It’s funny: the more time I spend in South America, the more normal things become. Spanish comes out as smoothly as English, without thought. I wait patiently for indigenous sheep herders to guide their flocks across the road as if stopped at a red light in front of Starbucks. Horses seem like perfectly acceptable ways to traverse capital cities. My bike coasts through shanty towns as if they were white-washed suburbs. I know that yes many times means no, that no sometimes means maybe, and that no Latin man will trust you without a firm handshake and shiny shoes. Drinking the water does not send me to the little boys room.
The same cultural differences that left my parents aglow in other-worldliness when they came to visit me in Chile—like unrefrigerated milk on supermarket shelves or greeting with a kiss—are very normal day-to-day things for me. Ever since my first arrival to Costa Rica in 2003 I’ve adopted a pseudo Latin personality that acts like a heavy hairspray buffer between me and humanity’s most absurd acts of injustice, which are not more numerous in South America than in the United States, they’re just more visible. Very little surprises me when it comes to my favorite world region, Latin America.
This calm and collected stroll through South America has its disadvantages, though.
No longer do I see my Latin world though innocent eyes. Details that should be written about the sometimes small, sometimes enormous cultural and ideological differences between our Northern and Southern societies are going unmentioned.
This blog is not as educational as it could be.
It’s not my intention to spread South America’s long and complicated history across the digital pages of this blog. Such a drastic change would stop up Bob’s delicate digestive tract for a week and Surly would sooner rust from the insides than hear my inner academic spit forth hypothesis after hypothesis in an attempt to explain everything from post-colonial mestizo discrimination to 21st century McGlobalization in the lower Americas. My dear metal friends—and perhaps you the reader—are more interested in the human aspect, the everyday struggle, the parallel lives being lived in the same hemisphere, the brilliant smiles smiled and the happy songs sung of the continent that we’ve tread for over seven months now.
I’m asking you to write with questions. Help me see again with child eyes all the raw energy and cultural polar opposites that so many years back made me fall in love with this tierra caliente.
More precisely: what do you want to know about South America?
What questions do you have about my South American life or the lives of the South Americans I meet? Are you curious about the food? Women? Men? Cars driven? Video games played? Apartments rented? Salaries earned? Professions studied? Fashions worn?
Anything and everything—even the blackest taboo your dirty mind can conjure—is a possible topic in this first annual Me, Bob & Surly Educational Forum on South America. Let’s make it a success, eh?
I’ll respond to your questions using the knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout my studies and travels. If there is a question I cannot answer, I’ll step outside, stop a stranger, and post their response here. If they’re game, I’ll even snap a photo to accompany their dialogue.
Write with questions. Use us to satisfy your curiosity. We like it.