Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Personal Space....

...DOES NOT EXIST in SVG, nor does my bubble.

Let me give you a few examples to support my claim that Personal Space does not exist in SVG.

Firstly, I remember an instance when I was walking down the street in the Capital of SVG when evidently my dress was not zipped up all the way in the back.  Luckily, nothing was showing, however, a stranger stopped me and zipped it up first before even asking or even uttering one word to me.  In fact, the person continued on their way once she finished, muttered something, and then thinking I did not speak English continued on her way.

Obviously, you cannot have personal space if you are crammed 4 or 5 to a row in the mini van-esque mode of public transportation. Add to that babies, small children and people’s personal belongings. Some people carry a lot of load with them: giant boxes, huge 25lb flour sacks full of god knows what.  Where can all this go, you may be wondering? Usually, partly on the lap of the person next to them.  In many cases, strangers will pass their children for others in a more spacious seat to hold for the duration of the trip.  Did I mention that you also have to be a contortionist to ride the public transportation?  Often times you have people’s elbows digging into your ribs and other appendages in awkward places, forcing you to contort into a more comfortable position.  Not to mention, people don’t seem to be concerned if their purses, children and grocery bags are spilling over into your lap.

Just the other day, I myself was in this position.  I was carrying one of those orange sports water coolers back to Town and was riding in the front middle seat.  This seat can be a bit of a challenge in itself, as it’s difficult to keep yourself from spilling over into the lap of the person and driver next to you.  As a result of the driver’s fast driving on the very curvy roads, I needed both my hands to stabilize myself.  I gave the water cooler to the guy sitting in the seat next to me.  He willingly (?, well he did not complain or push out his mouth, so I assume he was ok with it) held it the entire ride.

Next example is the proximity of people when you are speaking to one another.  I would say that in the States, the standard is an arm’s length away.  However, that is evidently too far for SVG, since it is nearly impossible to go an entire conversation without some one touching you in some way.  Frequently, when you greet someone, they will shake your hand, or fondly touch your forearm or shoulder, and NOT let go for the duration of the conversation, this could be upwards of 10 minutes, which feels like an eternity.

As a result of these and other factors, my bubble has all but vanished.  I would say it has significantly shrunk only 10% by choice and 90% by force due to the circumstances and repeated attack.  Nevertheless, not having a bubble has led to a positive change, in being more open, accepting and generally tolerant of those around me. I would say it has caused me to be less guarded and more willing to talk to people, thus developing relationships with neighbors and “strangers” that have been very rewarding.

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