august 31, 2005
monday night is international night at the irish pub in mendoza so all of us backpackers at the damajuana hostel decide to go together.
weve been drinking wine all evening and, for the last three hours, watching diego maradonas weekly talk-show. we've had enough of the show so its a good time to leave. maradona is deservedly a national hero but his show was embarrassingly self-indulgent. during the three hour show he paraded out a steady stream of argentine national stars that he hardly talked to. it seemed as though he just wanted the audience to know how many friends he has.
maradona danced, dressed as a woman, sang, kicked penalty shots, and talked about himself. after his daughters serenaded him, everyone in the audience put on shirts that said i love you papa on them. the studio was covered with his giant face, including the chairs that his guests sat on. it was so overly dramatic that i asked a local if maradona had just been rescued from a deserted island somewhere.
no, he is just god here, said the local.
i know maradona was an amazing footballer but his program was like a long-awaited home-coming for someone that had never actually left. a talk show back home is about the guests; this one was about the host.
the show mercifully ended before they started wheeling out crippled people for diego to heal.
gotta save something for next week's show i guess.
so the show ends and we head out the door to the pub. some of the staff of the damajuana hostel is already there when we arrive so we push together several tables and all sit together. i am talking with a receptionist when she warns me about the gringo hunter in the pub.
the gringo hunter? i ask.
yeah, the gringo hunter is here every monday, she says.
really? what does she want?
i have actually met the gringo hunter before. 3 weeks ago she sat with me at the irish pub and then followed me when i left. she begged me to come to an asado with her that weekend. she even came into my hostel room - i could not get rid of her. i walked her home eventually and then sprinted back home.
im recollecting this for the receptionist when i see the gringo hunter, stalking the bar like a panther, looking for a wounded or weak gringo that has been separated from the herd.
i have to use the bathroom but i am too scared to leave the safety of the table - i hide behind my friends as she walks by.
the crowd around the table is international but the pub is far from irish. the waiters wear dark blue head-scarves and long white double-breasted smocks. i either missed that part of ireland or this place isnt authentic. theres a red telephone booth in the corner like those i saw in london, not dublin.
and i am positive i am not in ireland when i see the beer prices: its 6 times cheaper to drink here than in ireland.
however, there is a U2 video playing on the television so that, coupled with the beer prices, is good enough for me. my eyes keep wandering up to the screen and i am disturbed to discover that i wish diego maradonas show was still on. is he some sort of drug? i actually miss him. i always try to embrace the local cultures as i travel but my sudden need for more maradona frightens me. maybe he is god?
the american girl sitting across from me is scrawling her signature on an american flag when two argentine guys who are staying at the damajuana join us at the table. they are portenos or citizens of buenos aires. the portenos proceed to do what any responsible local welcoming you to their country does:
they teach us how to swear.
i start calling everyone at the table a boludo and the portenos can't get enough of it - they laugh hysterically each time. i simply cannot say it too many times, so after i've called all my friends a boludo i turn my vicious new vocabulary on the waiter.
but the portenos stop laughing.
they demonstrate what will happen to my beer if i call the waiter (someone i am not friends with) a boludo. they pretend to spit in my glass.
you'll get a beer but it will have something extra in it, they say.
i immediately reel my language in and order another quilmes - politely.
i want to experience the local culture, not the local saliva.
at nights end, the portenos offer me a ride to the hostel and i happily accept but outside the pub the gringo hunter sees me and attacks. she tries to jump in the car but a porteno throws her out.
i hate her, i hate her, says the driver as we speed down the road towards the hostel.
as i walk back to my dorm room i think about the fboludoun i am having in mendoza: i am meeting so many great people and my spanish is coming along, especially when people teach me to speak like a local. i chuckle to myself, looking forward to calling my spanish teacher a boludo tomorrow. i also look forward to international night next week.
but, wait. oh no. what about the gringo hunter? my friends are all moving on in a few days, so how am i going to protect myself from her? as i crawl into bed i close my eyes and concentrate heavily, trying to imagine what diego maradona would do.