People always ask me about my time in South America. Some are genuinely interested, while for others it’s the polite and logical thing to ask. In either case, the truth is that these conversations have started to get a bit repetitive and I’m often left wishing I could say more than: that Latinos are warmer; that Andean dishes contain too many carbs; that working with survivors of child sexual abuse was hard as you’d imagine but so rewarding; that I’m not sure how to answer your question about how good my Spanish is.
The worst thing is that I can’t seem to do Bolivia and Ecuador justice – not in a brief conversation that could turn to a different topic at any given moment.
So below are a few noteworthy things I don’t generally get to share about the impact that my time in South America has had on me as a person and who I am now.
I ask if I can “borrow” the bathroom when I’m in someone else’s home.
I understand the mechanics of English a lot better – but I can’t seem to speak it as well as I used to.
I raise my hands in church and it feels weird not to.
I’m more confused about men than I was as a teenager.
I’m annoyed at seasons and seasonal fashion – can’t we have spring/autumn temperatures all year round?
I think it’s perfectly okay to appear in public wearing Lycra tights and a t-shirt.
I crave potatoes. Often.
Perhaps you were expecting something a little deeper based on my introduction?
Sure, I could’ve written about: the flavour of cultural relativism that infuses my faith; the extent to which sexualised concepts of men and women impact my own identity and how I see myself; the ways in which my encounters with poverty shape my current experience of material things. I love talking about that stuff and I’ve blogged often about those themes.
But here I’ve chosen these seemingly shallow, even silly, examples because they are in fact illustrations of those other more “profound” ideas.
These examples tell you things about South America that you wouldn’t get from Wikipedia or Lonely Planet – you’d only get this from someone who’s invested part of their youth there. These examples tell you about South America and about its influence on me.
These examples are the everyday things that remind me that I am not the same person now as I was back then, in those days before my feet knew the texture of Andean soil.