I am a recent graduate of Queen’s Engineering. Last summer I went on a graduation trip to Central America with one of my friends, another recent engineering graduate. We both wore our shiny new iron rings, to show the world how amazing us Canadian engineers are! Shockingly, nobody seemed to notice them. Sure, once or twice, we met other Canadians who recognized the rings, but not even a single Central American local had even heard of Canadian engineering. Some hadn’t even heard of Canada, and even a few didn’t know what engineering was! At least that’s what I assumed, based on the blank stares I received when I was trying to explain fugacity to a three year old Costa Rican kid who kept saying something about “la comida”.
When we arrived in Guatemala, we were the only foreigners in sight. We were also the only people who wanted to take a bus away from the border. We asked when we could take the bus, and they said “Oh, in an hour or two”. The bus driver was already there, so we sat down for a few beers with him, because drinking and driving is probably OK when you’re the only vehicle on the road. Having lunch with us were two elderly Guatemalan women, who spoke no English. We clumsily tried telling them that we were travelling from Canada and were spending six weeks seeing various countries in the area. I’m not sure if they understood.
After several minutes of confusion, I heard a word I thought I understood! They said “Ustedes son esposos?”. I thought I had learned the word “esposa/o(s)” to mean “spouses” so I told my friend that. He thought I was crazy: “There’s no way they think that. They don’t have gay marriage in Guatemala. You’ve got the word wrong”. I gave up on talking, and instead let the women try to let me to dance. Fifteen minutes later, my friend had an epiphany: “Maybe they saw our rings!” I quickly pulled out my phone, checked how to say “ring” in Spanish and clumsily asked if they had seen our matching iron rings and thought we were married. “Si! Si! Si!” they said. At least someone had noticed our rings!