I remember when we moved to Mexico, I thought everything was dirty. Now, I have a different perspective.
My Tico family believes that the floor is the most common cause of colds. My host brother Esteban has a bit of a cold now, and I overheard doña Isabel scolding him for leaving his clothes on the floor. The floors in this house are mostly a sweep-able material, be they wood or tile. The tiny patch of carpet is swept with the floor. But, as the floor is the most germ-infested area of the house (according to Ticos), we always wear shoes. Always. I’m so glad I thought to bring my fluffy slippers.
The thing is, that even though there are cracks in the walls, stains on the upholstry (sp?), and the white towels aren’t still completely white, this family would never give me something they themselves would refuse. The cracks in the walls are necessary in the summer to let the heat escape and the breeze come in. The stains–well, they couldn’t use straight bleach to a blue couch! Besides, you can hardly see it if you aren’t looking for anything. The off-white towels are the good towels; they’re the ones that everyone in the family hopes to get because they dry well, and are well used. The Ticos have everything they need for survival, and yet they don’t feel the need to sanitize everything in sight. Of course, they use what they have to keep their spaces habitable. With the thousands of germ-killing products in the U.S., we manage to keep our spaces surgical.
Besides, I have a theory about sanitization: the less germs we’re exposed to, the more often we get sick. Think I’m wrong? Consider vaccinations. Why would any sane human being inject himself with a weakened virus? Seriously?? And yet, science tells us that by coming in contact with this weakened virus, our own antibodies will learn to conquer the new sickness and keep us well.
Thus, what is clean to my Tico family, I will also consider clean.