Experience as an outsider

November 4, 1998


Being an outsider from what is considered the norm is, for most people, undesirable.  While most people want to be different from others, they do not want to be an outsider who stands out as someone who does not know or is unaware of cultural norms and values.

In 1995, a friend and I spent two months in South America.  Most of the time I was in Santiago, Chile, teaching English to first through sixth graders at a school.  I remember the first time my friend and I went to visit the school.

My friend Sam and I had purchased nice felt hats at a tourist market and decided to wear them to the school that first day.  We knew that we stuck out as foreigners but the hats did not help at all..  While the hats may have been in keeping with the traditional Chilean culture, we soon realized hats of that sort were not worn by very many people in the city.  We successfully became the object of many stares as we made our way down the street trailing our host.  When we got back from the school that afternoon we stored our hats for the remainder of the trip.  Continue reading

Bus Stop

While my friend and I were in Santiago, Chile, we were waiting for a city bus and learned from the trials of a mass transportation systems.  Our bus came and our bus went, leaving us waving our hands frantically in the dusty air.

Since this was the first time that we had actually tried to hail a bus on our own, we thought we must be doing something wrong.  When our blue city bus came into sight, we made sure to signal exactly as we had been taught and to stand where we definitely could be seen.  No luck.  We were still left standing with our hands in the air.

On the third time there was a Chilean waiting for the same bus, so we were sure that he would be able to get the driver to stop.  Wrong again!  When we saw a couple of police officers standing nearby, we realized that we must be trying to get on at an illegal bus stop.  After walking the extra three blocks to a true bus stop, we caught the next bus and finally made our way to our destination —  a little late yet a little wiser.