Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You know you're a foreigner when ...

Since one of the main themes of my blog is about "feeling foreign", I'll try to talk about one thing that REALLY makes me stand out around here every blog post or so -- things that reveal my essential "gringa-ness". (Here, BTW, saying gringa/gringo isn't insulting. At least that's what they've been telling me for the past twelve years.)

Getting used to the day-today life in a foreign country can be exhausting, and after twelve years I still hold fast to some of my very gringa ways. (You'd think by now I'd know ...) Anyway, I'm pretty much the only one I know who actually waits for the traffic light to change to cross the street. I play the human version of Frogger on a daily basis and have gotten quite good. (I say I'm good because of the fact that I'm still alive and have only been clipped once by a taxi. Yes. I was crossing on green and assumed I had right-of-way. Silly me.)

There's something fantastic about a country that has "interpretive" traffic signs and lights. I think the whole idea of the game Red Light/Green Light is lost on children here. In fact, thinking about it, I've never seen the game played. How could they play it when red, yellow, and green all mean go?

The only thing that stops traffic in Colombia are the cars themselves that, at a moment's notice, will stop in the middle of a busy freeway to a.) pick up a customer (if you're a taxi or bus) b.) drop somebody off c.) say "hi!" to a friend seen in the next traffic lane or on the side of the road d.) buy beer, coffee, chips or other things at the little corner store e.) go in reverse because of a missed turnoff and f.) or show a little affection for the passenger. (Ahh the Latin Passion). All of the aforementioned actions cause massive traffic jams as the cars veer into the next lane to avoid the stopped car/bus/taxi or horse cart.

Nobody complains .. well not much. I suppose they figure what the moron in the car in front of them does today, they'll do tomorrow. And as for groping one another on the freeway, I stick with Einstein's theory of freeway groping (almost as well-known as the theory of relativity):
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

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