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Published: March 31st 2012
I took salsa lessons with my host brother today. He really wants to learn how to dance. I went because I love dancing of any sort and the first lesson es gratis
(free). Dancing really is a universal language because at times I didn't know what my dance partners were saying but it didn't even matter. We'd move in sync anyhow.
I learned a valuable cultural lesson today: sometimes it feels good to snap. It needed to happen and afterwards I felt super refreshed. Many people assume that becoming more culturally tolerant means not saying anything when things bother you. Just chalk it up to a cultural difference and get over it. To a certain extent I thought the same thing. The past few times I've gone out with my host brother or he's gone out with me and my friends, I noticed that he tends to make group decisions without consulting the group. Sometimes we'll be somewhere and he'll want to go for a walk to show me some places since he's a tour guide...without asking me if I want to go. Last week when we went out dancing I invited him. Me and my friends had a set place that we were going to. When we got to the place, he says "better another place" and just starts walking in a different direction and expected us to follow! He tells
me what we're about to do. I had been getting really peeved by that. It's times like these when your own culture becomes evident. I'm from the United States and I'm also a black woman. That means I'm doubly not used to any man telling me what I'm going to do--EVER! I'm used to people making suggestions when in a group. I'm used to being ASKED if I want to do something and not just expected to follow. It rubbed me the wrong way and every time he did it, I would get more and more annoyed on the inside. I didn't know if his actions were just Isaac or if it was a reflection of the culture. I had to consider both and I wanted to wait until I said something. I know Chile has a more sexist society, so I wondered if it is because I'm a woman. Maybe Isaac doesn't ask me my input because I'm a woman. It's been known to happen. Well, you know what? I decided I wasn't having that. Nope. Not having that! I made a choice. The next time it happened I would speak my mind. Sometimes you have to just say it.
When the salsa lesson ended it was late and we were in a sketchy looking part of town. As we were leaving Isaac told me he was going to take me to show me this house that was built by Italians. He blends in. He's Chilean. I, on the other hand, didn't feel comfortable traipsing through a sketchy looking area to see a random house since I'm already a gringa
, tall, and stand out. I asked him how far it was and he said not far. I was going to suck it up until I realized that his not far is usually like 3 blocks. I told him I didn't want to go but he continued to walk in the direction of that house as if I hadn't said anything. That's when I let him have it! I told him that I don't like when he does that, tells me what we're going to do without asking. He didn't seem to get it and continued to walk in the direction of the Italian house. He said he wanted to show me the house really bad and tried to convince me of how cool it was. I told him it bothers me, that it's rude, and then I called him on the carpet about what he did last week at the discoteca
with my friends. I told him he needs to ask people and that I'm not used to being TOLD what I'm going to do. Then he got it. He apologized and asked me why I hadn't told him sooner. I said I was telling him now and I wasn't sure if it was him or his culture. He said it was him.
I felt the weight lift off my shoulders and I actually started smiling! Probably looked a little bi-polar. Haha! It just felt so good! We walked towards the micro
stop to go home and I knew a major bridge had been crossed. I can be culturally sensitive AND speak my mind at the same time. Things were perfectly fine afterwards. It's one thing to want to be culturally respectful and another thing to feel like you're being repeatedly disrespected. I've learned that when it concerns the latter, you have to speak up for yourself and come to an understanding. When people get offended repeatedly and stay closed mouthed, it just breeds resentment which is never the goal of a cultural experience. Lesson learned. I'm not holding my tongue anymore.
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