South Asia, like most of Asia, has a 'shame' culture. Just as powerful as a jail sentence for a crime is for the person to also be shamed in public for his felony. So, it appears also when someone does something stupid, it is not ignored, but pointed out. Case in point: About a week ago, I was walking up one of our many narrow streets. There were two teenage girls walking near me, and an army truck (huh?) coming up the road. Now in South Asia, the pedestrian does not have the rightaway, no matter how much they claim to value life here. This truck was taking up almost the whole road, and these two girls weren't exactly paying attention. Though I'm still not sure how they managed to drown out its incessant honking. The driver, as he passed one of the girls, yelled at her to move. Of course he was going too fast for his yells to make a difference, and one of the many tires on this monster ended up scraping her arm, giving her a nasty road rash, bruise, and possible strain. I immediately went over to the girls to see if they needed help as dozens of people stared at this girl. Then a man walked by, stuck his finger in her face, and although I didn't understand what he was saying, I just knew from his tone of voice he was lecturing her about "her" mistake. So, in a moment of pure, unadulterated un-love, I stared at the man and said, "I think she knows!" Oops.
Also, last week when I was walking in the rain, I stepped on a slippery part of a hill, and I not only slipped, but fell. Everything in my hands went flying and I was sprawled on the ground. I gotta say, not my most dignified moment. As I was picking myself off the ground and dusting the mud off my clothes, a man walked up to me and said, "Why were you walking there? You should not walk there." Hey thanks, buddy, but I think the kerplat on the ground helped me figure that out without your help. Luckily this time I didn't say what I was thinking. Next time, I'll have to work on not even thinking it!
Something I'm learning is what the boss said about love. It's easy to love the loveable, he said. But can you love the unloveable? Not that South Asians are unloveable, but there are times when any foreigner is living in a new culture, those little nuances, like shaming an already repentant person, can drive them nuts. On the flipside, think of the typical overly hospitable South Asian family moving to America, and none of the neighbors ask them to dinner or come over to visit. It's hard, no matter where you live. So I'm learning, one mistake at a time, how to love the (sometimes) unloveable.