So this week has been a rather interesting one. It seems that the cosmic focus was on “loans”.
It first happened to me that one of our neighbourhood security guys pulled up next to me on his bike asking me whether I’d speak Spanish. Given that I have talked to him on several occasions, this question seemed pretty odd, but well… He then asked me for a prestamo. Huh, so here we go. I just had told him quite brusquely that I did speak Spanish, and then I don’t know what that word means! Well done, Miss Know-it-All!
I was looking at him confused. Prestamo? Pressed? Pressing matter? Urgent? Did he want to use our bathroom? But then I understood he was talking about dinero. That left me even more confused. It turned out he wanted to borrow 50 Pesos (3.70 USD – really peanuts!) from me to be able to buy himself some food. Oh, what a terrible feeling! There I was with my big SUV, the trunk loaded with groceries, and this guy was begging me for money. Of course, I gave it to him, and I was tempted to give him some more but I also didn’t want to shame him.
What was weird about it was that he didn’t seem embarrassed. I remember my first few months after I had moved out. I was doing a training at a hotel and was on a ridiculously low income. However, being young and very excited to start my adult life, I spent my money freely – and ended up totally broke. I could have easily asked my parents to help me out, but would that have been embarrassing! Instead, I was living on oatmeal for weeks. One handful in the morning, one handful at night cooked in water – a very effective diet. Never in my life would it have occurred to me to ask anyone for money, neither family member nor friend. It was a matter of pride to me. But people here don’t seem to feel it. Like our housekeeper A.
Because here comes the second weird incident of the week: A. asked me for a prestamo of 6,000 Pesos (about 450 USD). That’s not peanuts but she needed it to fix her door that was broken, and I was happy to help out. Again, I was surprised to not see the slightest bit of embarrassment. I was the one feeling awkward when I handed her the money and almost apologized. She on her part just accepted it very graciously. Up to now, she hasn’t done a single thing about her door, instead she started waterproofing her walls… But I guess, it is none of my business what she REALLY uses the money for.
It seems that the people here see us as incredibly rich. Like we were having a never ending fountain of dinero in our backyard. Or a cash-donkey. Well, maybe I just have to take a closer look and we do – you never know what is hiding in the jungle, do you?
I hope that I am not wearing a label now on my forehead saying “Prestamo office – open house”. Being rich is just too embarrassing for me!