Recently I traveled to Peru to research my next novel.   Peru rattled me, although I am not a nervous traveler.   When I was thirteen, I made the trip from Manila to Boston, including a required overnight stay in Los Angeles, by myself.  There was hitchhiking in Italy in my college years and other bold and ridiculous travel adventures; once I landed in Ravenna with no money and had to work two days at a communist beer festival to make train fare back to Florence.  I drove through the Texas Panhandle in an ice storm and had to sleep in a church.  I’ve negotiated public transport in Bangkok, often alone, and somewhat confidently.  In recent years, I waited out officials at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border as they attempted to extort one hundred dollars—something I would have given them, but which I didn’t have since, as I explained to them several times, only a stupid woman would travel alone and with lots of cash. I didn’t sweat it.  I had time, and I survived through those moments composed and sustained by the notion that, at some juncture, this would make a funny story.  But Peru made me nervous not because of danger, nor lack of money, nor corruption, nor alien culture, but because of language.  Peru made me nervous because of Spanish.  Spanish makes me nervous because I can’t speak it.  More clearly (not speaking Thai doesn’t bother me) Spanish makes me nervous because I can’t speak it, and I look like I should.  I call this particular anxiety “The Spanish Thing.”

Please explain what just happened.

I’m not really sure. One day I’m a struggling comic and truck driver, barely making ends meet, then all of a sudden it’s a whirlwind of mountains, steep cliffs, and foreign countries, People all over the planet suddenly know me. It’s cool, but I’m not sure it’s really happening. I have this fright in the back of my mind that I’m going to wake up to find out that it never happened.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Living in Louisiana and Texas as a little kid. A good place for a young explorer to discover the world, but bad places to be raised culturally diverse.

 

If you weren’t a comedian/truck driver, what other profession would you choose?

I would probably work as a linguist. I love to travel, and even more, I love to talk with people from all places and walks of life.