It’s Official: I’m a Terrible American Tourist
I committed blasphemy in Spain, and am (sort of) sorry
Time To Read: 4 mins | July 3, 2017
“Uno sausage, por favor.”
Real sentence. That’s a real sentence I said, even though I know the Spanish for ‘sausage’, because in the moment I thought I was being cute. But it turns out the 40-year-old Spanish woman working the carnival’s grill thought I was another terrible American. She may be right.
Now I would argue, failing to understand a foreign language isn’t indicative of being a bad guest. Lack of effort or care is the crime. If you’re genuinely trying and maintain a happy-go-lucky attitude about your wretchedness at speaking, ten times out of nine (that math was intentional), you will be tolerated and probably win their heart too. Not giving a damn and taking pride in your ignorance is the real problem – and that doesn’t just apply to language, by the way.
And besides, I have a thousand worse American traits. One of those is my stomach’s inability to tolerate foreign diets. In this particular case, that flaw was exemplified by the uno sausage that did what the Cobra Kai did to Daniel Larusso at the beginning of Karate Kid.
I make poop and vomit jokes often. We know this, for I am a child.
But when you actually live through such horrors, it’s somehow not nearly as funny, so we’re going to skip over the details of my 24-hour near-death experience except to say this: no garbage can has ever been spooned so faithfully, nor for so long.
After my intestines stopped doing the cha-cha, I still couldn’t eat much other than crackers for a few days. I considered my illness a sign that it was time to leave Tarifa, a beach town on the southern tip of Spain, and head north to Seville, which I actually didn’t know anything about except that it was, in fact, in Spain.
I still haven’t read much on my new home, but I did take a quick look around, and on first glance it’s my new favorite place. Imagine and extremely clean NYC, but instead of the Manhattan’s hypermodernism, all the buildings looming several stories over you are all still done in the classical style. They’ve arranged tarps a hundred feet up to shade streets from the summer sun, vespas blow by horse-drawn carriages, and everyone around you is uncomfortably attractive.
Also, I was surprised to discover that Spanish buildings actually do use Spanish roofs. Who knew.
So after dropping my bags in the hotel, I was enthusiastic for my first meal. Remember, I’ve not eaten in 36-some-odd hours, so I wasn’t particularly picky. Give me tapas, give me seafood, give me anything — anything but sausage.
I was eyeballing the menu of a semi-chic restaurant with a name I couldn’t pronounce when my nose was wooed. What I mean is, a scent came to me that could not be passed on. My heart and soul was won in just a fraction of a moment.
I’m not proud of what happened, given all my talk of bad American traits. But I was incredibly hungry, and I’d just been tempted by the sweet scent of “New York Pizza Kitchen.” And thus my first meal in Seville was two slices of pepperoni, drowned in chili flakes.
Disappointed in myself? Sure, a touch. But my lack of impulse control is the stuff of legend, and so this is a symptom of a larger problem, not my inability to appreciate Spain.
It was about this time, while I was cramming slice number two down my face and reassuring myself that this wasn’t a bad tourist move, when a family of three walked in. Middle-aged mom and dad with their teenage daughter. The father turned to his girls and asked, “You want anything?” with the most aggressive Minnesoooohtah accent ever.
They assured him that no, they don’t. The daughter did the ordering in broken Spanish. And after Dad had his slice, as the women followed the over-the-moon man out of the store and onto the crowded Seville street, the daughter mumbled to her mom, “This is so embarrassing.”
Well, now it is.
photo: when boats decorate for halloween, this is the type of skeleton they put in the yard. essaouira, morocco