¿Gringo…y Qué?
by gringosam

It’s mildly ironic that I find myself contributing to a blog entitled ¡Que Gringo! as I find myself burdened with the title on a daily basis. I am currently based in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, and will continue to be until January. As a people, Ecuadorians are famous for their woven ponchos and colourful indigenous carnivals. They are not particularly known for an imposing physical stature or fair skin.

So imagine the looks as a pale 6’3” Yorkshire lad ducks under the doorway to take a seat at one of the city's many guinea-pig-serving restaurants. Everywhere a gringo goes in this country, there seems to be an eager, mobile audience. I’m a naturally shy character, so the audience of fifty when I stumble onto the bus in the morning can be discouraging. It’s part-and-parcel of life here though and a voice inside me tells me that the ego will take a hit when I return to the UK, where I barely stand out in a crowd of one.

Getting to the roots of the term gringo in South America has been occupying me for the past couple of weeks. I still can’t decide whether I find it offensive or not. While Ecuadorians will use it as something of a harmless term to denote the Western tourists that keep their economy ticking over, it is by the same token a very clear labelling of a particular race which would most likely be termed derogatory in my politically-correct homeland. The American Heritage Dictionary, for instance, classifies gringo as ‘offensive slang’, ‘usually disparaging’, and ‘often disparaging’. I know what you’re thinking: how pleasant!

But, perhaps surprisingly, my conclusion here is that these things ought to be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, in certain regions, a gringa is a ham-and-cheese-stuffed tortilla – so it’s more than possible that there’s been a terrible mix-up at my expense! If you refer to the Bios section of our blog, you will no doubt see in me a strong resemblance to my spicy gastronomic counterpart.

In the end though, it’s nothing more than a curious cultural experience and that’s what we want ¡Que Gringo! to be all about. I only hope that, over the months, I am able to serve up blog entries that are interesting and perhaps even entertaining. If for my part of the bargain I continue to eat defenceless domestic pets and endure weeks of unparalleled name-calling, I hope you can stick around for a while!

(Everything I post will be punctuated with my own photography, my ability in which far outweighs my written proficiency!)
Generation Impatient?
by gringokev

Every contemporary generation seems to be quietly – and often not so quietly - reviled by their intergenerational peers. The fact that ‘intergenerational’ is really a euphemism for parent-child relationships probably explains this phenomenon.

In the western world, the baby boomers complain about the loss of the idealised and progressive liberalism that they fought for, wasted by their lazy, sullen and materialistic kids. Similarly, Gen X – the wealthier and educated capitalists who grew up during the end of the Cold War - are now criticised for their cushy, middle-class, suburban lifestyles.

Gen Y – the generation of your beloved gringos - has a particular bone to pick with both pieces of bread in our generational sandwich. Gen X yuppies are responsible for Vanilla Ice, 80s fashion and rising rent prices in ‘grunge-chic’ student areas. Baby Boomers can take credit for the Iraq War and the Global Financial Crisis. An unfair comparison, Gen X? I will let you be the judge.

The next generation – who are likely to be labelled as the somewhat diminutive ‘noughties’ – is still in its twitter-happy infancy. Thus, in terms of sociological importance – and high-brow pub banter - Gen Y is coming of age. And not just in the American Pie kind of way.

We have reached the point where our generation will soon dominate that twenty to fifty year-old age bracket that stands at the helm. For the last couple of decades we have been sitting in the passenger seat, witnessing and having our lives shaped by the actions of our generational elders.

We will soon take the wheel.

But in 40 years, when we lie in our catatonic space beds, watching the millenials make love through touch screens and pray to the iGod, what will be our legacy?

I have meandered into this terrain in several recent conversations. What has resulted is not particularly pretty, or flattering. Apparently, we are lazy, self-obsessed, superficial half-wits who have lost the art of conversation and human contact. We are self-indulgent, unemotional and unwilling to work hard. We do not have an appreciation for skill, craftsmanship, learning or proper training. Most of all, we are impatient. We want everything here and now.

Before you smash the screen of your MacBook with your Gossip Girl Boxset, bear in mind that these conversations occurred mostly with other Gen Y-ites. Unlike generations before us, we seem to have recognised our faults. But in a world where we can get any information with the press of the button, could we really live any other way?

But will Wikipedia really be the highlight of our legacy? Wouldn’t we prefer to be known as the generation that fought climate change, that eradicated world poverty, that led peaceful governments, the generation-that-never-went-to-war?

An impossible task, you say? How are we going to begin to save the world?

Hang on, let me finish this Modern Family episode. Then we can start a facebook group and get crackin’.

The United Nations of Gaming
by gringoluke

Video games are the key to world peace.

Sure, a lot can be said for commodity-specific sanctions, for a new era of conciliatory diplomacy, for movements toward a nuclear-free world, but when it comes down to it I'm pretty sure that everyone would be better off if Obama and Ahmadinejad just bought an Xbox and played
Call of Duty all night.

I've had a love/hate relationship with video games ever since a young age. Like so many other boys growing up in an era when internet speed was still measured in kilobytes, I was brought up on a nutritious diet of
Mario Kart and 1080° Snowboarding. It was during those Nintendo 64 salad days that I learned of the powerful fraternity that video games have the power to culture between friends. While the sun beamed down outside on empty streets and sprinklers trickled unharrassed by leaping children, we sat in living rooms and grew blisters on our thumbs. Anybody who calls that a misspent youth obviously never played Goldeneye with three of their closest friends and an endless supply of pizza bagels.

The trick is to treat video games as a healthy, social experience. Sure, jogging is healthy and may give you clog-free arteries, but can you do it at 3 o'clock in the morning in your underwear while exchanging yo mama jokes with an 11 year-old from Amsterdam? There are some social experiences so bizarre that there's no way to experience them without a Playstation controller, wireless internet and— when playing online with those 11 year-olds—a particularly thick skin.

What I love most about video games is their ubiquity. Like
Family Guy quotes and Anchorman references, video games have become a universal code spoken and understood by swathes of young men throughout the Western world. I've seen perfect strangers fumbling along through awkward living room conversation one minute, then swearing enthusiastically at each other over a controversial Pro Evolution Soccer goal the next. Honestly, I think it's magical, and this is where Obama and the Axis of Evil could learn a lesson or two.

Alright, I'm not going to lie. Video games are not some sort of social instrument destined to pave the way to a brave new world. Addiction is a serious problem, and I think a lot of parents don't really realise it. It's become so serious that in April the South Korean government was
forced to ban online gaming after midnight. While spotty teenagers and video game execs will enthusiastically point to tests that suggest Grand Theft Auto will gradually grant you the hand-eye coordination of a neurosurgeon, we all know that you're more likely to end up with a headache and a guilty conscious for all the digital pedestrians you mowed down. Video games can be expensive, time-consuming and unhealthy. A little bit like heroin.

I'm not invincible myself, and sometimes as the hours drag by and the plastic from the controller starts to fuse into my skin I force myself to watch this video to give me the strength to hit that 'off' switch.

This is what your nine year-old is going to look like if you let him dabble too long in the nefarious art of video games. I know it looked like he smiled at the start but I'm pretty sure that was just a short-lived Xbox-induced high.

In the end though, if you can pace yourself then video games really can be a lot of harmless fun, and with the gaming industry now considered worth a staggering USD$22 billion it's fairly likely they'll be around to stay for a lot longer.

Whether or not President Obama plans to adopt them in his latest attempts to stop Iran from going nuclear is still undecided, but I wouldn't be surprised. Just be careful next time you take a shot at 'BIN_LADEN_SUX_44'. I don't expect the secret-service would appreciate you pwning their president.

Photo credit: http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/images/pong.jpg