We often chat about how Remote Year is impacting wherever we are. I wonder if local Uruguayans think we're loud and obnoxious foreigners, or if they think our program is a cool idea. I wonder if restaurants are grateful for our business, or frustrated that we arrive right when the restaurant opens in crowds of 10 or more.
An Uber driver looked at me and asked "are you one of those Americans working here for the month?" (in Spanish). Was he curious and happy to meet me? Or was he wishing he hadn't accepted my ride request?
I've watched a stressed expression fall over many a happy-go-lucky waiter's face when he sees a flock of us enter a restaurant. I've gotten annoyed looks from bartenders, when person after person struggles to communicate a drink order in Spanish.
But then I've also heard about how the owners of Ashot Shawarma typically struggle to make it through the summer months. Our group's obsession with shawarma lunches is keeping them comfortably, and unexpectedly, in business.
We're sharing group meals and passing along restaurant recommendations. If one of us finds and likes a place, twenty more will visit before the end of the week.
Case in point: the above Korean restaurant. I found it, Jeff posted it on Instagram. It's now a regular in the RY #foodies Slack channel, used for planning meals every night.
We're absolutely impacting economies.
But, I wonder, how are we impacting perception? Do Uruguayans think Americans (et al, we aren't just Americans) are a kind and fun bunch, or stupid and high maintenance because our Spanish is sub par and we're always asking where to buy healthy food?
I'm trying to be aware. I'm trying to appreciate and understand, rather than showing up and turning up.
Honesty moment: keeping the hyperaware travel mentality is difficult when what you find is not your favorite. It's difficult to stay curious about Uruguayan food when the thought of another steak, more bread, more cheese, is physically nauseating. It's tough to stay curious about a city that wears on you so much that you can't wait to get to the beach for the weekend.
And so the frustration turns into a celebration of our own American (et al) customs, just in Uruguay and with different people.
That's almost certainly annoying.
I don't want to be annoying. I don't want to be that American, bopping around the world and pissing everyone off. But I also don't want to be unhappy.
I don't know the answer, other than to be aware. Self-awareness goes a long way.