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My Inherent Advantages

In the "Cult of Escapism": My Inherent Advantages

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Inherent Advantages

One of my favorite parts of living down here is that what were formerly mediocre parts of my appearance have become physically attractive and advantageous. Specifically, the following three attributes:

1. I'm Tall
I don't have any statistics on this, but I'd guess that the average Ngäbe man is about 5'5 or 5'6 and the average woman a few inches shorter. At 5'9, this gives me a distinct height advantage in sports and a solid view of the tops of peoples' heads.

 This is a nice change from the U.S., where I'm supposedly average height, but I definitely feel short most of the time. I had learned to live with my position as perpetual point guard and to stand on tiptoes in a crowd; here, I have become the go-to spiker in volleyball and the guy that tries to cherry-pick goals on corner kicks (the Tim Crouch if you will).

I did expect to gain a new perspective on the world during my service, but I was thinking more about a poverty perspective, rather than a literal, physical one. I feel I can now walk between multiple worlds – rich and poor, tropical and temperate, tall and short. I feel like an Animorph.

2. I Have Beautiful Eyes
I don't, really. My eyes are plain-Jane brown and so is my hair. I'm not crosseyed or anything so it's tough to say my eyes are ugly, just average, like my height. But almost every Ngäbe has dark brown eyes and they all look about the same, so I can see how a little diversity would be appealing (my eyes are brown, but much lighter than theirs).

However, intensely colored eyes seem to make them uncomfortable. My site-mate, Laura, has absolutely gorgeous eyes – an intense green blue – and people consistently ask her if they're real and generally seem a little put off. She wears glasses and they automatically associate the two, “Does the sun hurt your eyes? Do you wear glasses because of your blue eyes? Is it hard to see?”

So, at a light brown, my eyes are close enough to be comfortable and exotic enough to be attractive. I'll have to soak up the compliments while I can, before I return to America-the-melting-pot and a population with hazel and blue and green and gray.

3. I'm Hairy
Real men have chest hair
Don't think this is an advantage? Then you've never been with a hairy chested man – it's nothing short of a biblical experience, only sexier. And as the only man in the district with a hairy chest, I'd say this gives me a distinct advantage. If nothing else, I'll always look more like Sean Connery than anyone here.

There are inherent disadvantages, of course – being viewed as rich, sweating constantly, making babies cry just by walking into the room – but I choose to focus on the positive and try to enjoy my temporary inherent advantages while I can. These will probably be the only two years of my life where I'm tall, hairy and have beautiful eyes. Which is to say, the only two years where I am Sean Connery. 


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