I’m home! Today marks two months back in the good ol’ US of A.

The first day back was definitely a big adjustment. I found myself translating things into Spanish before I said them, then realizing I could just say it in English. Driving a car felt awkward and unfamiliar because I hadn’t done it in 8 months. All of this faded pretty quickly, though, and by the second or third day back, I felt like I had never left.

The End of Adventure

The thing I miss most about South America is the constant sense of adventure. When you’re arriving to a new city or whole new country, there’s a lot to figure out, which can be stressful, but it’s definitely exciting. Even when I got comfortable in a city, it was still kind of an adventure carrying out my routine in a foreign place and communicating with people in a language that’s not my own. If I met people socially, the very fact that I was there talking to them was instantly impressive to them. In the US, it can take people I meet up to two whole minutes to realize how excited they should be that they’re talking to me.

Return to Order

Before I came back, I was looking forward to how ordered and organized everything is in the US. In a lot of South America, it generally felt like you were on your own in terms of structure and safety. Did you fall and break your leg in that giant hole in the sidewalk? Too bad. No lawsuit for you. Did you get scammed because there are crooks in the immigration office posing as government employees? That’s on you, too.

Lionel Hutz Attorney at Law Business Card (The Simpsons)

In the US, things are definitely a lot more ordered and there is more accountability, but I realized that when I was in South America, I was remembering a romanticized version of the US where everything is super efficient and organized. In reality, there’s a lot in the US that’s backwards and messy. I was immediately confronted with this when I landed in Ft. Lauderdale and had to stand in different lines for 2 hours straight just to get through passport control, customs, and security. Finding an apartment in Manhattan was such a backwards, convoluted process that I know if I had gone through it while still in South America, I’d have thought to myself, “This would never happen in America!”

Even so, I have a newfound appreciation for the fact that there’s a lot that you can rely on in the US. Like how official cabs are easy to distinguish from unofficial cabs and your chances of getting robbed by your cabbie in Manhattan are infinitesimal. Or how it’s pretty rare for a cop to shake you down for a bribe when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Oh, I Recognize That You’re Weird!

I got a haircut last week, during which the following things happened:

  • The barber gave all the customers free shots of vodka.
  • A woman came in trying to sell trinkets and the barber kindly asked her to come back when she was selling porn.
  • A guy came in to show the barber his airsoft rifle, which had been painted to look like a real assault rifle. The barber had his friend point the rifle at him so he could post the pictures to facebook.

Aside from this being a pretty fun haircut, the nice thing about being back in the US was that I can identify all these things as unusual. If this had happened in Argentina, I’d be really confused and have to ask around “Do people normally sell door-to-door porn? Is running into a barber shop in the middle of the day with what appears to be an assault rifle dangerous here?” It’s really nice to just be back on home turf where I know what passes for normal behavior and what doesn’t.

I Have Too Much Stuff

I was really looking forward to being reunited with all my stuff, which had been in storage in my mom’s basement for the previous 8 months. I’d forgotten what was in a lot of the boxes and I was excited to open them up and see what was inside. It was like a mini time capsule to myself.


When I opened it up, I actually found it more exhausting than anything else. Here’s a bunch of stuff I hadn’t needed for the last 8 months and probably don’t really need at all, but now here it all is and I have to figure out what to do with it. Which brings me to an obvious and clichéd post-backpacking realization: I don’t need to have a lot of stuff.

I’m not at the point where I think all material possessions are evil and must be renounced, but I did realize that a lot of my possessions are things that don’t make me happy to own, but I have them because they’d make me sad to throw away. Things like old souvenirs, cute presents from years ago, middle school t-shirts. I realized if I could go 8 months forgetting that I owned this stuff at all, I could safely get rid of it. I think in general my trip has made me want to minimize the amount of stuff I own. Then again, I’m only two months back. I could very well have a commemorative Jersey Shore dish set by this time next year.

Financial Independence

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from my trip is that financial independence is great! The entire time I was traveling, I was constantly thinking, “This is how it should always be.” Not waking up to an alarm on insufficient sleep, not sacrificing most of your waking hours to a job, just doing what you want when you want to.

Obviously it’s not easy to make this happen because you do sort of need a job so that you can eat and pay for things. When traveling, you’re a lot more likely to meet people who have figured out some sort of sustainable means of financial independence, so the possibility of living without a job seems more realistic. Some people have it arranged so that they have to work hard for a while then they can relax for a while. Other people have figured out ways of making money that are mostly passive and only require a few hours of work per week to maintain. This seems to be the way to go and after traveling I’m much more motivated to build up sources of passive income so that I can eventually live off of that.

Image: Smiling businessman holding money bags

Note to potential employers: if you’ve found this blog, I’m just kidding. I’ll be your wage slave forever. I love working!

Going Forward

While traveling, one of the ways I spent a lot of my free time was working on a software project. It’s not a revolutionary product or anything and I don’t expect it to be a wild hit that will make me millions. It’s a simple program that I originally wrote as a tool for myself and then cleaned it up to be a commercial product. I’m selling it mostly for the experience of taking a piece of software from concept to deployment on my own.

When I run out of money and am forced to return to the normal workforce (ETA: end of 2011), I’m planning to look into a job in sales. I still love software (which might come as a surprise after me just telling you I spent most of my travel time writing software), but I’ve been interested in trying sales for a while and I’d like to try it.

That’s all for the blog! Thanks to everyone for following along. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I do in constantly re-reading it and imagining I’m still traveling.

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Pretending I Learned Something: Backpacker Packing List

In this edition of “Pretending I Learned Something” I do a rundown of the gear I packed for my trip. I warn you in advance that this likely won’t be very interesting unless you’re planning to do a similar long-term backpacking trip (and even then, I make no promises). I won’t be including any of this material on the Mike’s blog exam I’ll be administering to everyone when I return.

Packing Philosophy

My goal when putting together my gear for this trip was to get pretty close to the bare essentials. I thought there was a good chance of me losing my entire pack at some point and I wanted to be able to replace everything for about $1000 (excluding my laptop). I also wanted as much as possible to avoid things that were conspicuously expensive that would make me a target for theft/robbery.

Great Decision / Terrible Decision

Great Decision: eBags Packing Cubes

In my first blog post of the trip, I said of these, “usefulness still TBD.” Well, usefulness has BD’ed. They’re great! They are infinitely better than my previous method of just cramming everything in my bag and putting dirty clothes in a garbage bag. When Jeet came to visit me in Buenos Aires, the only thing I asked him to bring from the US was more packing cubes. My only regret is that I’d accidentally bought one that was wider than my backpack, which meant packing was less efficient because I couldn’t stack it flat.

Terrible Decision: COBY MP3 Player

Before I left, I figured I wouldn’t have much need for an MP3 player, as I could just listen to music on my laptop. After leaving, I realized an MP3 player is really useful for things like 28- hour bus rides and going to the gym. Wanting to go as cheap as possible, I bought this MP3 player for $35 in Quito. I believe it was designed by COBY purely to make the company’s less stupid MP3 players appear more valuable.


It runs on a AAA battery, which I have to replace all the time, as opposed to most modern MP3 players which run on Li-ion and recharge when you connect it to your computer. The interface is terrible, so to find a track and play it takes about 60-90 seconds. It doesn’t support sync’ing with podcasts, so I have to manually copy any new podcast episodes I get. It’s so irrelevant as an MP3 player that Audible doesn’t support it, so I can’t play any of the content I’ve bought from Audible on it (sidenote: partially my fault for buying DRM’ed stuff). And a million other things, but you get the idea.

This is a case where I went overboard on the cost-minimization to the point where $20-50 more would have saved me a lot of hassle. There is an outside chance it has secretly served as a theft-deterrent. If there were any would-be thieves were on my long distance buses and they saw me using this MP3 player and understood what it was, they likely changed their minds immediately and felt bad for me.

Mixed Idea: Motorola RAZR 3 / Cheap LG GSM Phone

I started the trip with a Motorola RAZR 3, which I’d bought refurbished for about $40 in the US. I was excited to have the cutting edge phone of 2006. Within a few weeks, the external screen stopped working. Then it began turning off randomly and the only way to get it back on was by connecting it to an AC adaptor, even though the battery was full. Everyone I told this to made fun of me for buying a RAZR, saying that they’re notoriously shoddy phones that always break (I’d never heard this).

IMG_4496 I got rid of the RAZR after 3 weeks and bought the cheapest unlocked GSM phone I could find in Quito, which was a $30 LG phone. It’s another “so cheap it’s not worth stealing” item, but it’s actually usable and it’s nice having a cell phone I don’t have to worry about. It’s also tiny and the battery lasts for like a week without a charge. It’s served me well since I don’t have to use a phone as much as I did in the US, but it’s a very basic phone and I’m excited to return to the US and get a phone that doesn’t require 7 different menus just to respond to a text message.

Great Decision: Money Belt


I felt like a huge dork wearing this at first, but I soon realized this is really useful. I use it when I don’t have a locker/apartment to keep my passport, which tends to be when I’m traveling between cities. It’s nice to have money, credit cards, passport, bus/plane tickets all in one place that would be hard for someone to pickpocket or snatch off of you while you’re asleep. In cities where there’s a large danger of pickpockets/robberies, I go out day to day with nothing but ~$50 in cash (no cards, no ID), but use the money belt when I need to make ATM runs. I also keep US $100 in it all the time in case my wallet gets stolen or I arrive in a new country and can’t convert the currency from wherever I was coming from (this hasn’t ever happened, though).

Terrible Decision: Bike Lock

bike_lockA backpacker suggested this to me before I left as a way to secure my main backpack if I had to leave it unattended for just a few minutes (e.g. to go to the bathroom, grab something to eat) in an unsafe area. It turns out I’m almost never in that situation and when I am, it’s easier to just take my bag with me than to go find the lock and find something to lock it to. It ended up being just dead weight, so I threw this out in month 4 when I first arrived in Argentina.

Great Decision: Small Notepad

IMG_4499This was a good decision, but I just wish I’d bought one in the US. In Ecuador, for some strange reason, you can’t buy lined notebooks, just graph paper notebooks, so I have a tiny graph paper notebook. I carry this with me all the time, along with a small pen.

Starting from the front, I write down any words I hear in Spanish that I don’t understand or words I needed but didn’t know in Spanish. Then I look the word up later and write it down. Whenever I find myself waiting for something (which is a lot), I take out my notebook and study the words. From the back of the book, I write down hostel information and the names, phone numbers, and/or email addresses of people I meet.


I always carry it in my back pocket and at first I thought it would be funny if a pickpocket mistook it for a wallet and stole it, but at this point there’s so much in there I want to keep I’d almost prefer to have my wallet stolen.

Terrible Decision: Gold Bond Foot Powder

A few months before my trip, a backpacker lamented to me how naïve and disgusting most American travelers are for not bringing foot powder with them when they go backpacking. I pretended not to be so stupid as to be someone who didn’t know this and casually bought Gold Bond for my trip gear. A month in, I decided my feet smelled as great in South America as they did at home, so I chucked the foot powder.

Great Decision: Plastic Bags (sandwich sized Ziplocs and kitchen sized medium trash bags)

You don’t need to pack these ahead of time, but they come in handy in lots of situations. You can use the trash bags in hostels for laundry. Ziploc bags are useful for packing snacks on long-distance bus rides (sometimes they serve you food, but it’s never enough).

The Rest (in brief)

Travel Stuff

Main Backpack (Gregory Triconi 60) – Solid backpack, has held up well. At 63 L has just enough space for all my stuff.

Daypack (Osprey Talon 22) – Good pack as well. Holds a lot, but is pretty compact when empty. I always keep this with me as carry-on for planes/buses.

Waterproof Pack Cover – I’ve never had to use this because I’ve luckily never been caught out in the rain with my main pack, but probably good to have.

Leather document holder – Not needed. Made unnecessary by money belt.

Travel power converter – Useful, but only for the plug adaptors. All of my electronics (laptop, cell phone, camera battery charger) had voltage converters built-in, so I’d have been better off with just a set of plug adaptors to cover South America.

Speed Dial Combination Lock – This was useful because I could open it in hostel dorm rooms in complete darkness, BUT it’s too big for most hostel lockers, so I usually ended up using the travel lock.

Cheap Travel Lock – Used this for lockers that my stronger lock was too large for. It’s a really weak lock that could probably be broken by a firm tug, but generally the hostel lockers are so shoddy, there are many other weaker points to crack if someone really wanted to break into my locker.

Brookstone Travel Alarm Clock – I could have gotten away without this and just used my phone alarm, but I used it as a redundant backup alarm on occasions where it’d be disastrous for me to sleep through my phone alarm. I don’t think Brookstone stuff is intended to be treated so roughly, though, so it’s looking pretty worse for wear having been knocked around my backpack so long.

1.5 L Nalgene Bottle – Always useful to have a good supply of water that’s easily securable to your bag. I left mine on a bus in Cordoba in month 5 and was sad.

Camelback Water Reservoir – Never used this, but would have been useful had I done more hiking.

Chlorine Water Purification Tablets – They make water taste terrible, so it’s not great for drinking water, but in Ecuador and Peru, I’d keep a chlorinated water bottle for rinsing when I brush my teeth. This is kind of a paranoid precaution, though, as most people just use tap water and try not to swallow any.

South America on a Shoestring (Lonely Planet) – Good bird’s eye view of everything. Usually has good general information about cities/countries.


Mini Flashlight (Fenix LD-01) – I carry it around with me all the time. Definitely useful for seeing your way around hostel dorms at night without being a jerk and turning all the lights on. Also fun to have in general because nobody ever expects you to have one and they’re always delighted when you do. Dropped something on the floor in the dark club? Boom! Guess who’s gonna help you out? You could get away with something less powerful, but I like how bright it is. Plus, I’ve never had to change the battery once in 8 months.

Multi Tool (Leatherman Juice CS4) – Came in very handy several times when I was in dorms, but after I started living in apartments, wasn’t needed as much. Corkscrew was key.


Here was my original clothing packing list:

  • 8 t-shirts
  • 2 gym shirts
  • 2 button downs
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of slacks
  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 8 pairs of boxers
  • 9 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 pair of dress shoes (for da club)
  • 1 pair sandals (for da beach)
  • 1 thermal longsleeve shirt*
  • 1 sweatshirt*
  • 1 rain jacket*
  • 1 bathing suit*
  • 1 pair sunglasses*

*forgot to mention in original post

Dress slacks were a bad idea. They get wrinkly and I rarely have access to an iron, so they end up taking up space and being an expensive thing to potentially lose/ruin.

I never end up wearing the sunglasses, but it’s mostly because it never occurs to me until I’m already outside.

Everything else worked out pretty well. I’d have maybe swapped out one of the button downs for a cool t-shirt I can wear out to bars/clubs without going through the hassle of trying to iron out the wrinkles using shower steam.

Spanish Stuff

Pocket Spanish Dictionary (Webster’s New World) – More useful than I was expecting. I almost didn’t buy one because I figured I could look up words online, but the quality in here is better than anything I can find online and it’s often more convenient to just look words up by hand.

Spanish Grammar Workbook (Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Spanish Grammar) – Didn’t pack it, but my sister gave it to me since she didn’t need it and it was really useful in helping me learn.

Computer Stuff

Laptop (Toshiba Satellite T-235D) – For me a laptop was essential because all of my pet projects required me to have my own laptop. I wouldn’t have been able to focus enough to write stuff like blog posts from a public computer. I was pretty happy with this one as far as performance, battery life, and disk size, except I felt like it got worse WiFi reception than other laptops.

Laptop Sleeve (Case Logic PLS-14) – Good case, pretty compact.

Laptop Security Lock – Definitely good to have. I always keep my laptop locked up.

Portable Mouse (Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse) – Nice and compact. I hate using the touchpad.

Portable Speakers (KLIP xtreme KES-100) – Thought I wouldn’t need speakers, but my laptop’s speakers are terrible and listening to headphones for hours got tiresome after about a week, so I picked these up in Lima. Surprisingly good sound and powered by just USB.

VoIP Headset (Emerge Technologies Retractable Headset) – Nice and compact. Good for VoIP calls home. No complaints about sound quality.

Canon Powershot 800IS, spare battery, charger – 4 years old at this point but sturdy little camera that takes solid photos.

4 GB thumbdrive, 64 MB thumbdrive – The 4 GB thumbdrive was useful once when I had to reinstall Win7, so I booted from the thumbdrive. The 64 MB thumbdrive would have come in handy had there been a time when I needed to copy no more than 10 photos from one computer to another.

Personal Care

All my toiletries are pretty basic and don’t require much explanation:

  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, toothbrush cover, dental floss.
  • Shampoo/Conditioner (2-in-1 to save space), soap, soap case, face wash.
  • Shaving cream, disposable razor, extra blades.
  • Nail clippers, tweezers.
  • Deodorant.
  • Moisturizer.

Travel Towel – It’s compact, but I was expecting it to dry much faster than it does. I’m not sure I was better off than with a normal towel.

Sunblock – Wished I’d brought more from the US because American brands are more expensive abroad (by 30-100%).

Insect Repellent (40% DEET) – Used this when needed but generally still got bitten up. Probably a good idea to have, though.

First Aid Kit – Never had to use it, but nice to have.

Spare Toilet Paper Roll – A backpacker told me to bring this but I realized two months in that it’s fairly easy to find toilet paper in South America when it’s needed, so I chucked this.

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Parapente (Paragliding) in San Felix, Colombia

On Friday night, I was hanging out with my Australian friend Andy and he told me he and a Colombian girl he was dating were going paragliding Sunday and invited me along. It was only 80,000 COP (~$45) and he showed me a video on his phone and it looked too cool to pass up.

The skydiving place is in San Felix, which is up in the mountains about an hour outside the city by taxi. The first thing I noticed when I arrived is that paragliding is actually terrifying. I was thinking about it as if it were a hot air balloon ride, but it felt like we were gearing up to go skydiving. In the videos, you’re thinking about how cool the view is but in person, you’re thinking, “Oh my god! Those people are thousands of feet in the air and seem like they will die instantly if they get an unlucky gust of wind.”


Obviously, we’re not going to come all this way and not do it, so we paid for our tickets and headed up to the launch area.


It’s a unique scene. There are a bunch of people hanging out at the top of the hill in the launch area, many in little tents. I asked Andy’s friend Caro what the deal was with the tents and she said people just come and hang out for the day to watch their friends paraglide. There are people selling barbecued meats and fried foods, people playing music. It’s like they’re tailgaiting paragliding.


Andy was called up first. The whole process is pretty quick. From the time they call you over to your guide to the moment you take off is about 5 minutes.


There’s very little the way of instructions. I got strapped to my guide and this was our only exchange before we got in the air:

Guide: ¿Entiendes español? [Do you understand Spanish?]
Me: Sí. [Yes.]
Guide: Bueno. Primero caminamos, entonces corremos, y cuando volemos, sientate. [Good. First we walk, then run, and when we’re flying, sit down.]
Me: Okay. [Okay.]

Takeoff went pretty much as planned, but I apparently didn’t understand the “sit down” part well enough. When we got into the air, I sat back onto this little pouch behind me and I thought my work was done. My guide started shouting at me, “¡Sientate!” [“Sit down!”]. I didn’t really know what to do since I was already sitting down, so I just tried to lean back more. He seemed to get more alarmed and started shouting, “¡Sientate más! ¡Sientate más!” [“Sit down more! Sit down more!”].

It's from Super Troopers, but you should feel ashamed I had to tell you.

I couldn’t lean back any more since my back was already against his chest and I wasn’t sure how else to sit down “more.” I scooted back further in the seat-pouch-thing and this seemed to be what he wanted because he stopped yelling and when I asked, “Estoy bien?” [“Am I okay?”] he said, “Sí.”

Being in the air was really cool. You feel like you’re sitting on a swing suspended magically in the middle of the sky. I was also still pretty nervous. The whole thing feels so delicate and the wind so random, I kept expecting to fall out or get blown into a death spiral at any moment. My guide said I didn’t need to keep gripping the harness and I thought, “Oh, cool,” and let go. Then we swayed slightly because of the wind and I decided that holding onto the harness was nice, so I resumed doing that.

I asked if I could take my camera out of my jeans pocket for some photos and my guide said, “¡Claro!” [“Of course!”] (sidenote: I suspect this isn’t the answer I’d get in the US). Just taking out my camera and getting the settings right scared the crap out of me, but I knew I’d regret not taking some pictures.


This is a shot from mid-air. Medellin is directly in front of us. You can actually see my apartment in this picture. It’s the clay colored one.


I felt pretty excited for getting shots mid-air until Caro told me she kept her camera out the entire time and got her guide to do helicopters and downward spirals while she filmed it. She’s kind of nuts.


This is all of us post-gliding. Definitely turned out to be a good way to spend a Sunday.

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Pretending I Learned Something: Hostels

As I’m winding down to the end of my time in South America, I thought I’d put together some travel tips based on my time down here. They’re mainly going to be geared toward long-term backpacking-type travel, but some stuff might come in handy for South American travel in general. This is part one of my “Pretending I Learned Something” series and today we learn about: hostels!

All hostels have a stated check-in time, but few hostels will actually deny you an early check-in when there’s a bed available (even when you’re outrageously early, like 4 AM). The ones that actually do make you wait are obnoxious and should be checked out of as soon as possible.

When you check out, the bill is almost never correct. They’re not trying to rip you off; they just don’t really have their shit together accounting-wise. They’ll undercharge you about as often as they overcharge you. I just calculate an itemized total beforehand and correct them when they give me a wonky total.


“Complimentary Breakfast” means that you will be given two pieces of bread and tea. Consider the breakfast exciting if they also offer cereal with milk and/or fresh fruit. A hostel with a scrambled egg buffet is the jackpot.

There’s an unspoken rule in hostels that you have to be friendly to everyone who talks to you (note: English people seem to be exempt from this rule). The result is that you can start talking to whoever and they have to be nice to you no matter how weird you are. The corollary is that you, in turn, have to be nice to really weird people.

“WiFi in guest rooms” means you will intermittently get 1 bar of signal in the room closest to the wireless router.

If you book a hostel in advance, write down both the hostel’s street address and the telephone number (even if you don’t have a phone). Cabbies will claim they know any address you give them until you’re actually in the cab and have been driving around lost for 20 minutes. If you have the number, the cabbie can call when they get lost.

Despite the popular perception of hostels, it’s not that hard to find a hostel with hot water in the showers.


Your valuables are pretty secure if you do the bare minimum to secure them (i.e. keep them locked in a locker). I’ve never talked to anyone who’s had anything stolen from them in a hostel. I’ve only heard secondhand stories and they always involve something like an iPhone being left unattended all day on a bed in a shared dorm room. If there’s a thief in your hostel, there’s likely to be so much low hanging fruit in terms of other people leaving valuables out that if you just store your theft-attractive stuff in a locker (even if that locker is made of balsa wood and your lock can be opened with stern language), you’re pretty safe.

Every rule in the hostel can be broken without anyone really caring much. This is especially true if you’re on friendly terms with the staff.

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Giving Papaya and “¿Qué Más?”

When you’re meeting up with someone you know in Colombia, there are a few common smalltalk questions they might ask you. Most are pretty similar to what you’d hear in other South American countries like, “como estás?” [“how are you?”] or, “qué tal?” [“what’s up?”]. One that seems unique to Colombia is “¿qué más?” [literally: ‘”what else?”]. I’ve been told that it’s equivalent to “how’s it going?” and so if that’s the first question I get, it’s easy to just say “bien” [“well”]. I get tripped up if they ask me “¿qué más?” when I’ve already used up my bien. For example, I get this a lot:

Me: ¿Hola, como estas? [Hi, how are you?]
Colombian: Bien, ¿y tú? [Well. And you?]
Me: Bien! [Well!]
Colombian: Ah, bien. ¿Qué más? [Ah, good. What else?]
Me: Umm… almorcé un sandwich hoy… [Umm… I ate a sandwich for lunch today…]

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer the last ¿qué más? because the subtext to me always seems like, “Your first response was inadequate. Tell me something that’s actually interesting.” I’ve had a few times when the person keeps ¿qué más?’ing me until I just have to surrender and admit that I can’t think of any more interesting facts to share about my day.


The other Colombian expression I really enjoy is “dar papaya” [literally: “to give papaya”]. If you do something stupid or careless that results in something bad happening to you, that’s referred to as “giving papaya.” So if you went into El Centro (a more dangerous part of town) at night to take pictures with your $3,000 DSLR camera, then you got robbed, people would say, “¿Por qué diste papaya?” [“Why did you give papaya?”]. In other words, why did you do something you knew you shouldn’t be doing? They even have ads on the metro that say things like, “Take care of your valuables while on the train. Don’t give papaya.”

I’ve mostly heard it in relation to robbery/theft, but it extends to other things. Another way it’s used is in the context of someone cheating on their girlfriend, but not being discreet about it. A guy takes the girl he’s cheating with to a bar where people know his girlfriend, so he gets caught. People say, “Well, what did he expect? He was giving papaya.”

It also turns out that you can change the expression slightly to convey an especially stupid decision. One girl was telling me about a time she went out biking with her friend and stayed out too late and had to bike home through a dangerous neighborhood. She said that nothing happened, which was especially fortunate considering, “dimos mucha papaya!” [we gave so much papaya!”]

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