Last night, when we went out for some extra food after our insufficient dinner, we saw this solitary gringo sit down and order some food. We couldn’t hear him. I think he was wearing his sunglasses throughout the meal, but my memory may be altering the story a bit. He ordered a sprite and whipped out some cigarettes and started smoking. He whistled for the waiter. Everything about him said, “I’m very comfortable with my performance in this alien culture.” I was turned off. My impression was that he was a gringo overly confident in his abilities to master the latino culture. He was young, good-looking, and with his sunglasses and –I don’t know – the way he held his mouth, he gave the impression that he thought he was really cool.
Then today, we divided up into two groups and took a bus to the north of Santa Cruz (the island we’re staying on). There, we got on a yacht called the Santa Fe II and motored to North Seymour Island. North Seymour is a small island – 2 km in diameter, I think. We took a “nature hike” in which we had to stay on the trail, and we saw lots of iguanas, blue-footed boobies, frigates (a bird), and sea lions. It’s amazing how close you can get to the animals.
As it turns out, the cocky gringo from last night was on the tour with us. I was really hoping my Spanish was better than his, but when I finally heard him speak (after an hour of his self-assured silence from behind his Swiss-army brand sunglasses), his Spanish put mine to shame. I wondered what experiences he had had to be able to speak such fluent Spanish. I felt like I had lost.
And then I caught myself. Here I was, despising this gringo dude because he thought he was better, and yet I was fiercely competing to be better than him, albeit internally and silently.