On one of those miserably cold and snowy New York days, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided I needed to go to Machu Picchu. I had been wanting to go for years and it was on this particular day, with a new credit card in hand, that I decided 2019 would be the year.
I’d used Tinder on a brief trip to New Orleans and it led to some, um, delightful fun. It was with this in mind, as I mapped out a three-week-long trip to South America, that I thought I’d try Tinder Passport™ again. Although I knew I wouldn’t have time to date anyone while I was in Peru — I wouldn’t exactly have the best cellular reception while hiking a decent chunk of the Inca Trail in the Andes Mountains — I figured I could at least try to meet someone in Santiago, Chile, my next stop.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
I have just arrived in Lima, Peru. Although I won’t be in Santiago for a week, I figure I should at least set up shop, so to speak, there using Tinder Passport. I come up with what I think is a cute little profile about how I’d love to meet up with someone to help me with my Spanish and see where the evening takes us. I then turn off the roaming on my phone, because Verizon has already made a fortune in international charges off me. So much so that I probably should have bought stock in the company.
Tuesday, 9:15 a.m.
I received a notification the night before that I’d been Super Liked™, but still exhausted from my flight, I decided to wait until today to check it out. I awake and immediately start flipping through Tinder to see who this mystery Super Like man is. His name is Andres; he has dark hair and dark eyes (I’m in Latin America, after all and, aesthetically, this is my thing), and based on photos, he plays the upright bass. I Like him back; less than a minute later, I get an “Hola Amanda!”
Andres asks me a lot about New York and even how much I make a year. Although I’m not weird about talking about money, we’re less than 10 minutes into a chat and he’s asking my salary, so that’s a bit off-putting. I jokingly ask if he’s looking for a rich woman or something, to which he replies saying he doesn’t understand. In fact, this will be the first of easily two dozen times Andres will respond to something I write to tell me he doesn’t understand.
As I’m about to wrap up my conversation with Andres, because I want to see Lima before I fly to Cusco the following day, I get another match. Again, within in seconds, I get an “Hola Amanda!” This time, however, Felipe doesn’t just introduce himself, but tells me his name and that he lives in Santiago (which I knew, as my Tinder Passport is in Santiago, after all). I don’t respond, as I have things to do. I say goodbye to Andres, telling him I’ll message him later. I’m not keen on Lima, but I figure I should at least check it out a bit more before leaving and heading toward Machu Picchu.
Thursday, 10-ish p.m.
After a long bus ride, then a long train ride, I’m officially in Aguas Calientes with plans to finally see Machu Picchu the following day. Both Wi-Fi and reception is spotty, but I manage to respond to both Andres and Felipe, the latter of whom, tells me once again he lives in Santiago and his name is Felipe. When I ask him about his day, I get the same response. Is this all the English he knows? I try what little Spanish I know on him: ¿Cómo va su día? Again, I get the same response in English. I decide he’s nervous — because I’m the type of woman who makes all men nervous, obviously. (Ha!)
Andres, on the other hand, is a bit more talkative, although I do find myself explaining things to him as simply as possible. Having dated a lot of men whose first language isn’t English, I’ve learned that both speaking and writing in the present tense is easiest for them to understand. He tells me he doesn’t have a job and lives at home. I try not to judge, but he is 33. He tells me it’s hard to make money as a musician in Latin America so he wants to move to New York. I tell him it’s hard to make it as a musician anywhere, and New York isn’t going to solve his problems. Although it’s not my business to tell anyone what to do, I suggest he get a day job until the music thing takes off. He ignores that — or maybe just doesn’t understand it. Instead, he then offers to be my roommate and help with my NYC rent… which makes me laugh out loud. Even after he tries to sweeten the deal by offering to write me songs, I politely decline. I start to get the feeling that maybe he is looking for a rich woman after all. I’m not a rich woman, and we can thank NYC for that.
While all this back and forth is going on, I get a message from another match, Christian. Instead of “hola,” he immediately asks for my Instagram handle. When I ask if this is how he always starts conversations, he tells me he doesn’t understand what I mean. I realize that I really should have taken some hardcore Spanish classes before going on this trip. It’s always disappointing when your brilliant sarcasm goes over everyone’s head.
But the big part of my trip is Machu Picchu and I need to be up at 5 a.m. for it, so I put away Tinder for the night and go to bed.
Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
It’s been a few days since I’ve been on Tinder, so when I open it up I have Christian still asking for my Instagram handle and Andres wondering where I’ve gone. By this point, I’ve been on my trip for a full week and will be in Santiago on Tuesday. It will be almost halfway through my trip and I want a date, dammit! It’s not as though I can’t go out alone, but someone to talk to would be great! So I suggest to Andres we get a drink and ask him his favorite bar and favorite neighborhood. He doesn’t have one, which I find odd. Instead, he suggests we climb Cerro San Cristobal, which I’ve heard has beautiful views, especially at night. I’m not very comfortable with that idea so he suggests we go to Barrio Italia… then tells me it’s expensive and he can’t afford to go unless I pay. I never officially unmatch Andres, but decide this isn’t really working out for me. I appreciate his honesty, but come on, dude; at least be able to buy your own drink. ONE drink.
Before I decide to close out the app for the night, Gerardo pops up. I don’t remember Liking him, but here he is. While physically he’s not my type, I can tell he’s still my kind of people. You know, tattoos, a little quirky, glasses… like a Chilean version of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. But probably a little less musically inclined.
Gerardo’s grasp of English is fantastic! He even explains that if I want to learn Spanish, Chile is the last place to do that, which is great to know. We chat a bit, but I cut it short because I’m exhausted — but not before asking if he wants to meet up on Tuesday.
Christian is still asking for my IG handle, so I unmatch him. Andres is still wondering if I’m going to buy him drinks or dinner or, perhaps, a Bentley or something, so I just ignore him. I can’t figure out what’s worse: unmatching him or ignoring him. Note: there are A LOT of facial piercings in Santiago, and that’s just not my scene. Maybe in 1999, but not now. Basically, I’ve placed all my bets on Gerardo.
Tuesday, 10 p.m.
I have my date with Gerardo. I’m staying in the Bellas Artes part of the city, which he says is expensive. Considering my $200 lunch earlier that day at Bocanáriz, which was, ironically, a suggestion from a friend who got it from a Tinder match last year, I have to agree. We end up meeting at a place called Wonder Bar, still relatively close to my hotel — which is what I want, so that I know where I am and can easily find my way home. This is especially important since, as we’ve already established, my Spanish isn’t so great (read: a complete disaster).
When Gerardo and I meet up, it becomes extremely clear, very quickly, that while he can write and read English, he can’t understand it when I speak it, nor can he speak more than a few words. But I’m always up for a challenge, and we live in a day and age of Google. But, fun fact, Google can get old really fast.
During our three-hour-long date that just might have been the longest three hours of my life, I learn that Gerardo used to be in the seminary, as in he was training to be a Catholic priest. This has me Googling how to ask why he wanted to be a priest, him Googling that he had a call from God, and me Googling to ask him if God called on the phone. Which, sadly, just confuses him although I think I’m really killing it with the jokes.
I tell him I’m a sex writer or, as I eloquently put it in my broken Spanish, “yo escribo sexo.” Then there’s a lull. The former soon-to-be priest and NYC sex writer just sit in silence for what seems like a half hour, occasionally nodding at each other for reasons I don’t even know.
Unlike in his Tinder photos, Gerardo has a beard, but not a thick beard. It’s very thin and he keeps twisting it into knots, while I just keep sipping wine, wondering what I should ask next.
I take to Google and ask him about his family: he has two siblings. He does not ask me the same question. I ask him what he’s been doing since quitting priest school: he’s studying psychology. He doesn’t ask what I studied. I ask him his favorite city: Santiago, but only because he’s never been anywhere else in the world. It gets to a point where it’s literally like pulling teeth, and he’s asking nothing about me. NOTHING. And it’s not like his Google Translate isn’t working, because he’s using it to answer my questions.
With it closing in on 2 a.m. and his thin beard almost entirely in knots that he’s twisted into it, either out of nerves or boredom, I look at my left wrist — where I never wear a watch — and say it’s late and I have to get back to my hotel. This doesn’t seem to register with him at all. So, again, I reach for Google for translation, but still there’s no movement on his end. Instead he just smiles.
I look down at my phone, planning to pretend that I have an email from an editor about work. If it weren’t for adorable Jorge, who works at the front desk at my hotel, I may start to think that social skills and basic social graces aren’t a strong suit in men from Santiago.
I need to tell Gerardo I’m tired. Google brings up “Estoy tan cansado,” and I’m just hoping it’s right, because I’m fucking done. I can’t Google anymore, I can’t sit through another awkward silence, and at the rate he’s been twisting knots into his beard, he’s like one more knot away from some sort of dreadlock facial hair situation.
I stand up to pay for my drink. “We go El Diablito,” he says. According to Google it’s open for another hour and it’s really close. In fact, Jorge at the hotel mentioned it. I tell him no thank you and go to hug him goodbye, but that’s not the end of it. He then proceeds to walk with me back to my hotel. Fifty percent of me is thinking he’s being a gentleman, while the other 50 percent of me is thinking he wants to get laid. While I may have had some hot sex during my last Tinder Passport travel experience, that’s not my usual M.O. I was getting over major heartbreak. Also, there’s absolutely no chemistry between Gerardo and I. And not because we need Google to communicate, but because it’s just not there. Besides, I’m an atheist. I’m not so sure that a seminary drop-out, who had a call from God (still have no idea if it was on the phone or not), should be fraternizing with someone like me.
When we get to my hotel, he leans in to kiss me and I quickly give him my cheek, then kiss his other cheek. I Google that if he wants to hang out next week to message me on WhatsApp — although I already know I’ll be in Buenos Aires by then.
Wednesday, 4:25 a.m.
I get a message from Gerardo saying that the date went great. I still can’t believe he can write and read English so well, but speaking and understanding it is such a struggle. I want to tell him it wasn’t great, but that it’s no one’s fault. However, I agree, to be kind, and wish him a good night and sweet dreams.
I match with someone named Joan. Again, I don’t remember Liking him and am starting to think that maybe Tinder Passport has taken my love life into its own hands, as I clearly can’t take care of it on my own. Joan, which I’m assuming is pronounced “Woan,” sends a GIF with rose petals. I receive this while in Valparaíso, on the coast of Chile for the day (a place Andres suggested, actually), and just ignore it. I head to Buenos Aires the next day and am pretty much done with Chilean boys. However, before I leave the following morning, I do get one more message from Felipe… and you’ll never believe this: his name is Felipe and he lives in Santiago.
But I head to Europe in early April and I already have my Tinder Passport in Paris. So, we’ll see how it goes. Here’s hoping there isn’t someone named Pierre who lives in Paris and needs to tell me those facts over and over again.. Unless, of course, he can cook a proper tartiflette. I’ll easily forgive any broken record for that.