When She Wears a Skirt

Tessalyn Morrison - Ecuador


December 27, 2011

It is 10 AM and you are hungry, so you decide that you would like to take a break from your semi-mediocre job at managing the karaoke equipment at the bar in this sleepy little town to walk over to Comidas Típicas. At this small restaurant, you see the maito and Kichwa families…and then you see something not so tipica.

A white girl. In a skirt, nontheless. She walks in your direction, talking on her cell phone, and you give her a quick wink…to which she winces.

After filling up on banana leaf-wrapped tilapia, you ask what appears to be her host mother if you might take this girl out on a date. The entire family gathers around to hear the girl’s answer….a feeble and very unsure si.

*

I had nothing else to do that morning. Why not get swept off my feet? I gave him a chance and two hours. He proceded to show me every picture on his laptop…highlighting how cool it was that he had a laptop and then, with only a half hour left, took me to the river.

At this point, I was aware of my escape plan and mentally located my phone in my bag just in case. We drove 20 minutes away to a private alcove in the river with an underwater cave. He got in, and I just watched him with my skirt and dry, for once, clean hair.

He called to me in Spanish, “Alright, Tess. I am here about to swim into this cave, and you are standing on the shore. If you want, I can take you home now and you can tell your family how stupid I am. But…you are in the Amazon; you never have to see me again, and you will probably never come to this place again. Your choice.”

Of course, I went in.

*

In addition to the responsibilities I have in the hospital, I have an entirely other set of responsibilities to be a blond, white girl here in the Amazon. It’s a constant hassle to decide to take the offers (ex. free bus fares, front seats, exclusive help, and occasional excursions to random rivers) that come to me or not, all the while protecting myself…and still be a normal 19 year-old girl and a good representation of the US. There are also things that are forced on me that I can only decide to let it affect me or not, like the constant catcalls, the “accidental” touch in the bus, or the ritual of questions: “What’s your name, guapa? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Can I be your boyfriend?…Why not?”

*

I can’t possibly list all of the things that have happened to me, but I will share with you my favorite worst pickup lines that I’ve gotten.

-Him: “You shouldn’t go to Columbia. It’s dangerous. You know why?” / Me: “Ohh, what’s it called…the FARC?” / Him: “No, they will all fall in love with you.”

-Him: “Do you like sweets? Because I am your chocolate.”

-Him: “I live in the jungle. I’m like George of the Jungle…just looking for my Jane.  Anything is possible right?”

-Him: {looking at me, just waking up on the bus next to me} “I just woke up from,  a dream” / Me {leaving} / Him: “See you in my dreams, love!”

-Him (unnamed governmental employee): {attached to an official email regarding my project after I stopped in to ask for information on maps} “Greetings, my beautiful love. You are a pretty, precious maid. I want to get to know you. Give me your cellphone number. The truth is that you have beautiful eyes. Sincerely, another admirer in your life.”

I have two options in responding to these…harassments. You either laugh it off or you react negatively.

(…or you could even cut your hair off like I did to try to ease the cat calls….which unfortunately didn’t work).  I can’t say that I always choose correctly, and I don’t think there is any correct answer. I don’t want to seem like it is acceptable that they treat me this way, but I also don’t want to project bad images of Americans. This culture is in some ways good and some bad; one of romance…and who am I to be a judge of the quality of that?

Never-ending battle.

My previous host family's cute puppy they named "Feo" or "Ugly"...

 

 

 

Tessalyn Morrison