and then this officer came and gave me trouble!" another confided.  And so it goes. . . do folks learn from one's mistakes, missteps, shortcomings, or dare we even say it: sin.  Good question, and it pertains to me just as much as it does to you.  

Lately in Cuenca, where we live in the southern Andes Sierra of Ecuador, my wife and I have a friend who is currently recuperating at home from a rather nasty eye infection from a social gathering associated with Carnival, a national holiday here similar in some ways to Mardi Gras in the United States, that included people spraying espuma - foam - on and about others in the crowd.  You have to understand that the foam hit her eye, and has caused her pain and suffering. . . and even the possibility of becoming blind permanently.  We are praying for her and in communication for this dear one, and she has to have "lights out" at her residence for the time being as light is too much for her to deal with and she cannot effectively see as she used to.  Her neighbor is helping her with daily tasks for the interim, by the way.  

Some thoughts I have discussed with Carolyn Anne about this episode include "How did she get involved in going to the event where the foam was sprayed?"  "Why did she have to go with her friends to the event?  Couldn't she respectfully have declined?"  And. . . "Is the crowd always right in what they do and say?"  Here in Cuenca, in a foreign city in a foreign country with folkways and customs we Norteamericanos are not as familiar with, it pays to have a healthy detached objective view of the inherent risks and rewards of such activities, fun that they may be for others involved.  At our age and health condition, I have determined for at least myself that this kind of event is not appropriate for us to attend.  Our friend's current condition is a very telling reminder why.  

As I was walking the other day to our usual farmacia to get some medications, I was nearly hit with a water balloon - it grazed my leg - thrown from someone from an upstairs balcony in El Centro (the historic downtown area of Cuenca).  Water hoses with running water were also in evidence down another El Centro street, with a restaurant family member about to hose down his little brother.  I wisely watched where he aimed the hose (not at me, thankfully).  I also was ready to cross the street if this young man was about to try to hose me.  Great fun for lots of the natives, but they know better than to involve los extranjeros (us foreigners).  At another location in town outside of El Centro, I saw another shop owner getting ready to pour a bucket of ice and use a water hose on what looked like his daughter, who was already soaking wet.  

Now I like fun and a good time as much or more than anyone else, but given our age and condition it's wise for us not to be too terribly involved in crowds of natives when they are armed and ready with foam, confetti, buckets of ice, and water hoses.  Best to stay away until the Carnival period ends. One more day until normalcy returns.  My two cents fwiw.  

Turning the page, but keeping the same theme. . . 

The Gringos, or foreign typically native English speaking expats largely from North America here in Cuenca are a motley lot.  It's rare for all of them to agree on anything in a discussion, and just like back home in the States, there can be personal attacks, name calling, demeaning comments, and the like. Just because they move here doesn't cause them to act any differently. . . one more proof of fallen human nature.  

We're glad we have decided to not be solely involved with the Gringo expat folks exclusively.  We are glad to be a part, and be social, and share and encourage where that's possible, but not every expat is like us that way.  

We're here to assimilate as much as possible with the Cuencanos/as as well as enjoy the friendships of the Gringos/as amongst us.  We have several friendships especially through our Verbo church with the locals, and we're thankful to God for knowing them and loving them.  In that way we are able to learn the language and share our lives with them.  They by and large are very open to that, and are gracious people.  

Many of the expats here, on the other hand, do not get involved with the locals, or attempt to learn their language, their customs, or their ways.  It's what's been termed by others who arrived here long before us as the "Expat Bubble."  A world cut off from the rest of the population of Cuenca, largely located in what's been termed as "Gringolandia," the area of Cuenca on the west side that has many high rise condo buildings on or near Av. Ordon~ez Lasso.  Here's a photo that exemplifies the "brick canyon" that is Ordon~ez Lasso and Gringolandia:   https://quito.craigslist.org/apa/5430735629.html  

In that "Expat Bubble" of living, shopping, dining, and conversing in Gringolandia, the expats largely encounter those who speak English.  They see and hear little to no Spanish at all.  But they also miss out on living in the rest of what makes up Cuenca, probably 98 per cent of the city.  Quite a sheltered existence living one's life in Latin America with no regular connection to locals or those who know the culture and speak the local language.  The locals pick up on that, too, and they are amazed these folks would keep themselves sequestered from them.  Frankly the locals pity them.  

There's several community forums and English language Internet sites that expats frequent, among them the Gringo Post, perhaps the oldest and certainly the most read English language forum for expats living in Cuenca and Ecuador.  Sometimes the discussions can continue without end, for various and sundry reasons.  Some of this could be due to a lack of assimilation within the greater Cuenca community, but some of it is surely due to strongly held beliefs that just won't budge.  Here's a current one that just won't quit as of now:  http://gringopost-forum.blogspot.com/2016/02/vaccinations-needed.html#disqus_thread

Rather than write my response to that incredibly long conversation, I'd prefer to give what are the enduringly wise words from the Scriptures, to wit:

"A person gives joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word!" (Proverbs 15:23)

"Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues."  (Proverbs 10:19)

"Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips."  (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  (Ephesians 4:29)

"Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you."  (Matthew 7:6)

"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (2 Timothy 2:23)

Also, read what another local Cuenca expat, Susan Burke March, wrote on this topic.  Exquisitely well written piece, if I may say so myself.  http://www.cuencahighlife.com/vaccines-myths-facts-foolishness/


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