Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Sometimes I feel like I´m in a life-sized game of Where´s Waldo and I´m the Waldo.

Every so often someone will realize that I´m a gringa, a blanchita, or simply the American, and will point it out to me or to their friends. It´s like they are saying, ¨Look I found the Waldo!¨

The girls at Alalay were amazed one afternoon when they pulled back my shirt and saw my stomach. They let out gasps of, ¨Blanchita!¨ Like it was this dirty secret I had been hiding. I´m not sure how it slipped pass them. It´s not like I´ve gotten some amazing tan since I arrived. My stomach is about the same color as my arms and face.

Or at the La Paz fiesta when one of the actors playing a bull singled me out of the crowd and pretended to maul me while the crowd pointed and laughed at the gringa.

Or when a coworker realized I have green eyes and walked me around the house making sure everyone was aware and had a chance to stare.

Or when guys on the street see my white skin and mutter every English word they know.
Hello Beautiful.
How are you.
Where are you from?
Or my personal favorite, Suck my bloody cock bitch.
I´m not sure who is going around Santa Cruz teaching the boys English swear words, but when I find them I promise you that I´ll give them a good punch in the face.

It usually doesn´t get to me but it does make me want to try my hardest to fit in. To make all the right moves when I´m walking down the street or buying something in a market or riding a bus so that my actions look normal enough to cover the sometimes glaring difference my skin presents.


  1. How do you say suck my bloody cock, bitch in Spanish?

  2. Interesting post Kari. I, and I imagine few of us reading this, have ever experienced being the "Waldo" and the one who is different.

    Remember that song when you were little? "One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, before I finish this song!?"

  3. Fascinating. Kari, this post is fascinating on SO many levels. Especially the last paragraph. I mean, like Patti wrote, at one time or another, we all experience being the oddball. Think about it... can't you imagine me saying those words? Or someone else who seems in some way "different" from the rest? I often think about those of us who are made to feel that way IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY! I always thought we put people thru worse here, but perhaps not. It actually sounds as if it might be a little harsh what you're getting there, although I sure some don't mean it harshly. It's good your pale skin is pretty thick. It is, isn't it?

  4. I remember this feeling well from when I lived in the Philippines. It is one thing when you stand out as a tourist. However, it is more difficult when you live in a country, go to school or work there, speak the language, eat the food, and still, no matter how hard you try, you are different, you are "the other." I recall that as a 20-year-old in the Philippines, I seriously considered dying my hair black and getting brown contacts so that I would fit in better (as if my 5'7" frame and my whitey skin wouldn't give it away). I think it's good that we have this experience, because it helps us to understand what minorities go through every day here, in their own country. I've often thought it must be even more frustrating to be born into a country and to be made to feel this way. You and I are lucky that we don't have to be Waldos in our own country.

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention that in the Philippines, people on the street would yell out "Hey Joe" when I would pass by. It stemmed from the days of the US military occupation of the country.

  6. Kar, I cannot WAIT to talk more about this frente a frente. You, too, Anne Schmiege! :)

  7. American tourists are pretty rare in Santa Cruz as a whole. If you do seem them, they are usually visiting the handful of places the Lonely Planet guidebook recommends.

    They don´t ride Micros, they don´t go the mercados, and the definitely don´t travel outside the center of town.

    But I wouldn´t have it any other way. They can keep to the confines of their travel books and leave the rest of the city for me (and of course the rest of the Cruceños).

  8. Haha, my name was Tomato... guess why! :)