He pulled me aside after teaching English to a rowdy group of kindergartners.
Sweat was dripping down my neck and hair stuck to my forehead. I tried to brush it away but my hands were a sticky mess of homemade play-dough. My head was throbbing after trying to keep my voice and energy level up in 90 degree heat as the rooster crowed in the yard next door and the chanting of multiplication tables by third grade drowned me out.
I was already exhausted and overwhelmed. The smells of smoke drifting in from a neighbor lady cooking beans over an open fire as well as rotten mangoes that had been baking in the sun were so pungent I sometimes felt the need to gasp for breath.
It was as hard as it was loud and nothing seemed to be going well. Were my students even learning? After every class I left with so many doubts.
"Hermana, (sister), some pastors are upset. When they called your phone, the song playing in the background was a vulgar one. It's bad. If you were Nicaraguan, the church would put you in discipline. You need to change it." My Nicaraguan coworker was kind when he said it, but my heart sunk.
I had no idea. I felt panicked. How could this have happened? I hadn't chosen the song, it was chosen by the phone company. Was there a meeting about me? Shame washed over me.
My eyes brimmed with tears, "What do I do? I don't even know how to change it. Please help me."
He did of course and eyed me sympathetically. But trust had already been lost and that is a hard thing to regain in Nicaragua.
I drove home with a heavy sense of failure but also of frustration. Why was I not given the benefit of the doubt? Why had the pastors not spoken directly to me?
This was the first of many times when I experienced triangulation. Conflict in my country of service is rarely face to face. Direct confrontation provokes even more shame and usually ends in the permanent severing of a relationship. But is triangulation the Biblical model for dealing with problems within the Christian community? How do you process moments of doubts and failure when some obviously stem from culture stress (loud classrooms) while others stem from more rooted causes like how cultures address problems?