The dear folks at The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce are very protective of me and so every time I do anything I have never done before they think I either must not know what I am doing and must be stopped or else must be the victim of fraud and must be stopped. Actually, it is not the dear folks. It is the dear machines. Don’t think for a second any action is taken by a person. Machines send me messages to my “secure message centre” and promise that a real person will write me back if the auto reply is insufficient. This is a lie. The autoreply is never sufficient and no real person ever writes back. The machines tell me they will send me an email notifying me if they send an answer to a question I pose via my “secure message centre.” This is also a lie. I get an auto answer, but no notification by email. Ever.
But I digress. It was therapeutic to rant, but off point. My point: a man today rolled his eyes. Because of me. Because I had yet another problem. With the banking system.
Competence is one of the characteristics I feel is genuinely attributable to me. In my home environment, I am an oft turned to problem solver. “Mama fixed it, Mama fixed it” was a refrain my daughters were taught to sing with regularity. The key words here: in my home environment.
I am in Chile. Here, if something works, wait half a day. And when it fails, be it a toilet or a vehicle, an ATM or a refrigerator, the answer is always the same. “Tranqilo, tranquilo.” Be calm, be calm. There are no problems in Chile. There is only the next invitation to practice patience.
I’m pretty good at patience. My challenge, I’ve decided, is an invitation to practice humility. I look like a fool. My test, as it appears to me chosen by the gods, is I am to learn the art of dignity in the face of apparent foolishness. There is no point explaining. Justifying. Contextualizing. My seemingly unending stream of problems makes me look incompetent. Even if fluent in Spanish (insert thigh-slapping laughter here), I could convince no one out of their current impression.
And so I’ve decided to welcome this. Humility is a fine art. Shamefully unfamiliar.
And I have made my friends here laugh by saying, “I have learned a lot more Spanish because of all these problems.”
And it is true. Between the bank, the theft (someone I befriended stole a prescription and a set of Apple earphones out of my purse), lack of a car in an area with only 5 buses a day and none on Sundays (when I like to go to church), and, because I am vain, wanting to get my legs waxed, I have had to learn a lot of Spanish.
The arrangements here have also helped. I share a kitchen with an ongoing turn over of other guests and so have gotten quite good at “I’m sorry, I don’t understand because I don’t speak English,” “I come from Canada,” and “I live on an island near the city of Vancouver.” Actually, today I said without pause “I think she went to the house to eat lunch” a sentence, it felt to me, of some accomplishment.
It helped with the all too quickly following feeling of incompetence respecting the latest problem in my quest to get enough cash to pay my hotel bill. (Few places in my price range take VISA, the nearest cash machine with a not surprising daily withdrawal limit is an hour’s drive and a toll booth away, and I’m here for at least a month.) While many of my problems are due to the fact a call to Canada requires a 45 kilometre drive one way to a call centre and wifi access is a 20 minute drive in a different direction, both exasperating inconveniences when one does not even have a car, I can still appreciate his exasperation.
And so I arrive at the end of another day in Chile, aware my feelings today are a normal part of travel in a developing country and that the impressive privilege of my ability to be here at all is itself humbling. I have gone poolside to savour a few moments of this graceful day. What lies before me I have posted as photographed.
Tranquilo. Si, tranquilo.