One thing I love about living cross-culturally is that I encounter different beliefs and ways of doing things than what I grew up with. It makes me wonder two things. First, where did that come from or why do they do it that way? And second, where did my belief come from or why do I do it another way?
Often we do things the way we do them because that’s the way things are done. Without exposure to differences, I would rarely (or never) stop to consider why things are done a certain way or whether the original reason is valid. My husband’s family is very different from mine. Different worldview, different beliefs, different way of life. I want to understand and will ask him why they do things the way they do. But no one knows. In their culture, children aren’t permitted to ask their parents “why.” All they learn is the way things are done and that it is imperative not to break tradition.
Every planting season, my husband helps his mother plant an acre or so of maize, beans, and whatever else she wants to grow that year. Last year, he came home from a day of farming, and I asked how much of his mom’s planting he had gotten finished. He said, “None. She told me we can’t plant on Fridays, so I worked on my own acre.” He had asked her, “What happens if you plant on Fridays?” even though he’s not supposed to. She told him that she didn’t know because she never asked. Her father said not to plant on Fridays, so she doesn’t do it.
I find myself speculating on where the idea came from that one shouldn’t plant on Fridays. Did someone generations ago plant on a Friday and the crops didn’t grow? Or did something bad happen during or after planting on a Friday? Did someone make up the rule to get a day off work? Did my husband’s grandfather have other obligations on Fridays that precluded planting? The Seventh Day Adventists here are very strict about not working on Saturdays, and I also wonder, if my mother-in-law had known the reason not to plant on Fridays, would she have changed it to not planting on Sundays after she became a Christian? Or even cancel it completely? Or would the idea of breaking with tradition still be too difficult? I wonder about a lot of things.
There are hundreds more beliefs like this. My husband is as curious as I am, but no one in his family ever asked why before him, so no one can answer. We can kind of figure out where some beliefs came from. Most of them, we’ll never know.
In earlier chapters of The Many Wonders of Costa Contente, we encountered beliefs about ghosts. As ever, I wondered about the source of the beliefs. What had happened to cause people to think, for example, that the spirits of the ancestors flew into town on the backs of parrots? I reasoned that Zequinho must have very strong intuition (after all, he doesn’t usually have details), but everyone still believes he hears from ghosts. Dona Imaculada’s water desalination system was science, not magic.
Anyway, it didn’t occur to me that the ghosts were real. I assumed that it was all superstition. This week, we found out that the ghosts of Costa Contente are real! But they aren’t scary. Not to Costa Contente, anyway. The ghosts are on the town’s side and pitch in to help solve problems the same as the living residents of the town. The way they scared the construction workers off of the Manteca farm was actually pretty funny.
I want to talk more about this theme – not ghosts, but everyone coming together to solve problems. In the beginning, I thought the book would be mostly about Solange, but as I read more pages, it turns out to be about the town, as the title suggests. The way the townspeople work together is the main theme of the book, but I am going to save that topic for next week because I suspect that the book will end with the residents of Costa Contente coming together once again.
What were your thoughts about these chapters? What lingering questions do you have about the people of Costa Contente? Does your family have any beliefs or customs that you don’t know where they came from? I’d love to wonder about them, too! Come on in to the comments. Next week, we’ll discuss the ending of the book.
Join us in May as we read Always Love: The Timeless Story of God’s Heart for the World and What it Means for You by Sara Lubbers.
In Always Love, you’ll rediscover the Bible’s overarching narrative as themes are woven together revealing a seamless story from beginning to end. After following these themes through each major twist and turn, through difficult passages normally glossed over, through narrative, poetry, and ancient history, you won’t read the Bible the same way again! And more than that, you’ll be inspired to respond to God’s Always Love for you and find your place in His Story.”
Here’s our May schedule:
May 4th- Chapters 1-13
May 11th- Chapters 14-27
May 18th- Chapters 28-41
May 25th- Chapters 42-53, Epilogue