For those who don't know, I'm getting my Master's degree in Language Arts and Children's Literature. This semester I am taking a class with the same name. It is focusing on writer's workshop and reader-response to quality literature. Anyways, we are instructed to write, edit, and polish pieces throughout the semester in the way we would conduct a writer's workshop in our classrooms. We recently turned in our first "published" piece, which could be anything we wanted (writing prompts are pretty disdained around here...). After we shared our pieces, my professor implored us all to share our pieces somewhere, with someone, "that's the whole point!", she said.
Therefore... here I am, and below is what I wrote for class. Aside from not wanting to just hand it over and say, "Read This!", to someone... I figured it kinda, sorta related to the nature of this blog. Here ya go:
I pushed through the bustling crowds, my quick strides appearing much more determined than the slow meander of your average extranjero in the street market. Colors danced all around me, but I didn’t let my eyes linger on anything—not yet. I was, in fact, quite as determined as my fast pace suggested—eager to distance myself as much as possible from the others. I’m sure you’re familiar with their type; those loud, overly-American tourists who draw everyone’s attention and give the locals a just reason to roll their eyes and scowl. Those people who think that, by yelling, their words will somehow translate and the Mayan women will understand that they want the same tablecloth in a different color. The kind of person who will order food at a restaurant and openly express her disgust at finding some unknown cut of meat or potentially amoebic salad.
The last thing I wanted was to be recognized as that kind of American, so I squeezed my way down the main strip, past the rows of shops and venders. I dodged groups of children calling, “Amiga! Compre algo de mi. Algo para tu familia. Si Amiga….”. Friend! Buy something from me. Something for your family. Yes, friend! I reminded myself not to buy from them; not to support families that keep their children out of school in order to make money from the soft-hearted gringos. Just beyond a man with a push-cart full of bananas I found my freedom in an alley full of locals selling fresh tortillas, cheap shoes, and pirated music.
Moseying away from the Americans with their dollars and their English and their cameras and their money pouches tucked into their neon-colored shirts, I tried to appear as separate as possible. Could they tell that I came to this country with them? Surely my manners, my Spanish, my appearance would spare me the automatic label given to my loud compañeros? I wondered what that label was. Rich? We buy seemingly everything in sight and stay at the nicest hotels. Rude? We snap a picture whenever we please. Arrogant? In everything we do, is there an implied superiority?
Marveling at the depth of my own observations, I found my way back to our beautiful hotel just in time for the three-course dinner served nightly. After stowing my bags of souvenirs, I took a couple choice pictures of the Marimba band playing in the courtyard before finding my seat at the table and promptly declined the steak dinner the waiter was serving.
“No, un plato vegeteriano por favor.” No, a vegetarian plate please.
Alas. Am I really any different?