This weekend Shaun and I traveled into the hill country so that he could attend a VSO meeting. We had many wonderful moments with friends. However, no highlights could possibly be as memorable as our six hour encounter with an obnoxious American. How on earth could we end up being stuck listening to a stranger talk at us for six hours while his wife prepared us rice and curry? Well let’s just say I was lured in by the prospect of a 1500 rupee buddha carving, which turn out to be $1500 – WHOOPS – I guess I’m not getting any better at communication in this country.

Before I continue, I would like to insert a disclaimer. I am by no means implying that all Americans are obnoxious. The vast majority who I have met in my travels are wonderful, kind-hearted and open-minded people. However, there are a few that simply go above and beyond when it comes to reinforcing negative stereotypes.

This brings to mind “Monty” who Shaun and I met in 2004 when waiting for my host family to pick us up in a SouthEastern Thai town. We foolishly ended up in Sangcomb (emphasis on the first syllable)  instead of Sangcomb (emphasis on the last syllable). This mistake meant we traveled 6 hours in the wrong direction and left us temporarily stranded by the Mekong River talking with an American Vietnam veteran who confided in us about how voices tell him to eat dirt. Shortly afterwards he invited us to spend the night at his house. My host family showed up in a truck in the nick of time – phew!

Actually, this example might be a little extreme, but the visit we had on Sunday with an American living in Sri Lanka was a painful reminder of how stereotypes develop. He was the ignorant American stereotype embodied. So in honour of Billy Bob* (pseudonym), here is list of attributes you should not have if you are living abroad.

You should not live in abroad if . . .

* you cannot pronounce the name of the country in which you reside

* you do not speak a single word of the local language, but believe that immigrants in your home nation should learn English or be kicked out

* you leave articles such as “the” and “a” out of your speech

* you refuse to walk more than 100 metres

* you openly state how superior your home country is

* your idea of quality international news are the headlines flashed on yahoo

* you can’t laugh at yourself

Bottom line, it is okay to be a bumbling fool in a foreign country, but you must have a willingness to try new things, an open mind and a good sense of humour.

Below are some pics from the more positive highlights of our weekend trip.

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