During our first full day, Tuesday, Jed and Jenny took us to a Metro supermarket to buy some bottles of water. On the way in, I saw a few lockers for bags and remembered that bags were not allowed in supermarkets in Bolivia. I asked Jed and Jenny and we got a locker to lace our bag in.
The open locker was high up and Jed being the taller of the two went to pay. I’m unsure of the exact details or workings of one of these lockers, but Jed began to struggle with closing the locker, locking it, and removing the key. First he closed it without taking out the key. Then he tried to take out the key in close it. Basically, it was taking him a second to figure out the mechanics. Before he could figure it out, a friendly Peruvian swooped in and showed him to get the key out without issue. Jed laughed and thanked the man.
Later on, Jenny took us on a bus to head down a street only to discover after a few stops that this was the one bus that did turned to soon and took us completely off-course. It’s a tricky bus system to navigate, but she handled it quite well. She moved us off the bus and found us a replacement to take us the rest of the way in minutes. If Jed hadn’t given us a play-by-play, I doubt I would have worked out that anything had gone wrong.
I tell these vignettes not to embarrass Jed or Jenny, but to highlight that these silly little moments that happen when you’re living in a new culture never really go away. That extends beyond other parts of the world to other parts of your own country. While they do disappear, they do not completely vanish.
Jed has been living in Peru for five years now and yet he still had one of these moments. Jenny is Peruvian, though she has not always lived in Lima. They both have silly little moments and mistakes. They are not perfect. Their saving grace is through their conduct around these mistakes.
Neither panicked nor felt a notable sense of shame. They found the quickest way to solve the problem and moved on. This example has been very helpful to me already.
For example, I cannot for the life of me get my key to work in the door of my temporary host family. You have to jiggle it as you turn it and I’ve got a 25 percent success rate. Luckily, Jed has been there to help me the last two mornings as I struggle with the door. Another time, another member of the apartment complex opened the door and let me out. I mostly laugh and am continuing to practice to get the process down before I leave.
Another example might be a very similar situation to Jenny’s bus faux pas. Jenny and Jed informed me that any bus on Avenida Brasil past their apartment will bring in a straight line to my house. Well, I hopped on one and found that we turned after one stop. I sighed, hopped off a block away and moved back. I found another bus and was able to get where I needed after a five minute wait. It was an honest mistake and one that a little keen observation and coolness under pressure can help solve.
So my point is, I’m embracing the silly little mistakes, laughing about them when they are funny, and fixing them they happen. I’m keeping in mind the joy that I can experience these mistakes by being welcomed into a culture quite apart from my own.