It has been awhile since I gave just a general update on life. I’m still reflecting on a bunch of different ideas, which will be posts sometime soon. Until then, enjoy three part series about my home, church and work life. I’ll start with home.
I am halfway through my second week of living with the Romero Mazzinis and it is going really well. In some ways I live extremely well, while in others it is surprisingly not ideal. On one hand, my family is very active and likes to invite me to events. Plus I have access to wi-fi. On the other hand, we have frequent power outages due to a poor electrical system in the house, there is a current cockroach infestation, and I am sleeping on the equivalent of a hospital cot. As Jenny says, there are pluses and minuses with every family situation.
In this case though, I am really enjoying the pluses ranging from the grand gestures to the simple shows of care. Take my birthday as an example. My host mom spent hours in the kitchen to prepare a birthday dinner just a week into my stay. David stayed up until midnight waiting to be the first to post on my Facebook wall and give me “saludos,” a hug and wishing of happy birthday. It might seem simple, but it was exceptionally touching to receive that from someone here. This family is excited to welcome me into their way of life.
Let me introduce my family. David is my host brother, who is 29 years old. My host mother is named Isis. I also have a host grandmother, but she just moved in to spend six months with her other. Also, my host uncle and cousin live upstairs.
David in many ways is basically a Peruvian me with a dash of what I think my father was like in his late twenties. He has shoulder length curly hair, a massive beard and glasses. He has worked extensively in interfaith and ecumenical coalitions. He values progressive social causes. He leads various youth ministries throughout Lima. He frequently argues about theology with his closest friends. He closes every grace with a sarcastic, “destroy my enemies!” The main difference between us is that he used to be an art teacher and is not particularly gifted at mathematics.
I met David at a youth conference around facing climate change, where Jed pointed him out to me as a well-connected leader in Lima. Over time, I built a connection with him, taking him up on his invitation to church and attending his birthday party. In that time, I learned that he is one of the most progressive people I have ever met on many social issues, including the welcoming LGBTQIA folks, which is very rare in Peru. In fact, he is challenging other Peruvians in a way I, as a foreigner, cannot to be more accepting of the disenfranchised members of society. In fact, David is quick to argue his point on many issues.
This often leads him to bicker with my host mother on topics ranging from his hair length, to his political opinions, to his conduct with our host grandmother. Admittedly, Isis tends to argue right back with David. The two rarely let the little things go with each other. Below it all though, they truly love each other.
Plus, my host mother loves greatly to all those under her care. She is also quite willing to expand the net of her care quite far, taking not only me, but members of her extended family and friends under her wing as need arises.
Occasionally, that care is a bit paternalistic. I’ve had more than a few moments when I have needed to cave to her way of doing things, because she assumed I had no idea how to do this or that. For now, I am just accepting that as part of living here. It’s more important to just let the little things go and remember that this all comes out of active care and love.
Of course, she does not entirely sacrifice herself in being there for others. She and David were the first in the family to leave the Catholic Church to explore Protestant traditions with her late husband. That did not stop her from staying connected to her family. It is obvious that she worked very hard not to be estranged from her highly Catholic mother.
Still, the family does struggle because of their different religious ideologies and even upbringings. Essentially, Mama Luz was raised in a different era, an era that placed more value on whiteness. She was raised with Anglo Saxon depictions of the Bible and the saints. That led her to openly claim that I, with my light skin and golden hair had the “face of an angel.” No really, that happened. It was as hilarious, as it was casual in its racism.
Basically, Mama Luz is the traditional racist grandparent from a different time. David does not just let this go. Of course, she shoots right back with her own comments on his crazy curly hair and other topics.
This family is no stranger to open and direct bickering. Right now, I am so thankful for that. I’m sure that will become more stressful in the months to come, but after months of working with indirect communication I cannot get enough of mild bickering.
No cultural miscue gets left unmentioned, which at the end of the day helps. I know when and how I have made a mistake, so as to better apologize and avoid a repeat offense.
Admittedly, the honeymoon phase will likely come to an end. I can already tell that David’s argumentative personality grates easily. Plus, my patience may occasionally wear of my host mother assuming I do not know how to do certain mundane tasks. Eventually, killing a few cockroaches every night will stop being novel. Still, those are the problems of living in community. Problems that mean I am in a place where I feel comfortable to be myself.