Sunday, August 14, 2011

Point of View

"From the point of view of the owl, the bat, the bohemian, and the thief, sunset is time for breakfast.

Rain is bad news for tourists and good news for farmers.

From the point of view of the natives, it's the tourists who are picturesque.

From the point of view of the Indians of the Carribbean islands, Christopher Colombus, with his plumed cap and red velvet cape, was the biggest parrot they had ever seen.

From the point of view of the South, summer in the North is winter.

From the point of view of a worm, a plate of spaghetti is an orgy.

Where Hindus see a sacred cow, others see an enormous hamburger.

From the point of view of Hippocrates, Galen, Maimonides, and Paracelsus, there was a disease called indigestion but none called hunger.

From the point of view of his neighbors in the town of Cadona, Toto Zaugg, who wore the same clothes in the summer and winter, was an admirable man. "Toto's never cold," they said.

He said nothing. He was cold, but had no coat.

From the point of view of statistics, if a person earns a thousand dollars and another earns nothing, each of them appears to earn five hundred dollars when one calculates per capita income.

From the point of view of the struggle against inflation, adjustment policies are a good remedy. From the point of view of those who suffer such policies, they spread cholera, typhus, tuberculosis, and other damnations."

Eduardo Galeano

I was with my Spanish tutor yesterday preparing for a presentation and she said to me "Don't use the word individuals. It sounds so cold, stale, and impersonal. Use the word persons instead. Needless to say, I had used that word a lot. To me, it signified uniqueness, specialness, and distinct-ness from others.

When we came here, we thought we would be joining a welcoming, warm, community of people who would become our friends. After all, northerners are more "cold" than southerners, right? Besides the one family we have really connected with, we have never received any invitations from any of our Colombian work colleagues or friends to come to their houses. Our country representative told us, "Don't expect to be invited over to people's houses...they don't really initiate that kind of interaction." But we did anyway. And some times, that feels so very lonely, coming from a tight-knit, Mennonite community where the norm on a weekend was to eat with friends.

When we allow the kids to play outside with chalk art, water, skateboards, and balls, we see it as nurturing creative play, fostering relationships with other kids, and giving them fresh air. Our neighbors see it as irresponsible, dangerous to the children (if they get cold, they will be sick...thus bad parenting), insensitive to the others in our community (because it might break something or create a mess).

When someone cuts in front of us to get a taxi, we see it as rude and obnoxious. They see it as getting ahead, and getting to work on time.

The PE teacher says that wearing shoes with velcro is dangerous for the chidrens' feet. We see velcro tennies as a quick way to get out the door for school.

We could continue this list forever. I learned early in my mediation training to recognize Point of View and understand it well. Living in this setting has given us a different kind of challenge as we learn to understand our place as strangers.


  1. Jen, this sounds really intensely hard. And frustrating. I admire you for seeking to understand another culture's point of view. It gives me an idea of how hard it must be to come to our country, as a stranger. I'm sure many of the things we do here wouldn't make much sense either. And how hard it is to break into another culture and feel/be accepted.

  2. Thank goodness you have each other.

  3. i love this list.

    it reminds me of karin and john's bosnia stories...don't bend the baby, don't sit on the concrete...

    please make the list longer.