“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

Tara, mentor, blogging from Otavalo, Ecuador! 

The Intercordia program asks: are you willing to be vulnerable in order to learn from another? To allow others to teach you their ways and withhold your own tendencies and opinions, accept that your way is not the only way, and embrace new ideas, methods and reasoning?

Through this process, I have made mistakes, and been at the center of attention and failed. I ask myself, do I have the confidence to continue? Recognizing that it may feel awkward, but I will gain from it – in humility, in understanding, and in fellowship. Often, our attempts to learn and engage with others go above the fact that we may have stumbled in our efforts, and we end up forming relationships and offering a sense of dignity to those we took the time to learn from.

It’s not easy! So many times I have been frustrated, because no one would just explain what was going on or because I had to suffer the embarrassment of doing it wrong. How lucky I am to have ‘suffered’ that embarrassment; to have been able to experience new culture and customs and discover differences and similarities between peoples around the world. I often recognize afterward that what I felt as discomfort at the time was a small price to be present for the experience.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

Showing up in a new place means not always knowing what to expect. I am learning to have the patience and courage to wait for what’s to come, to learn without a text book and yes, probably to be the cause of some laughter. Cuz heck – it’s funny when we misunderstand or misinterpret a cultural norm or even the most basic daily tasks – buying groceries, taking the bus, washing clothes, or using the bathroom. Just acknowledging I don’t know how to do some of these simple tasks can be the greatest challenge. There’s an act of vulnerability for you – being an adult and having to ask someone how to use the bathroom!

I have realized people love to hear and talk about their own customs. It identifies their community as unique in some way and binds a group of people together. In Saskatchewan, where I am from, many people enjoy watching funny videos of silly things Saskatchewan people do and say. Many Canadians enjoy it too, an idea some beer companies have had success in marketing. I have noticed this same feeling goes for Otavalenos, Ecuadoreans, Dominicans, and so on. Many people enjoy sharing their customs and having others think they’re a little bit crazy, in a good way. So while I struggle through a misunderstanding, I am reminding others of the quirks, talents and peculiarities of their own people and maybe, in some way, promoting a sense of unity.

So let people show you how they are unique, and teach you their methods and maybe chuckle as you stumble – it’s not personal, it reflects enjoyment of the process. Wait until you are asked how you do things at home. Wait for the smile that crosses your face as you reflect on your own quirks and traditions, and when you see their reaction to your wild and unfamiliar ways. It is bound to generate a feeling of connection to your own family and community as you share the ways you are also unique, strange, and wonderful and, in many ways, the same!

Photos: Tara and her host family harvesting maize 

Posted in Blog, Voices.