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Culture —– Do you sweep your dirt?

by Brandi

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September 24th, 2010

Just quickly, I want to address a question that a lot of people have had about our complete Visual Link Spanish™ course.  Many people know that we have wonderful interactive computer lessons from all of the demo lessons on our site. What many people do not realized is that there are 10 audio CDs also come with the course. The benefit from this is that you can learn the lessons first on the computer, and then review everything in your car, while exercising or walking the dog, etc. The more exposure you have to the Spanish language, the better you will learn and retain it. Most courses have just one or the other, but Visual Link Spanish™ has both computer CD-ROMs as well as audio CDs (not to mention the great pocket-size conversation manual that contains every word in the course)..

Now let’s move on to our topic for the week. It is my understanding that around the world; generally many people have brooms and sweep the dirt and dust in their homes to clean them. Some may even sweep the sidewalks and walkways that are around their houses. Growing up, my mom gave me more than ample opportunities to sweep out the kitchen or our little patio where I would play basketball.

In some parts of Latin America, the people quite literally sweep their dirt. When I had first arrived in Latin America, I stayed the first couple months in a lower income pueblo [pweh-blow] living among the natives. A pueblo can be best described as a small city. In most of the lower income pueblos, the homes are made of adobe bricks and the streets are sometimes sand but mostly are dirt. Because not too many people own cars, the streets of the pueblos are generally pretty calm. Most of the homes in pueblos do not have any type of yard; when you step out the front door, you are on the street.

Anyway, when I had first arrived and starting walking the streets of the pueblo my first few mornings there, I saw one of the most interesting cultural sites I have ever seen. In the front of just about every home, housewives were pouring buckets of water on “their portion” of the street and were sweeping the dirt streets.

This was a truly amazing morning ritual for me to see.  As I would see them pour buckets of water on the streets and sweep them, I was somewhat perplexed and a little amazed. For me, the purpose of sweeping dirt is to get rid of the dirt and you do not have any more dirt. These wonderful dedicated women would sweep, and sweep, and sweep again, but would never get to the bottom of the dirt because the streets were made of dirt. The more they swept, the more the dirt appeared. This fascinated me for many, many months. I thought that maybe their brooms had not come with instructions, or perhaps it was a morning social outlet, or possibly this was how they did their morning exercise or aerobics.

This, for me, was a real cultural phenomenon. From my cultural perspective, I could not make any sense from it. The next few months, I became so accustomed to seeing the women sweep their dirt in the morning, that I had almost forgotten that in other parts of the world, they do not sweep their dirt (literally). Finally, after living in Latin America for almost a year, I remembered that I had not grown up with this custom and was resolute about getting to the bottom of it. I spoke to a few people and finally found out precisely why they sweep their dirt. When it is windy there, the dirt blows around in the streets and can be a nuisance. The women put water on the dirt and sweep it to help better pack it down to reduce the amount of dust in the air. Finally — it all made total sense to me!

I bring up this story to hopefully enlighten your perspective when looking at the all of the world’s different cultures. Sometimes we jump too quickly to conclusions and can create all sorts of strange ideas about a certain cultural difference. If we speak with people and find out more about their culture, the things they do usually make a lot of sense and help us to bridge cultural gaps. We will even come to appreciate and love their culture.

To learn more about speaking Spanish, please visit our website www.spanishprograms.com

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2 Responses

  1. Spanish Help says:

    Cultural differences is what makes this world so interesting. Learning another language is important to being able to understand the differences. And hopefully with better communication, or the ability to being able to communicate at all, the world would be a less violent place.

  2. Chris Toedt says:

    Oh, do we every sweep ditrt in our village Dave.
    As you know I live in the Republic of Panama or paradise is what mostpeople see/think when they are sure what they have just discovered. BUT most fail to walk a block off of “main” street which is what people need to do before they make a decision to move to their paradise.

    When I met my wife who was born in our village as were her/our 3 children, we started building our home.
    A floor is the least of your worries their, we did however pour a
    2″ concrete floor a couple months after we had the walls up and a
    roof (2×4″ rafters and galvanized tin roof like a horse barn).
    Our window are usually wood, even the panes are wood, no glass.
    We do have a pvc window with glass in our kitchen.

    Most people open their wooden windows in the morning, sling the
    day old coffee and any thing they don’t want to eat get it out
    the chickens that roam freely in our village and they clean it up.

    Sweeping dirt, each morning after breakfast all doors and windows
    are open, trash goes outside along with the dust on your dirt floor.
    You rake up the trash outside, sort out the clothes that flew outside
    in this cleaning frenzy.

    You see many homes are build either ontop of what was swamps and gravel
    and stone was hauled in to get up to grade then good soil is brought in
    and you build upon that.

    Strange? No, not if you live there.
    So many customs that are so different from the USA and other industrial

    Dirt, thats nothing strange.
    Neither is not having indoor or outdoor bathroom.
    For 7 years I walked to the mountain to where the “bathroom’ was.
    No stool, nothing.

    I have a full bathroom now and an American (north) style U shaped
    kitchen, my wife loves it.

    Blessings, Chris

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