The following personal narrative by Phoebe Bride (2016) was completed in an English 10 writing workshop. Phoebe, now a resident of Dublin, NH, recounts a memorable experience from her time living abroad. Her parents, Mel Bride (Spanish, Lacrosse, Sailing) and Jim Bride taught at the Alison Bixby Stone Bilingual School in Zamorano, Honduras during the 2004-2005 academic year.
“What the heck is in that cardboard box?”
I looked, stunned. A delicate old lady dressed in tattered clothing walked over to my family, carrying a worn out cube with cardboard sides.
All I wanted was some TV time or ice cream. But something told me this was not what was in this box, which was handed over to my mother in the middle of a tiny village in Honduras.
When my mother accepted the box, the old lady said, “Para usted y su familia.” With gentleness, my mother’s fingers opened the slats, one by one. Her gasp made me run my chubby little body over to her side. I was shocked when I saw that within the box was a brown and white speckled chicken that looked ready to attack at any moment if you got too close.
My expectations had been shot. Were we supposed to kill it for her as a sign of our thanks? I looked at the people surrounding us. Their faces were fixed on us. What was our reaction to the gift? All that went through my mind was “it’s just a hen.”
I was so naive. My little six-year-old self didn’t understand the dynamics of the gift giving gestures of other cultures. The majority of the world didn’t have a car or a supermarket for shopping. As my mom later explained to me, this chicken was much more than just a simple gift. This old lady and her family had given their one source of protein to Americans that they had known for less than thirty- six hours.
America doesn’t provide the best image of other cultures to its citizens. From a young age, the media tells us that other cultures are dangerous. From bombings to terrorist acts, the media makes it seem that everyone from those “outside” cultures are out to destroy us. Rarely are we shown images of other cultures’ generosity. However, this cultural fog was finally lifted for me by this gesture of a family from a rural poverty-stricken third world country. Who are we to say that other cultures lack generosity?
Before leaving our host’s home, we said our thanks. I even had the nerve to say a wavering “gracias” to the elderly woman.