Continental Shift & Changing Perspectives

by Susan Whitehead / Sep 21, 2011 / 0 comments

I would NEVER have allowed that man into our house back in the states.

Call me predjudiced, and I guess I have been (usually more often than I'd care to admit), but letting an unshaved, crazy haired, dirty Hispanic man into our Florida home would not have happened.  Period.

But here in Costa Rica, accompanied by our property manager, we welcomed him in, even offered him something to eat and drink and had a nice chat about his children while he waited for a few parts to fix some electrical issues at our rental home.

Something inside us has changed a bit.  It is VERY hard to let go of previous conceptions of people.  Honestly, how often do you see clean shaven, well dressed, light skinned Hispanic men on the news for committing some crime in the US?  Not often.  But when you live in a country where almost everyone is a little less clean than you're used to (but smelling like the best cologne they can afford) and having dark olive complections, dark eyes and often a fairly serious look on their faces, well, you gotta let go of some fears!

Another example was a taxi driver that picked us up to take us to church one Sunday when our usual driver had car trouble.  Man, if he didn't look like someone from an episode of COPS.  But he was kind, curteous and friendly.

The older man that I have bought meat from 3 weeks in a row is an interesting character.  He is as friendly as can be, calling me "Reina" or "Queen" when we speak (who wouldn't like that?).  I'm sure the mental image of this man would not come close to someone you'd trust enough to buy meat the US.

His teeth, what's left of them, are spaced out and protrude from his upper jaw.  His hair looks like it may have been washed last week...early last week.  His hands are worn from years of work and barely grip his tongs enough to hold them.  And he touches the meat with his bare, probably dirty, hands.

Yet...I'm a repeat customer!  (For my mom's sake, I do wash the meat off when we get home and fully cook it to kill any germs.)

Living around and interacting with these people has really challenged us to think about why we think certain things about other people groups.  Yes, it's nice to give the canned line how we're supposed to to love our neighbors as ourselves, but how easy is it to love someone you've been taught to be scared of?

Costa Rica House with Iron DoorWe're finding out that, when we're taken out of our ultra-white context, it gets pretty easy.  A simple smile, a friendly, "Buenos Dias", a heart felt "Muchas Gracias" goes a long way.  And being genuinely interested in what THEY do...that's what opens doors and shows them you're not trying to push your ways on them, but trying to gain an appreciation for who they are.

Now, this doesn't mean we let anyone in our home.  It's nice having an iron bar door and bars on the windows (see photo) and being able to converse with bars between us and an "outsider," but it doesn't have to be as scary as we make it out to be.  We're always cautious.  We're just learning that an entire country (or numerous countries) can't be full of people trying to do us harm.

With 5 kids in tow, Susan Whitehead and her husband, Michael,
recently moved to Costa Rica after selling almost everything to follow a
dream to immerse themselves in a different culture.  When they're not
exploring the local culture, Susan enjoys encouraging other
homeschooling moms to dream big, as well as posting her musings on their
family travel blog,