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Thursday, February 24, 2011


There was a moment where I had some money and I decided to use it to travel to South America.

The people in foreign countries have about the same track-record for determining my gender as they do in the U.S., but the difference is that I usually don't have the language to defend myself abroad. Maybe I don't even know how much it happens because I don't understand what people are saying around me, but I think I've gotten pretty good at discerning whether the whispers and stares are "strange-looking-foreigner" or "strange-gendered-human."

When I'm abroad, I'm already kinda freaky by virtue of wearing a ball-cap, holding my Lonely Planet, being white, talking in another language, asking for directions every fifth block, etc etc. It seems like women in bathrooms tend to ignore the fact that I look like pictures of their exchange student's younger brother. On the other hand, sometimes it means I decide to sit with the men at the orthodox Jewish temple in Rome, since explaining in whispered Italian during intense services that "I'm not a dude" to a bunch of really religious woman sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

I went to Argentina and Bolivia this winter. Not that it probably matters to you, but I had an incredible time. Maybe it's because they are one of the gayest travel destinations in the world, but I really had no big gendered mishaps in Argentina. It's certainly not because their are a lot of butch people there, I saw maybe two (yes, I WILL be the judge of their gender identities) at a gay club and they had long hair and tight shirts emphasizing their chest.

Bolivia was kind of a different story. There was less "Señorita", more "Señor". The men I met avoided kissing me on the cheek because men don't kiss men when they are introduced. Learned that the hard way.

I found out how confused people must of been when I was shopping in Cochabamba. I was in an antiques shop, trying out my infantile Spanish when the shopkeeper's 8 year old son came up to me and we had this conversation (in Spanish):

Shopkeepers Son: Are you a boy or a girl?

Me: What do you think?

Shopkeepers Son: Boy!

Me: Why?

Shopkeepers Son: Because you have short hair.

Me: And?

Shopkeepers Son: (pointing to my nose area) And booger!

So, booger? I quickly make sure my nose isn't snotting all over the antiques. But I didn't feel anything there. Is this kid totally messing with me? Why does he use the English word for booger when he's been speaking in Spanish the rest of the time? Why isn't he discreetly informing me of my snot? I leave in a hurry (way to cost your mom that sale, little boy) and decide that I should go find out if there's a word in Spanish that sounds like booger. I find Andie, the girl-of-my-dreams/travelling companion who speaks fluent Spanish and when I tell her the story and ask her what this little man could've been saying, she starts laughing and says:

Bigote is the word for moustache.

1 comment:

  1. I am loving your blog, Lauren. I LOL every time I read it. HA!