Back to Being Gringa

Alright, alright, I have to admit it. Even though I have always been a gringa (a white girl), I have had my moments of trying to be not-so-gringa…

Like the long process of perfecting (almost : )) that tico (Costa Rican) accent of saying “y” and “ll” like a “j” (example: tortilla = tortiJa) and making more of a “sh” sound for the “rr” (example: correr = cossshhhher). Now I am caught between whether to continue in my tico accent ways or if I should adapt more of the mexicano accent that is prevalent here in Elgin. (By the way, gringa is Costa Rican and guerra is Mexican Spanish… It’s not just different accents — it’s also different vocabularies!)

Or like the time I dyed my hair dark brown in an attempt to blend in better as I walked the San José city streets between bus stops. Unfortunately, the reflection-white skin and the blue eyes still gave me away and I was still called machita (blondie) by the masses.

Or how every time I would go to the beach, I would try and try and try to get that perfect golden tan, hoping that would be the key to becoming a latina look-alike. I think I achieved the perfect tan a grand total of twice in my three years in CR… I overdid the sun intake and just got burnt crimson red instead of browned.

So now I’m back living in gringolandia, as any white community of people is jokingly called by Costa Ricans. I have come to terms again with admitting, “Yes, I am one of the gringos”… It took a while as I had to pass through the normal stages of criticizing the degree of international ignorance and being overwhelmed by the materialism and convenience. These arguments still echo in my mind as I go about my daily life, but thankfully, they seem to be at a much quieter volume than they were when I first came back stateside.

Alright, so to solidify this announcement that I am officially a gringa again (haha, as if any of you are surprised), here’s a recent realization that brought on this post:

I need to explain that in Costa Rica, the usual temperature was in the 70s. When the “Christmas winds” would blow from the north in December, the ticos would all get out their parkas, scarves, gloves, hats, and boots. Because the temperature was a mere 50ºF, we gringos would laugh, wear flip flops, and say, “You think this is cold??!” as the ticos wrapped their babies in seven blankets to walk next door. By the third year of being in CR, I too agreed that the Christmas winds were cold… so there I was, wrapping myself up for the “cold” with multiple layers of socks and scarves, although I never was desperate enough to get a parka, lol. 

Okay, so here’s my I-am-a-gringa moment. The winter has been fairly mild here, according to many co-workers and friends. While it may be mild for them, this has been the longest period of time I have interacted with below-freezing temperatures since 2008. Needless to say, I have been very cold. Today hit a high of 47ºF, and I was driving my car with the windows open and I shed my winter coat as the afternoon warmed up. As I was walking from the grocery store back out to my car, I looked down at my outfit: flats, socks, jeans, t-shirt, cardigan. It hit me all of a sudden: I used to think 47ºF was cold when those Christmas winds would blow through… and now I think 47ºF is warm. I think my Costa Rican friend Judit (who is now rocking life in Shanghai working for an Italian architecture firm) would shake her head, pat my shoulder, and say, “Es cierto. Eres una gringa de corazón.”

Welcome back to a temperate climate, Kate. Glad you finally realized you are a machita and yes, a gringa.