Thursday, December 9, 2010

What is This Gringa Doing?

Let me start off with a quick vocabulary lesson:

"Gringo" is the word used for a white man or foreigner. "Gringa"= white girl. "Gringuito"=Little white guy. "Gringuita"=little white girl.

In Mexico, this word is usually offensive or used in a derogatory way. Here, not so much, depending on the context. Supposedly, the origin of the word comes from foreign (American) armies in their green uniforms whom the Mexicans did not want occupying their land, so they would chant "Green, go," as in "green, go home."

Some people are surprised of my use of this word, because of its possible origins, (which Wikipedia denies, by the way) but for me, it is just a way to identify myself and my friends form the States. I have lighter skin. As much as I would like to tell you that I am so tan now, I practically look Peruvian, it is not true. I stand out. So, I call myself a gringa.

And other people call me gringa too. I went to Huacsapata with the pastor's wife from my church in Arequipa, and while she was paying for me on the combi, she said, "This is for the gringuita, too." I thought it was hilarious.

And generally speaking, as gringos, we get funny looks quite often. Near the center of town, there are lots of tourists; this is Cusco, Peru after all. And there are certain tourist places around Cusco where they expect to see blonds, tall people, and other foreigners. Pisaq is one such tourist destination. So on the busses we take to go to Lamay and Coya, they are generally accustomed to a handful of tourists/gringos frequenting their busses.

But to stop in Pisaq.

Not Coya.

Definitely not Lamay.

So last week on one such bus, the cobrador (Another vocabulary lesson! The combrador is the guy on the combi or bus who lets people on and off and collects the money or bus tickets.) was collecting our tickets, purchased at the bus terminal before we left. He was a young guy, about thirteen or fourteen years old.

He took my ticket, looked at it, and then looked at me with the strangest, most confused look. He stared at me while I just sat there for one straight minute, just looking completely confused.

You could tell he was thinking, "What is this gringa doing? Does she know she bought a ticket to Lamay? Doesn't she want to get off at Pisaq? What is there to see in Lamay, corn fields? Don't they have corn fields where she comes from? What is she doing???" 

But he said nothing. Just stared at me, completely confused, and slightly perplexed.

And when he left, Ester and I just laughed.

Oh the life of a gringa on the mission field...

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