We spent New Year’s Eve and Day for 2015 in the rural village of 坡头村中国。It was a very interesting time. We were served hot Coca-Cola with ginger in it, we could not find any way to explain to our friend why we don’t have warmer clothes, and we had 2 different elderly men sing for us.
In the village where we were the only heat source is coal burning stoves. It is very, very cold outside and the homes are not well insulated. You’re pretty much shivering all the time. The locals all had very thick clothes on especially made for such weather. They appeared to be thicker and more insulated than ski outfits. Then here we were with our blue jeans and people kept asking us why we didn’t wear warmer clothes. We explained that we don’t have warmer clothes and they thought we were insane. How do you explain to a person with no indoor plumbing and a dirt floor that we don’t usually need warmer clothes than these because our home and every where we go is heated? The only time we’re out in the extreme cold is going quickly from one place to another. But out there it’s cold everywhere all winter.
We are the first foreigners to have ever visited this village and everyone came to see us! It was almost like we were circus freaks more so than honored guests. We do have enough culture to know to bring a gift when going to someone’s home but our gift paled in comparison to what they gave us. The owner of the house we stayed in, our friend, gave us some of his hand drawn artwork and some old family photos, while a friend of his that’s an art teacher sculpted us little figurines and fired them during the day returning to the house in the evening to send us home with them. Our tin of chocolates was looking less and less like a worthy gift as time went on.
There was a never ending revolving “door” which is really just a blanket hanging over a threshold of people wanting to meet us. It was special but tiring.
Traveling Latin America one will notice several cultural differences but the one I still have not been able to adjust to is the blatant racism . There are restaurants such as the one in my featured picture that pretty much translates into “Black people food”. There is a tourism sign in Lima, Peru with a picture of horrible cartoon black people beating on drums that says “Go to this town and see our black people dance”.
We met a guy from Chile that seemed pretty nice and since we didn’t make it to Chile I was asking him some cultural questions. I asked him if in Chile it was like in Columbia and no matter what the day or time there was music blaring and loud people everywhere and his response was “No, we don’t have any black people.” I don’t really know this guy so it wasn’t like he was saying this to me in any kind of confidence, it was just a normal run-of-the-mill kind of thing to say to a stranger.
Then there was the first leg of our speed boat trip to cross the Columbia-Panama border. We started off in the armpit of the world that is Turbo, Columbia at 8:30AM. There was a group of about 8 Columbians that were REALLY obnoxious. We couldn’t tell if they were really drunk or just like that naturally until they started passing the bottle of rum amongst them. I remind you it’s 8:30 in the morning. The ring leader of the group and the loudest, most obnoxious one of the group was annoying the hell out of us.
Every time the boat would hit a wave and crash to the bottom he would scream like a baby, he was making stupid jokes, and he kept blowing this damn horn he had. I swear in the US this guy would have been thrown overboard. Then at one point when I guess he thought the ride was too rough (once again-speed boat-ocean-not going to be a smooth ride) he leans back and yells “Hey nigger, slow down!” Then what happens to him? Everyone laughs. Yep. They laughed. This is how such behavior doesn’t stop. It was so offensive I made a video of it. See link on side. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuLI5tvmQCs&feature=youtu.be
It was like being stuck on a 4 hour horrible roller coaster ride with a group of 12 year old boys. All but these people were older than me. It was a constant stream of fart jokes, stupidity and racism and it was praised.
So I’ve been volunteering at the Gainesville Senior Center for the past couple months. I knew it would be fun because I always love talking with old people but what I didn’t know was how depressing it would be. Not depressing in the way you may be thinking but depressing in the omg we should do better for our senior citizens way.
They play bingo on a daily basis and it’s fun! The prizes are pretty depressing. Sometimes the prizes are left overs from the food pantry delivery and it’s always something little like canned peaches. These seniors get as excited about a can of peaches as the characters in The Road or the Walking Dead do. That’s all good for fiction but it’s pretty sad to see in real life.
I happen to know of a particular establishment that received a grant to give out fresh fruits and vegetables to people at their place. Sadly, many of the people don’t eat the fruits and vegetables. So what does this establishment do with the food? They throw it in the trash. Employees can’t take it home even if they want to. Everything left over must go in the trash.
Well I don’t like this rule very much so I figured out a way to sneak the uneaten veggies out of said establishment. Yep. Could get in a lot of trouble for this because you know it’s supposed to go in the garbage.
What have I been doing with the fruit? I take it to the Senior Center and give it to them. They give out fresh fruit as bingo prizes. I got so emotional the first time that I cried. They were so happy! 75,85, 90 year old people holding a piece of fresh fruit in their hands like it’s a piece of gold. There’s no telling when the lsat time they actually had fresh fruit was. Most of these people only depend on Meals on Wheels and the Food Pantry and the only fruit they ever get from them is canned and packed in syrup. Fresh fruit! They were so happy some of them were truly giddy.
Have some fresh fruit sitting around your house that you know you won’t actually eat before it goes bad? Get on the internet and find your local Senior Center. They’ll love you for it.