I look up from my computer in our beloved Trigo de Oro café in downtown La Romana to see four American tourists sitting at the table next to mine. There are three women and a man, and all seem to be more or less in their late 60’s. Initially I am pleased to hear English. And then it happens.
“No mayo. No…mayo….naise. Good lord. No mayonnaise!…whatever. If they’re going to serve tourists they should learn to speak English.”
The man is pointing to the picture of a chicken sandwich on the menu and yelling at the waitress who clearly doesn’t understand what he’s saying. So he resorts to the three immature stages of people who haven’t seen enough comedy to know they’re a big cliché: talking slower, yelling, and frustrated failure.
Fortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as you might think, but it does happen, and more often than it should. Although to be fair, I understand why it happens and it’s almost unfair to the tourists. You work hard all year and spend money that may or may not be expendable, so you develop a lot of expectations for those six or seven days. You’re at your most hedonistic and you worry less about your own standards of behavior. Heck, I show signs of being that way when Kristy and I go to a hotel. She always points out that that’s when she takes the opportunity to dress up and I dress more casual.
So, like all situations, at times you’re dealing with jerks and other times you’ve got decent people in unique circumstances. Nevertheless much of our long process of integration has included intentionally addressing many of the stereotypes about Americans that are a mix of American media and interaction exclusively with tourists.
So you’ll understand the pleasant surprise it was to receive an e-mail from the main office looking for volunteers near La Romana who might be available to spend an afternoon with a couple people arriving on a cruise ship. These two, David and Anna, were potentially interested in joining Peace Corps after retirement and wanted to meet some volunteers. When I e-mailed them back they were enthusiastic to come visit our site as well. So, on December 15th we met them downtown, they bought us lunch, and we brought them back to Villa Hermosa to see our site. They also brought us a killer care package and have expressed interest in supporting our upcoming groups.
Anyway, a huge hello to David and Anna, and thanks for representing our country well as you’re out traveling.