How I failed as a bartender

Canoa is said to be a smaller, quieter version of Montanita found midway up the coast in Ecuador. Talking to other travellers, this seemed to be the next natural stop traveling north. The word was that it would be pretty easy to do some volunteering there as well, and after my big spending for the holidays I was looking to save money. I found the most talked-about hostel, right on the beach and by the next day I was their new bartender. I always wanted to try bartending after only ever being at the other side of the bar, so I was excited. I did not however, expect this simple job to be the ultimate test in how to KINDLY brush guys off.

Any girl traveling alone (or with a female friend) in South America knows that guys here hit on you ALL THE TIME. Usually it’ll be a hello followed by a “sexy” or “guapa”. And there I was thinking they just wanted to welcome me to their town. It has gotten to the point where I don’t know anymore if a hello on the street is someone just being nice and polite or if they have another agenda. It’s not that I mind being called beautiful, I mean who would? But that is based on a few seconds of observation and therefore obviously NOT based on any of my personal features, but kind reminder about being a physical object. Or that’s at least what it feels like after the hundredth time. And most of the time I’m actually looking like shit. I’m a backpacker! I’m usually sweating, my clothes are holey and living the good life for a couple of months has definitely resulted in a less than athletic body. So, sexy to the degree where it has to be shouted out? Nope, not really feeling it.

Nevertheless, the cat calls are a daily occurrence in Latin America. It’s different from country to country, but the worst I’ve encountered was in Chile and here in Ecuador. It’s here the greetings feel like they’ve been less about being friendly and more about trying to hit you up. Though it’s done in the strangest way. It will be catcalls and comments thrown at your back, instead of saying hello to your face. In Chile they had a habit of mumbling shit to you quietly but loud enough for you to hear it. Creepy as hell. In Ecuador the approach has been more hands on, literally. If you’re going out expect to be dragged by your arm to face some random dude that demands to be dancing or talking to you. I’m all for approaching people you like, but hey talk to my face first or buy me a drink or something.

Anyway, all these approaches can easily be brushed off by walking away or even better, hang out with some guy friends and no one will even look your way. That was the problem with being a bartender, it was nolonger possible to walk away. Guys at the bar meant money in the bar, and I now awkwardly had to smile and be nice when a guy started asking about my relationship status. Not used to either working at a bar or lying, I managed to let it slip that I was single. Not a smart move. Having people hit on you while your working and not being able to leave is mildly put uncomfortable. But it’s even worse when they’re spending money, tipping you and you have to take their money with a smile. I felt a little like a prostitute, I just wanted the guy to fuck off. The owner knew what she was doing though, cause she specifically wanted a girl behind the bar.

The beach bars in front of the hostel

There were a couple of days where it would suddenly be fine, no sleezy charmers at the bar. Turns out one of the guys working at the hostel had been a real hero and told the guys to back off because I was his girlfriend. Of course I managed to blow that without knowing when one of the charmers came by asking for my boyfriend and I went “Huh, boyfriend?”. Stupid! Learnt my lesson quickly though and soon came up with a story of how my real boyfriend was soon coming to visit me on my travels. Seemed to have the wanted effect.

But there was always another local charmer. It’s like you’re not allowed to be single and be ok with it. Every girl so obviously needs a guy here, at least it seems like that’s the common view on things. And all that unwanted attention seemed to accumulate standing behind a bar. The people who know me know I have a bitchy resting face. Smiling sort of comes hard to me unless I really feel it. And pretending to like someone’s company when I don’t made me more uncomfortable than I’ve been in a long time. So I did what always worked before and walked away. No more bartending.

And from hereon, I will no longer be a proud, single lady. Just to make things a little easier I will now have a boyfriend, let’s call him Hans, who’s traveling to meet me in a week. He looks like Brad Pitt.

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