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What I Learned from Host Family Living

In the "Cult of Escapism": What I Learned from Host Family Living

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I Learned from Host Family Living

I lived with host families for six months and it was educational, challenging frustrating, fun, infuriating, and lots of other adjectives. I’m glad I did it but damn am I happy to live alone. Here’s what I learned:
  • Don’t stay up late because you’ll never be able to sleep in. Especially in the Comarca, when the sun is up, so are you. And if you put something over your eyes and roll over, you’ve got maybe five minutes before the radio comes on or the baby starts crying…and there’s always a baby
  • There’s always a baby
  • Babies cry a lot
  • Babies are very cute, but they all have worms
  • Don’t hide, talk to the family. I studied Spanish in middle school and high school but I didn’t speak it until the end of training. I credit my first host mom, who was always willing to sit and talk. In your site, you can also learn a lot about the town and the culture if you ask lots of questions. However…
  • Be patient – Ngobes are quiet and conservative and slow to get a conversation going. Endure the awkward silence talk about the weather, space out for a while and eventually the flame of conversation heats up
  • Don’t take out food unless you’re willing to share. Ngobes always share – it’s not polite, it’s assumed
  • Only take out your computer if you enjoy watching five kids draw in Paint until the battery dies
  • Only take out your iPod if you are willing to tell them it costs $250, because they will ask
  • Use your mosquito net – there are not that many mosquitoes in the Comarca, but there are plenty of sancudos (tiny biting flies) who are very inconsiderate of one’s beauty rest
  • Eat all your food. When Peace Corps interviewed my host mom from training to make sure I was behaving myself, the only thing she told them was that I ate all my food every day. This is apparently the highest compliment. If you can’t finish your meal, there are generally dogs around that can
  • Chicken feet taste like chicken but have no sustenance
  • A bowl of rice is filling for about 20 minutes
  • You might go to bed hungry
  • Find an escape. I went to the river a lot at night because nobody else goes to the river at night. In a house with 8-12 other people, sometimes you need to be alone.
  • If you like sports, play sports. If you like music, play your instrument. If you like stabbing people with ice picks, maybe wait until you get back to the States where you’ll have a more defensible argument for owning an ice pick.

Two Quick Stories

First Quick Story - killed a tarantula with a jar of peanut butter the other day. He shriveled and died on top of a book titled A Good Day to Die.

Second Quick Story - On move-in day, I woke up, put on my boots and spent the entire day walking and working on the house. That evening, I pulled my foot out of its boot and a scorpion fell out. I stared at it. It was missing its stinger so I upended the boot and out it came. Eight hours I walked, literally, on top of a scorpion. Peace Corps lesson – always shake your shoes out before putting them on.


At March 15, 2011 at 6:06 AM , Blogger Joy said...

Your quick stories made me laugh out loud! You didn't feel some sort of, I don't know, crunch?!

At July 2, 2012 at 7:18 AM , OpenID dcpierce said...

Eight hours walking on a scorpion? Wow...

At December 18, 2012 at 10:09 AM , Blogger bama said...

Laughing! and Wow, a ditto to previous comment from dcpierce.


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