Thursday, August 5, 2010

---It's Only a Day Away

Grab this related post Widget!
You probably didn't know that tiny Ecuador is the world's leading exporter of bananas.

The same is not true of "mananas", however. Most if not all of them are needed right here at home to be freely handed out each time the simple question "When?" is asked. I've explained previously how this word can mean any time, including never.

Whenever "es posible" precedes manana, a whole different level of obscurity is in play. "It's possible" is so filled with hope, isn't it? Well, the local person uttering this phrase is full of something, all right, but I wouldn't put hope at the top of the list.

The Eddsaid translation of "es posible," gleaned from numerous conversations and the observation of their aftermath, is "I have absolutely no idea." So when someone tells you "es posible manana," basically you're screwed.

But here's the interesting thing. It's not intended that way at all.

For example, after almost a month and a half we're STILL not in our permanent residence that was "promised" to us July 1. Almost without fail whenever we chat with our friends and relatives in the States the first topic of conversation is, "So when are you moving into your new apartment?." This is a normal and natural question coming from a culture where there is a premium on timeliness and where there are penalties for nonperformance.

After being away from the US only a few months we've come to realize how much Americans live in the future. Everyone is stressed out and hurrying through the day with too much to do; TGIF; "If I can just accumulate this much money/get that promotion/go away for a few days and relax-----." Wayne Dyer calls this mindset "striving but never arriving."

Here the focus is on enjoying today. Many businesses literally close from 1-3 and employees go home to have lunch with their families. People are not complacent or lazy; they're simply not willing to sacrifice enjoyment of daily life to the relentless pursuit of material gain.

So "es posible" and "manana" are examples of polite and accepted acknowledgment that in truth nobody has an exact idea of when things will happen--or cares too much.

You, as the recipient of such a message, truly have zero power. What are you going to do? Threaten to take your business elsewhere? Good luck with that strategy. Toto, we're not in Kansas any more. That's just not the way it works here.

Some of the tiny old neighborhood grocery stores have a sign posted that says, "We cannot extend credit today, but we can tomorrow so please come back then." Think about the metaphysical brilliance of this message.

Cynthia and I find ourselves caught in a sort of purgatory between a lifetime of conditioning to expect a certain level of service and a growing understanding that here the attitude is "it's not business--it's personal." Away from the (often self-imposed) pressure created by over-scheduling and under-enjoying, we're quickly embracing our new slogan of "por que no"---why not??

Exactly when are we moving into that apartment? Es posible manana.


David L. Akins said...

My wife and I say that you must accumulate these into a book about your experiences. Your blog is great, but many are not so Internet inclined. Keep them coming.

Karen and I are scheduled to have our innoculations for the trip to Ecuador, but have not scheduled a time to go. I still have to close on the sale of a business I have listed and complete an audit of financial statements for another business. I do want to hook up when we get down there.

Edd Staton said...

You & those shots---------. I keep telling you they're not necessary, but if you're so inclined, may the Force be with you.

Mike and Johnie said...

So you have only been here a few months? I thought your insights were pretty insightful. Took me a lot longer to get it. When I was up in the States in June I found the stress level way to high, with people worried about jobs, keeping their homes (not McMansions) and the cost of living.

My wife (from Panamá) laughed at your translations and said they were right on the money...

Mike and Johnie said...

In the interest of not having the nuns who taught me rise up from their graves I offer the following correction:

When I was up in the States in June, I found the stress level way too high,

Jack said...

Way to go Mike for correcting your wife's improper insertion of the preposition instead of the adverb (or maybe it was YOU).

Nonetheless, I find Edd's blog to be a surreal insertion into their world of new experiences and cultural clashes. I still can't believe they actually DID IT but am always amused and interested in their journey to a new land. After all I've known Edd (he was Eddy then) since the 5th grade.

A brilliant mind to be sure, he was one "B" away from a perfect 4.0 at UGA as I remember it. BTW Edd, you never took out a contract on that one prof?

Mike and Johnie said...

Ed went to the U of G? I spent 10 years in the Atlanta area before coming to Quito. What I remember of the GT - UG rivalry was the GT shirt that proclaimed that GT did not look down on UG...someone had to make the hamburgers. Needless to say, UG fans were not amused and martial law was enforced before, during and after the football game.

Edd Staton said...

It took me a long time to get over that--especially since the deciding "B" was in a damn elective art class, a subject in which I'm by no means a slouch. Oh, well, the scars eventually healed------.

And, Jack, I moved to Jim Cherry in the middle of the 4th grade. Thanks always for befriending a scared kid who knew no one.

Anonymous said...

Some of the tiny old neighborhood grocery stores have a sign posted that says, "We cannot extend credit today, but we can tomorrow so please come back then." Think about the metaphysical brilliance of this message.

Don't we call this 'conflict avoidance'?

You can call it their 'culture,' but really? A month and a half? Hell, I coulda painted the walls and laid the granite myself, and I'm no contractor!