Sunday, January 18, 2009

Health, Money, and Love, pt 2

"Cripes. Time. Right, skipping several important and amusing bits..."

I should have known that sentence would come back to haunt me. Now I have to remember all the stuff I was going to write. Funnily enough, I don't.

Mostly what I remember are images and culture differences. One of the images of course was just walking around the Inti Wari Yassi park and wondering where the jaguar was. Julio and I spent most of our time there without saying a word. It wasn't any awkward social circumstance, we'd just both agreed without even mentioning that we wanted to hear what was around us. Never did see or hear any cats, but what we did hear was pretty impressive anyway.

Speaking of cats, watching how the family treated pets was another experience. Four dogs, were occasionally tolerated in the house for a while, then shooed out with a large stick. The cat and kitten weren't shooed out, but their treatment was actually a bit more startling for me. Ever seen one of those new families in a park, the one where the dad is tossing the baby around in ways that make the baby squeal with glee and the mom squeal with shear terror? That's kind of how I felt about what they did with the kitten, only I'm not sure he was actually filled with glee either. There was a lot of squeezing, tossing and holding the poor little guy in ways I'm pretty sure he didn't appreciate. Funnily enough, I turned out to be the one person who could put him in his or her lap and have him stay there. Seemed scared of the others for some odd reason. No idea why. Really.

All it was though was a another way of showing what kind of a family they were: very tight knit, very loving. As Julio and I got up at 4am to go out to the rain forest, his parents insisted on going out with us and trying to give Julio all kinds of  dvice. They never said it, but they were clearly worried about their (twenty-one year old) little boy going out into the wild world without them. For the record, Julio gave them no real grounds for concern, he's very much capable of taking care of himself and others along with him. But that's the way things were.

I got invited to the youngest grandchild's baptism, (they insisted on having me be part of the family portrait). Afterwards, I fell into conversation with one of the cousins in her late 30s who told me she was still living with her parents. I said something about how I couldn't imagine doing something like that myself, unthinkingly adding something like "I needed my independence", and she explained that she too was independent-- it's just hard to leave her little sisters behind. They need help. So for that she stays with the family.

Sometimes that's just what's needed. I was there when Nico, the oldest grandkid, bought a pair of fish from the pet street market in town. A couple days later, I went up to the room of him and his mom to say hi and found him in tears. One of the fish had died. Within minutes, every female member of the family was in the room with him to comfort him and give him advice, talk to him about what they would do with the body, when and how they would get a new fish and what they would do to make sure it didn't happen again. There's a lot to value there.

I promised an explanation of the title of the post. Somebody visiting the house turned out to be one of those people who, when they sneeze, always sneeze three times. The usual polite response to a sneeze in Spanish is "salud". It means health. They told me in that in Cochabamba, when someone sneezes three times, they say that for the first sneeze, "dinero" (money) for the second sneeze, and "amor" (love) for the third. Some of them tended to tease me a bit for always only sneezing twice, saying it's a good thing because finding love on a trip like mine would "get in the way of things." But watching them all watch out for and worry about each other, it all seemed to fit in. It's the kind of family where the second grandson would take one look at you and without saying anything, walk over and sit in your lap. All the men hug, all the women kiss on the cheek. That's the kind of people they are. And they're there to wish you the best; health, money, and love.

And that's just when you sneeze.

Check out this entry's Photos


  1. Our preconceived notions in USA of what means "independence" in a family context are awfully limited as you found in your discussions and your family stay. We have the unfortunate tendency to equate independence with separation and they are not the same nor viewed that way by many cultures. You'll see more of this than most of us as you travel.

    As your family at home, we're so grateful you were well taken care of by this very generous family. Many thanks to them. Hugs to you.
    Lv, M.

  2. Travelling aroud like this really makes you take a second look at a lot of American Buzzwords- Independence, Freedom, Democracy. It makes a lot of the politcal speeches you hear from American politicians start to sound very strange after a while. I remember one Australian turning to me after hearing one proclaim on TV that America was the only place where you could start a business and etc etc and ask me "Do they really beleive that there? That it's the only place?"