There has been much-needed rain here in the tropics. The bugs are out: tiny gnats, swarms of mosquitoes, the vines that form the arbor over my front gate are growing wildly out of control. My grass already looks unkempt and I mowed it two days ago. The colors are vibrant, especially against a gray sky, and on my walk today, I was trying to calculate how long I could wear my workout clothes this morning before my skin starts to break out. Getting zits is part of living in the tropics; your skin never has a chance to dry.
A large part of this environment is money. I walk by women who have been transformed by cosmetic surgery. They look eerily alike, with tight foreheads and pursed, full lips; defined cheekbones; large, full breasts, regardless of age. They look like they are from a large family of sisters. I have to remind myself that they’re individuals with actual idiosyncrasies and personality quirks. I walk by nannies a lot too, dark-skinned women on cell phones who smile vaguely at me as we pass, pushing a stroller usually with an adorably plump, white toddler, dressed to the nines. All image-bearers of God.
I sense some emptiness: human to human, there is very little connection. Being a nanny, means feeling a sense of isolation; having been one myself, I know how marginalized you can feel, how invisible. Nannies here are often separated from their own families for days at a time, someone else is taking care of their own children. The babies are separated from their either too-busy parents, a father who travels, and often a mother whose main business is herself, who knows that her job is to keep herself as beautiful, fit, and fun as possible, regardless of how much money it takes. Her child quickly becomes an accessory, something she loves, yet also a bargaining tool with her husband, something to drag into the comparison game with her friends. These women age, helped along by plastic surgery, and sometimes push small, fluffy dogs in a custom-made dog stroller, as if it’s not too late.
Trucks filled with working men fly by, voices calling out to the women on the sidewalk. Men in nice cars and ties on cell phones are blurs, and their stare intensely, enjoying the sights before returning to the business deal at hand.
I often wonder how a person’s surroundings helps shape them.
Occasionally I walk by a person who really smiles, really looks. Often they’re older with gray in their hair and a slight shuffle to their walk. They remind me of the importance of sincere friendliness.
Today as I walked through the dewy green morning, the air thick and humid and unmoving, skies gray, heat already persistent, I thought about this: How much does the terrain, the environment surrounding me, form me? I long to comment to the man walking by with the gray ponytail and the sincere smile about the flatness of the intercoastal today, how it looks like a stretch of gray glass, how humid the air is, how stagnant this world is, not so much as a breeze. But I swallow my comments. I have no wish to stir the water.