The Travels of Global Rumor
International travel brings the developed world closer to the third world, making their differences all the more visible. Rumors about unwary tourists dramatize these differences. In some, poor judgment puts westerners in mortal danger, as in the case of the “Mexican Pet,” a rat infected with rabies, or in “AIDS Mary” variants set in exotic resorts, where a chance romance brings the deadly disease. Or the danger results from ignorance of foreign customs, as in rumors where a couple's pet dog is cooked for dinner at an Asian restaurant. Many such stories are told to amuse rather than warn: a common type involves ignorance of language, leading tourists to wear emblems that label themselves as prostitutes or as underendowed. Such stories still reveal insecurity over visiting another culture's environment, however briefly. Playful conversation can be as political as serious talk.
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