Never will I be an ambassador, in any official capacity anyway. However, it turns out that when in certain places in the world it is not a job you are appointed to, but a job you inherit. You get the job out of necessity because there is no one else.
I’m not talking about Toronto or London or even Sydney. A fair amount of Americans travel there and the locals can form opinions on our country based on the many interactions they have. However, imagine you’ve never met an American before, or just a few. Where do you get your opinion? The news? TV and movies? No wonder many people don’t like us.
People still bring up George Bush to me on a regular basis. I didn’t vote for Bush, I think he is an imbecilic too. But because I’m American, I get grouped with him. So when traveling off the beaten path I try extra hard to leave a good impression.
In over a month in Brazil I have met a total of three Americans. The sad fact is that most Americans don’t travel and the ones that do are afraid of South America, let’s just be honest. Still, people in Rio probably meet their share of Americans, anywhere else in this huge country, forget it. A small village on a dirt road may very well have never seen an American.
Let me give you an example. I was fishing in a remote part of Brazil, in between Campo Grande and Corumba, about an hour down a dirt road from Buraco Das Piranhas. A place that isn’t on the map. A place that doesn’t have cell service.
On the river I met two Brazilian guys and they asked where I was from. I said the United States. They roared with laughter. I could pick out the words Americano, gringo and puta (bitch) in between their laugher. They bragged about their fishing ability to the guy I was with. I tried not to let it bother me and started fishing. The fish began jumping in the boat. I was averaging about 10 fish an hour. Whenever I looked over at these guys they weren’t catching much.
Soon they ran out of bait and tried to trade cigarettes for some of mine. I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves, but I didn’t. I refused the cigarettes and gave them half my bait anyway.
By the time I had 24 fish my bucket the bugs were getting bad and it was getting hot so I called it quits. We headed back to camp and there were three maintenance workers painting a fence in the heat of the day. I gave them all my fish. They were both shocked and grateful. They hurriedly started cleaning the fish.
Maybe everyone thinks I’m still a gringo bitch or maybe they have a new view of Americans. I don’t know. But I tried to be an ambassador for my great country and it turns out the white boy can fish.