Thursday, October 29, 2009

The One Where I'm An Ugly American

I am fairly well-traveled. Enough so that while abroad I have spotted groups of Ugly Americans and exchanged looks with the locals standing beside me. Often times, if I never opened my mouth it was assumed I was a native.

Therefore, it is with great shame that I once found myself an unwitting participant in Acts Befitting An Ugly American.

We spent our honeymoon in the Dominic Republic, or, as the Swedes call it Dominikanska Republiken. I love how that rolls off the tongue. We were set for two weeks of sun, sleep, sex, and doing absolutely whatever the hell we felt.

One of the tours we booked was riding horses up in the mountains to look at waterfalls. It was awful. A bumpy, hot bus on a road with winding one point five lanes and no guard rail. Nauseous doesn't even begin to cover it. We arrived in one grateful, if not disheveled piece. We rode the horses, got rained on, snapped a few pics for posterity and were ready to head back to the comfort of our rooms.

I had several snacks in my knapsack, including an apple. I'd chewed on part of it in an unsuccessful attempt to calm my stomach. It only made it worse. I did not see a trash can around, and I did not want to chuck it on the ground. So, I asked our guide if I could give it to the horse. He told me that it was fine, and so I held the apple flat in the palm of my hand. The horse lipped it, nuzzled it, held it in his teeth for a second and then flung it to the ground. Now, I had a dirty apple with horse spittle dripping from it, and still no trash can. The guide explained to me that horses in the Dominican Republic are not often given apples. It was then that I noticed the boys standing around, staring at us. They worked cleaning and caring for the horses. They were looking at us with strange expressions on their faces, and the guide explained to them that in the States, giving an apple to a horse is not considered unusual.

One of the boys indicated that he wanted the apple.

I did not know what to do. There was still not a place to throw it away. The apple was slimy with horse saliva and splotched with mud. But how could I say no? The boy wanted it. So I gave it to him. He and his friends gave me a bit of a dirty look, letting me know how stupid they thought I was to try and waste an apple on a horse. And I felt stupid. And wasteful. And very conscious that I would be held as a shining example of a stupid tourist. An Ugly American.

I take from this that no matter how culturally savvy we think we are, we can still fuck it up. And if you go to the Dominican Republic, keep your apple in your knapsack.

6 comments:

Patois said...

I will henceforth repeat the mantra, "Keep the apple in the backpack" whenever I travel. Of course, my freakin' kids will out me as an Ugly American every time.

Joe @ IrrationalDad said...

This is why I don't leave the country. Well, that's not why, but I can use it as an excuse.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go to Walmart and watch Americans be Ugly Americans in America.

Rassles said...

I've basically adopted the mindset that I should make fun of myself all the time whenever I do something like that. Which backfires half the time, and someone inevitably asks what I'm doing.

A Free Man said...

I know ugly Americans and you ain't one, my dear.

Anonymous said...

You would be a great contestant on "The Amazing Race".

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Patois: Yeah, kids are bad like that.

@Joe: Sometimes going to Wal-Mart is like going to another country.

@Rassles: Making fun of myself seems to be the key to our humor in this house. :)

@AFM: Thank you for that.

@Amazing Race: You know, I really do actually love that show. I just can't eat that crazy shit they put in front of those poor contestants.