Posted by: adventuressetravels | July 10, 2010

The Dirty South

The first time I was called a “Yankee,” I was sure the man was saying “junkie.”  The Argentine taxi driver’s thick porteno accent “Yankee,” was pronounced “shankie,” and to unaccustomed ears this sounds suspiciously like Junkie.  He wasn’t insulting me though.    It’s just what people from the US are called in South America, and really pretty much world-wide.  What else could they call us?

Americans?  Well, people from South America are Americans too, so that’s out person from the United States or Estados Unidenses are just a little cumbersome to say quickly.  It isn’t generally meant as an insult, it’s just a name.  I didn’t find it an insult anyway.

People in the South?  That was a whole different story.

When I laughingly relayed this tidbit of information to my couchsurfing host, you could all but see the smoke coming out of his ears.  If anyone called him a Yankee he would call them a….  I was taken aback by the fervor of his reaction, but barely a day in the South I started to better understand it.  The Southern United States is a different country.  It is a different world from the North.

I have traveled over much of the world; from Morocco to Romania; from Argentina to Jamaica, and never in my life have I experienced culture shock as great as I did in the South.  From the moment I met my host I felt like as if I had stepped through the door to an alternate reality.

“It is jus dadgum hot around here,” M greeted me.  The short, stocky fellow in ripped jeans offered a work-roughened hand.

Somehow his accent was more pronounced in person than it had been on the phone.  As we walked to his “hoopti,” or old car, I strained to understand his molasses-thick accent and pick my way through the foreign   vernacular.  I was pretty sure he was speaking English, but it took everything I had just to make out what he was saying.

He caught my forehead wrinkling into a look of utter confusion on more than one

Bonaventure Cemetary

occasion.  I apologized and asked him if he could speak a little slower before asking what Savannah was really like.  What could I expect from the South.  The film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was about as much as I knew of Savannah, and I hadn’t seen that for almost a decade.  Would there be murder mysteries? 

 “I ain’t gonna lie.  Thar’ll be a few murders while yur heah, but you best hope you don’t run into the perpetrators.”

Gaping at him I swallowed audibly.  Was it really that dangerous?

“Thar’s a reason thay call it the durty south,” he gave me a look as if this explained everything. I stared blankly.

 “There are a ton of shrimp boats around here.”  My puzzled look only deepened.

Shrimp Boat

“Aw shrimpers ahre notorious. They’ll take you out and you don’t come back. They’re notorious for knockin’ someun in the head and tyin them to a cinderblock.  That and cocaine.  You can get some of the best coke in Ameericah heah.”

By the time we pulled up to the hotel I was already fighting the urge to run.  I needed to give it a chance; I had to stay objective, but this “dirty south” M spoke of sounded more than a little intimidating.  This wasn’t just a different country, it was a different universe.

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