Thursday, January 28, 2010

It´s the little things...

I love the little details that make us who we are, as individuals and as a culture. Like how Americans are so used to tipping, and it seems so ridiculous to people here. Or how a lot (not all!) American men don´t dance because they don´t feel macho, and yet here you´re not macho unless you can dance. Or how a man with a bag in the US is looked at strange (I believe they are called ¨manbags¨or the ever-famous ¨murse¨ + purse), but here it´s typical... men need to carry things too! How Americans like our meat served in such a way where we can completely disasociate it from the animal from which it came. But here, you get an entire fish or guinea pig (in Peru... Cui!) staring back at you from a plate, or an entire hoof in your ambiguously-named soup. You know, just those silly little things.

In both Colombia and Peru, typically food is served with potatoes or rice, and many times with both. That´s like, the first no-no rule I learned of dieting back home... don´t combine your carbs! But that´s a foreign concept here. You´ll never see a plate of food in Peru without potatoes and rice on it. Colombians also fry just about everything, and add sugar to just about everything, even their natural fruit juices (all hail the maracuyá!!!). Consequently, most of them have a barriga (a belly), and frankly, no one seems to mind. It´s refreshing to be in a culture that embraces people of all sizes, after a year of living among the Argentine anorexia/ body-obsessed community.

In Colombia, when you buy something, you say thank you to the person who sold it to you. In Argentina, when you buy something, they thank you. And forget what your Spanish teacher taught you about saying ¨you´re welcome¨in Spanish... you won´t hear many people saying ¨de nada.¨ In Argentina, they say, ¨no, por favor!!¨very animatedly, which always cracks me up. It´s sort of like saying, ¨oh please, it´s nothing!¨ In Peru they always, always say, ¨con mucho gusto,¨ which is super polite. And in Colombia they always, always say ¨a la orden,¨ which loosely translates to ¨at your service¨, which also sounds super polite. They also use ¨a la orden¨ when you first walk into a store, or even as you walk by a store... so there is constantly, all day long, a million people shouting it to me as I walk down the street. I feel so... serviced!

One more little tidbit, before I hang up my nerdiness for the afternoon. In Argentina, the porteños, the word for the Buenos Aires capital city natives, have a reputation for being the worst... as in, the most closed, unfriendly, sort of douchey in Argentina. People from outside the capital (from provincia) tend to view porteños negatively. Its funny, then, to be here in Colombia and realize it is just the same with the rolos, the word for people native to the capital city of Bogotá. The rolos themselves insist they are the best, while the rest of the country (namely the paisas, people from the coffee zone near Medellin, and the costeños, people from the coast) tends to hate rolos. Personally, I can´t tell the difference, but it´s funny how these sorts of stereotypes are universal, I suppose.

I think it´s these small anecdotes that make me love travel so much. I love saying buena onda and genial in Argentina when I like something, and chévere and bacano in Colombia. I love calling people boludo in Argentina and huevón in Peru and Colombia. I crack up every time someone asks me if I´m from Argentina (happens more than you´d think!) because of my porteño accent I just can´t seem to shake (Sho me shamo Erica!). And I love hearing people´s impressions of their own countries and of mine, and sharing stories. I feel like that´s what travel is all about... the little details from everyday life, that make us who we are.


atown said...

I like potatoes in my pasta!