By Makynze Davies
When I came to Chile I knew I would get some looks because I am a tall, heavy set, red-headed, loud and proud, pale white girl from the middle of a corn field. However, I didn’t realize how frequent and how intense the stares would be especially here in Concepción where, I’ve come to find out, they don’t get very many tourists. At first, the stares really bothered me because one of the first things my host family warned me about was the pick-pockets and flytes. They even told me a story about how my host sister’s phone was snatched straight out of her hand while on the bus. I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that there would be pick-pockets and other typical dangers that come with traveling, but the intense warnings from my host family and Chilean friends made it sound like being pick-pocketed was a common occurrence and had me worried that my obvious foreigner status would make me a common target. So, I walked around with my Spidey- Senses on for weeks with every stare making me even more on edge.
Eventually, I began to relax and realize that as long as I kept my wits about me and didn’t do anything that opened me up to being pick-pocketed I would be fine. Which is done with these easy steps:
- BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Keep an eye on what is happening around you and who is around you.
- TRY TO BLEND. You may not be able to control your physical appearance, but you can control your personal appearance. One example is the type of wallet you carry while traveling. Typically, they use little coin purse instead of bigger wallets like mine, here in Chile.
- ONLY CARRY WHAT YOU NEED. My personal mantra is: Phone…Wallet… Keys… the rest you can live without. However, when it comes to your wallet, be mindful of what is in it. For me, my wallet only contains the amount of money I need for the day and my cedula.
I still get many intensive stares; I have even thought about purchasing a t-shirt that says “Sí, Soy Una Extranjera” in big bold letters as a way to lessen the intensity. Luckily though I have begun to receive just as many smiles and waves, especially from children and the people in my neighborhood who have gotten use to seeing me around.
I have come to understand that the stares are just because Chileans are just curious about who I am and where I’m from. I have had several very nice people engage in conversation with me as I eat my lunch in the various cafeterias/ cafes on campus, such as our new long-term friend Felipe Ceballos (pictured) who is studying to be an English teacher. Thanks to him and many other wonderful people I have met here in Chile I feel as though I have assimilated well to Chilean culture and I can’t wait to see what this next month brings.