Over the past two weeks, I have taken the bus across the city back and forth to work each day. Because I have interacted with many different kinds of people while traveling by bus, I think I am experiencing Costa Rican life at a whole new level. The bus has everything from mothers nursing toddlers to drunk men who can barely balance, and every person on the bus has a different opinion about gringos... lucky for me, I'm a gringa, so I am experiencing firsthand the discrimination that minorities are given.
For example, I was sitting at the back of a rush-hour-traffic bus jam-packed with people, and a gringo got on to ask the driver if the bus went through San Francisco de Dos Ríos. The driver shook his head no and pointed to the bus stop indicating the gringo should wait there... but the interesting thing to me was that we were going to a pass right through the middle of San Francisco. The ticos on the bus started laughing that the driver had lied to the gringo... and there I'm sitting in the middle of the ticos knowing what was going on...
Gringos on the 6am buses aren't very common, so I get lots of stares and comments. I do my best to ignore the ugly words, but part of my personality is taking everything to heart, considering what others say. So because many things that are said are vulgar, I am turning them over in my mind and by the time I get to work, I have to re-focus myself that I'm no longer at the mercy of the bus occupants.
I have seen discrimination off of the bus as well. Yesterday, I was at the mall with some friends, and I went to order pizza at Pizza Hut in the food court. There was an offer for 3 slices of pizza for 2,000 colones, and that's a pretty good deal, so I ordered that. The lady put 2 slices of pizza on my tray and then walked away to do something else in the kitchen. I stood there for about 3 minutes before she came back out to the front. She looked at me as if she was annoyed that I was still there, and I asked, ''Wasn't it 3 slices?'' and she laughed at me as she gave me my third piece. Um, just because I'm gringo doesn't mean I can't count.
Discrimination has me thinking... how many times have I looked down on someone else because they don't know all the cultural cues or the language? Because somehow I feel like their people have offended my people in any way?
I asked a tica friend if ticos don't like gringos and she said that there's such a history of discrimination of gringos to other peoples around the world that the general attitude toward gringos is very negative. She said the problem with people is that we generalize that all people of that nationality must be the same in every way and so the assumption is that all gringos must be discriminatory towards latinos. She said that she's told her family about meeting me, that she met a gringa that was really nice and speaks Spanish well, and she said that her family seemed surprised that a gringa would want to be friends with her. She said I can't let these situations get me down, that I need to speak up against the discrimination when it happens, that I need to remember that I am a daughter of God, that I need to remember not everyone lives by the biblical morals I consider essential to life.
I think God's preparing me for something bigger than just being in an elementary classroom... maybe something more in social justice? Who knows! For now, I am experiencing the ins and outs of being a minority.