My mother, Nancy Amerson, was part of a group of friends on Cape Cod that met each month under the moniker of “Stitch and Bitch.” Some of these women also were part of Mom’s book group, which operated a little differently than the “Oprah bookclub” model: rather than all reading the same book, each participant contributed a synopsis of the books she’d read over the prior four weeks, a great way of expanding everyone’s reading universe. Her recommendations, which inform my library searches, will fill a future post.

But today, here are her thoughts as she stitched and bitched in October of 2004:

“Sometimes our group of six friends – five of whom were born overseas – hits on a topic to talk about over tea. This one was my suggestion: incidents that took us by surprise as we moved into other cultures. What I will mention are three episodes from Caracas, our very first post:

  • A lesson on family names from the registration official in Caracas when I was trying to register Susie’s birth. [My sister, now Susan Robb Amerson Hartnett, was born in Caracas when I was two.] The official did not understand, nor would he accept, that the baby’s middle name was not Maria or another first name but my maiden name, Robb. The Venezuelan naming custom  would have been to name her Susan Amerson (father) Robb (mother). We tried to tell him that, to be culturally correct, she was Susan Robb Amerson Robb. He disagreed and won the argument. Susan Amerson Robb is in the registry for December 31, 1956. Happy New Year!
  • A lesson on telling girls from boys from the man who gave pony rides in our Palos Grandes neighborhood.  He assumed that two year-old Janie, with her short hair and pants, was a boy. When I corrected him, saying she was a girl, he asked where her earring were. I responded that we did not put earrings on children.  To which he said, “Señora, you are not living in your country now.”
  • And a lesson on not pushing the boundaries too quickly. Bob’s Venezuelan staff at the Embassy had been talking about what kinds of food were typical from our home in the Midwest, and I mentioned growing up with things like waffles for dinner. People were interested in trying them and I had Bisquick in the pantry so I about broke the bank finding syrup and sausages and even blueberries. As the waffles were passed around the table, each person took one section and then waited for the real food. I was mortified.”

Mom was only two years into what turned out to be a twenty year Foreign Service adventure. She more than held her own!IMG_5187

One thought on “Cultural Surprises in Caracas

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