This is the first post of Larissa's "Crossing Cultures" series. You can access the entire series by the Crossing Cultures Series tag.
One of the most difficult things about being a missionary is a very basic fact. We are American. We were born there, grew up there, understand how to function there, and will always have significant connections there. We will never stop being American in some aspect, no matter how much time we spend elsewhere or how hard we try to open our minds to new perspectives.
However, we have also chosen to have another country and people group significantly influence our life, choices, the way we think and live, and even speak on a daily basis. Sometimes it comes naturally to us to love and appre- ciate the differences we see, but other times we must purposefully honor the culture in which we live, even though we might rather not.
Furthermore, we have knowingly made this choice for our children, who will feel the strain of it even more than us. As adults, our identity is firmly enough rooted in America that we can consciously shift between American and Peruvian expectations when we transition be- tween the two. However, our kids will more closely relate to Peruvian life as their more familiar experiences, but will never be fully considered Peruvian, due to language, family, and even appearance. Their own culture will be a mixture of the two.
It is truly a challenging approach to daily life. Some such mo- ments blend themselves beautifully, such as learning to love some of their traditional foods here or welcoming Manuela into our families as a surrogate grandmother to our kids. Mixing our heritage with our current situation happened naturally. Other times, it clashes, such as receiving with grace the ever-present parenting critiques when our prefer- ence would be the to-each-his-own approach that feels more appropriate to us. With every new experience, we have to evaluate how we will allow it to truly affect us and possibly change us forever.
At the same time, we are blessed by the opportunity to experience such a rich culture face-to-face. There is wisdom to be found in places like this, where they approach almost every aspect of life from a different angle. We have already learned a great deal and have come to highly respect some of their assumptions, as we see that they are based in a long history and maintained with care. We live in a beautiful place among beautiful people and we want to share more of that with you.
To this point, it has been easy to pass along the other stories. It is funny to talk about how inefficient things can be, or how irritating this particular tendency is, or how we will never get used to that activity. It helps us buffer our frustrations and laugh at the days that we barely made it through. We still have lots of times that we just smile with gritted teeth or shake our heads and walk away, but those aren’t the moments that matter. Interesting? Maybe. Valuable? Not really.
I hope to share the other side of our new culture. I want to de- scribe some of the things that speak to the hearts of Peruvians, that really lift their spirits or make them laugh. I want to try and paint a picture of the people themselves and why we are learning to value them more and more. This isn’t an official anthropo- logical research project; it’s observation through life.