Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | By: Jake

That Weird White Kid: Walking Around Barefoot

I've been here for exactly six weeks now, and I'm definitely starting to be "defined" in this culture. There are a few different things that set me apart as "El Gringo Raro", which I like to translate as "that weird white kid".

Gringo basically means "white person" and, in some cultures, is seen as quite the derogatory term, but here, it pretty much is just a matter of fact. You are a white person; therefore, you are a gringo. No different than saying that you are a woman or a man. And while no one actually calls me el gringo raro to my face, most people have difficulty pronouncing my name. The "j" sound is difficult for many people, so my name comes out more like "Yake" or with the sound of the "j" as in Jacques...so I wouldn't be surprised if I was, instead, referred to in conversation like this:

My little bro, Zach, barefoot at the beach
"You know...Yake! El gringo raro!"

Anyways, why I'm that weird white kid:

Now I know that walking around the streets of Chicago barefoot is definitely not encouraged, but would it be all that weird to see a person carrying their flip-flips in one hand, walking around barefoot on a gorgeous and sunny day? 

At Notre Dame, I'm pretty sure that I'm already pegged as "That Barefoot Kid" because although some people walk around barefoot on the quad, there are very few, if any besides me, that are comfortable with getting coffee in Starbuck's with no shoes on. Plus, giving every tour with no shoes on, I've already been called "The Barefoot Tour Guide", and of course, it's definitely a weird thing to do. However, I'm quite fond of the name. People think it's crazy, but there's also people that think it's cool.

But down here? Walking around barefoot is like walking around in your underwear during a blizzard. People, old ladies in particular (who usually love me!), have no problem with stopping to scold me for not wearing shoes. ¡Dónde están tus zapatos! is an often-heard phrase for me.

The other day, we had an evangelization outreach night at a park down the street. If you want to evangelize in the US, you usually would have to get a permit, find a tent company, etc. Down here, you just walk down to an open area, set up a 15-foot stage six feet in the air, bring all your instruments, a dozen stereo speakers, some kids dressed as clowns, and you're good to go. No need to worry about filling out forms or advertising....or more importantly, no need to worry about "disturbing the peace" fines.

Honestly, a few clowns and dozens of kids will show up.
Anyway, we were walking over to this park from the orphanage, which was about three quarters of a mile away, and when the pastor's wife noticed that I was wearing sandals instead of shoes, she laughed. "¿Estás llevando tus chinelas?" she asked. I looked at her confused, and then found out that chinelas was the word for sandals.

After we got to the park, the pastor realized that he forgot a cord so I had to run back to the orphanage and grab it for him. Now, I already get enough weird looks from people in the street solely because I'm white. So you can imagine the weird looks I got when they saw a gringo running down the street with sandals on.

On the way back to the park, finding it too hard to run with sandals, I decided to take them off and just hold them in my hand as I ran down the street barefoot. As I ran past one group of teenagers from my English class, they all started laughing. I shouted to them in Spanish, "What? You've never seen a white kid running while carrying his sandals?"

In return, I got some really weird looks. One of my better students informed me of what was so funny: having just learned the word for sandals, I accidentally mispronounced it as chileans. In other words, I told my students that I was a white kid running down the street, carrying all of my "people from Chile".

They continually ask me where all of my Chileans are now when I see them outside of class. 

Although things may be easier with shoes on, I'd just rather not wear them. :)


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