So, it seems that unless I am walking with Tom, I appear to others to be a local–and local help, at that. I think this is the curse of the short brunette. I fit in wherever I am in the world because of my coloring, and sort of disappear from people’s sight because of my height.

When I walk with Tom, who is known to our condominium guard staff as “consularo,” I am greeted with politeness and perhaps deference as the guards immediately confer by walkie-talkie with their colleagues to open the locked gates so that we can enter or exit the compound. The guards have introduced themselves and shaken our hands as we pass through the double-gate “airlock,” asking if all is well and smiling charmingly.

However, when I’ve gone out alone, with the dogs in tow or to go grocery shopping, I wait by the gates until I am noticed, and the guards turn away once the door locks have been released. There I am, ready to greet them and practice my nascent language skills, but they are immediately otherwise engaged.

It took me a couple of times to realize what is happening. They think I’m the help. Most of the women they see in casual clothes with dogs on leashes or groceries in hand ARE the help, the staff of those living in the condos here. And I fit right in.

I suspect that if I were tall, slim, and blonde this would not be the case. Just a suspicion, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. I suppose I need to adapt a regal bearing, and command the attention and respect of the guards, but that’s kind of hard to do when I have two dogs tugging on leashes, straining to be allowed to relieve themselves, or I’m laden with grocery bags, and perspiring from the walk in the humidity and heat.

Best plan: walk with Tom more often, and make a point of looking the guards in the eyes until they see and remember me. As it is now, they speak to Tom, nod at me, and that’s it. From now on, I will be the one to greet them and ask how things are. I will not be ignored!

Ah, to be six-foot tall and blonde!