14 September 2012

Committing Culture Shock

Fun, but I don't think it would have helped.
There we were, just minding our own business on an ordinary morning of an ordinary day. Doin' the usual stuff: hopping in a taxi, heading for nearest shopping mall, sitting in the food court before any of the vendors opened up for the day, logging onto their wifi network and trying to upload our latest blog post before noon EST, per our agreement with our fellow raft-up bloggers.

With us on this race against time, were our laptop, both iPads, our camera, and our card reader. The efficiency with which we unpacked and set up our equipment would have impressed any local or national law enforcement agency, at least as they are portrayed on American TV.
We needed some pictures. The plan was for me to transfer two of them from the camera to my iPad via the card reader; the rest I would find online while Jane proofread her post one last time on her iPad and then uploaded it in draft form. After I put our watermark on our photos in Photoshop on the Mac, I would turn it over to her. She'd add labels, a location, etc., then uploaded the photos. Or, I should say, that's what we were in the process of trying to do. There hovers above us always an uncanny inverse proportionality when it comes to wifi connection speed. The more crunched for time we are, the slower our connection gets. We were down to the wire, 11 minutes left, but I still believed we could do it if we could just upload the photos. Immersed in all of this time sensitive activity, it's not surprising that we failed to notice that the food court had filled up around us even though the vendors were still not open.

I was facing the back of the food court, so I didn't see the someone or someones who were setting up microphones, I just heard the distractingly loud sound check. The next think I knew, everyone besides us was up on their feet clapping and singing along with SeƱor Soundcheck and his band.

"I wonder how he got them all to stand up like that, " Jane remarked. "Is this like a kids' show or something?"

"I don't know, but I hope they stop soon. I can't concentrate, " I replied. From where we were seated I could see the last couple of rows of tables and the people standing next to their chairs, singing and clapping. They all gave me this rather cold look which I interpreted as disdain for not joining in.

"We're just not audience participators," I said, "not back in the States and not here either."

Jane gave me the I'm-not-really-sure-I heard-what-you-just-said-but-I-provisionally-agree nod. Finally, precious moments later, our pictures still wouldn't upload but at least the music stopped. The singer spoke to the crowd in a quiet, thoughtful sounding manner. Still, the people were standing, still they gave me the look.

Then, in unison, they crossed themselves.

"Oh my God!" I said, my eyes expanding to the size of saucers. "We have to go. It's church!" "Church in a mall?" I stage whispered as we hastily collected our equipment, shoving everything into a big pack as fast as possible and dashed madly away from the food court. "Is it Sunday? Clearly they have no conception of the separation of church and commerce in this country." Sadly, it was also away from the already insufficient wifi signal. The next few minutes were a comedy of errors as we tried several other spots in the mall unpacking and repacking equipment in a then-desperate attempt to finish uploading our post. Our vigilance paid off, mostly. It was up two minutes after the deadline.

We decided to walk back to the marina rather than take another taxi. There were still sections of the city we hadn't seen. Zigzagging our way back, block by block, we were, at one point, annoyingly impeded by a crowd of nicely dressed people clustered together in conversation-sized groups outside of a building with a low-overhanging porch. We automatically fell into a single file line  Jane in front (I don't like the idea of my wife walking behind me) to better thread our way through the crowd. Parked next to the building, there was a vehicle with its hatch open and an enormous spray of long-stem red roses inside. I was just noticing them when I nearly crashed into my wife who had doubled back and was motioning for to me to turn around and retrace my steps.

Once on the other side of the street, I asked if she'd noticed the flowers. She had, and that was when she came within inches of running into the casket as it was being carried out to the hearse. Poor Colombians. There they are, just minding their own business on a not ordinary day. The rest of the walk was uneventful which is to say that as far as we know, we didn't violate any other religious traditions. 

I think there is a lesson in all of this. Damned if I know what it is, though. 

All we can say is "sorry world, here we come."

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