What Color Is Your Jockstrap?

Encore to Jennifer Leo’s bestselling travel humor books

Balls-Out Travel!

This time, it’s the battle of the sexes

You cackled at Sand in My Bra, sent Whose Panties Are These? to friends, thumbed past the bikini beauty on The Thong Also Rises to see what other Ms-Adventures were possible. We thought we’d stop before you cracked a rib, but you told us loud and clear that we couldn’t. We shouldn’t. No way, José. So, in the grand tradition of trilogies, there must be a fourth. But what else could we do? Jen Leo went on the hunt, and what she found was the strangest sight of all: men on their knees, begging to be included in the fun. Thus the series turns coed with another lunatic array of travel adventures.

  • Dare to kiss the woman of Elliott Hester’s dreams in Argentina
  • Question Tamara Sheward’s sanity as she vacations in war-blasted Chechnya
  • Discover that adventure king Tim Cahill has a fear of…freshwater lakes?
  • Begin your marriage with a sick-off like Julia Weiler did in Mexico
  • Grimace with Sean Presant as your flesh is eaten by fish in Turkey
  • Hide behind Rachel Thurston’s mom as she takes on taxi drivers in India
  • Have “fried rice with crap” for lunch in Thailand with Rolf Potts
  • Enjoy 900 holiday photographs from Laurie Notaro’s parents
  • Spend your cash shooting machine guns with Eben Strousse in Cambodia
  • Conquer your fear of flying with Susan Orlean and Skymall magazine…and much more!
by Jennifer L. Leo

Men. We love them for making us smile, and hate them for breaking our hearts. They’re good for carrying our bags, and I swear, one day, we’ll invent a way to convert their natural gas into useable power for our hybrid cars, laptops, foot spas, and anything else we’d rather be using than an air freshener. I know some of you would prefer to live without them, but I never could.

I entered the travel writing world because of Tim Cahill and have since made room on a bookcase for signed Bill Bryson books, driven from San Francisco to Santa Barbara for a Pico Iyer reading, and gotten drunk with Rolf Potts on three different continents. In short, I love our traveling smellier half. That’s why, after Bra, after Panties, after Thong, those with the bulge in their pants asked when they would be able to write for one of my books, I couldn’t say no. In fact, everyone at Travelers’ Tales thought it a fabulous fun way to complete this scantily clad underwear empire.

Boxers and briefs weren’t going to cut it. Heck, I wear those to bed. But I’ve never worn a jockstrap, and since we had so much fun playing with a Hemingway title, we thought we’d put a cheeky spin on a modern-day career classic. Hence, What Color Is Your Jockstrap?

Inside you’ll find a diverse cross-section of misadventures. Some share the bizarre stories of travelers who went to the ends of the earth only to have the cosmos spit in their face, while others are the tales of typical travel challenges—just the sort of thing even rookie travelers can relate to. There are even plenty of laughable journeys that were taken on purpose. We did not separate the women’s’ stories from the men’s, but you’ll find the front half of the book occupied by gross bodily function mishaps, and the back of the book holding the sweeter, more reader-friendly stories. Whether they’re about suffering through diarrhea in Cabo San Lucas or figuring out how to get along with French women while working in Bordeaux, these travelers are globetrotting super heroes!

Eavesdrop on Jim Benning’s phone call with a Chinese prostitute in “Lust in Translation,” spend all your money shooting off heavy weapons with Eben Strousse in “Guns and Frivolity in Cambodia,” hit on a smoking hot Argentinean with Elliott Hester in “Love and the Bad Empanada,” or fight a mob of Nepali taxi drivers with Rachel Thurston’s mother in “Mama Chihuahua, World’s Fiercest Travel Partner.”

There are so many outrageous accounts of vacations gone wrong that by this fourth book, you just have to wonder, do all trips go bad? No, of course not. But I guarantee that if you are someone who wants to return with a brag-worthy story to amuse your friends or write up for the press, it’s best to hope that the tarmac does get pulled out from under you. After all, if you’re crying on your trip, someone else is laughing about it later. Bottom line, get out and get lost. There’s a great big world out there—just waiting to fart on you!


Love and the Bad Empanada
Elliott Hester

Lust in Translation
Jim Benning

The Butt Reading
Essa Elan

Be Grateful, Not Hateful
Julia Weiler

Day Trip to Chechnya
Tamara Sheward

Donna Dimenna

Susan Orlean

Birthday Boy
Conor Grennan

Total Immersion
Gil Gevins

Fear of Floating
Tim Cahill
Freshwater Lakes

Pissing on Dave’s Feet
Janna Cawrse

Trying Really Hard to Like India
Seth Stevenson

Your Ambassadors to Butaritari
J. Maarten Troost
Gilbert Islands

Little Fish That Eat You
Sean Presant

El Max
Gary Buslik

The Most Tenacious Turd in Nairobi
Scott Turner

Ecstasy at the Altar
Bill Zarchy

Fawlty Towers, Tibet-Style
Alec le Sueur

Signs of Confusion
Rolf Potts

When in Rome, Cross-Dress for Success!
Tommy Kerr
Vatican City

Guns and Frivolity in Cambodia
Eben Strousse

Mama Chichuahua, World’s Fiercest Travel Partner
Rachel Thurston

The Hostile Hostel
Bill Fink

Anything with Two Legs and a Pulse
Tiffany Hawk

As the Worm Turns
Jennifer R. Carlisle

The Importance of Being Patrick
Peter Mandel

Office “Cou” in France
Jennifer Colvin

Hip-Hop Hustle, Oaxaca-Style
Sara R. Levine

Let Me Tell You About My Trip
Laurie Notaro
Back Home

Joseph C. Diedrich

Making Eyes in Paris
Kayla Allen

The Fruit Salesman
Phil Gordon

Full Latex Jacket
Doug Lansky

The Magical Miracle Tour
Frank Bures

Namaria, Island Nation
Mike Pugh
Southeast Asia
Index of Contributors


Signs of Confusion

by Rolf Potts

As the world gets smaller, written English pops up in a variety of new flavors.

One afternoon late last year, I went out for lunch at a restaurant not far from the south Thailand guesthouse where I’d been staying. My landlady ran the place, and on this day she seemed particularly pleased to see me. “We have new English menu!” she exclaimed, presenting me with a glossy list of entrees.

I took a seat and scanned the menu, which listed the kinds of dishes I’d always eaten there—red curry, pad thai, tom yam. Then, amidst the standard delicacies (and in cheery capital letters) I noticed a dish I’d never before sampled in this part of the world: FRIED RICE WITH CRAP.

Concerned, I took the menu over to my landlady. “I think this dish is a mistake,” I told her.

“Oh, no!” she replied brightly. “We make seafood for you! Fresh from water!”

I gave my landlady a skeptical look. “But surely ‘crap’ is not what you meant to write.”

“Yes, crap! Very delicious!”

I considered this. “Do you by chance mean ‘carp’?”

“No!” she laughed. “Crap!” She splayed her hands and mimicked the scuttling movement of a crustacean.

“Oh, you mean crab. C-R-A-B. Not C-R-A-P.”

“Yes!” she said, handing the menu back to me. “Crab. Both sound same to me.”

Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked: “What means ‘crap’?”

This was not the first time I’d chanced into such an awkwardly comical situation in Thailand. At the central market in Ranong, one could buy packets of “COCK CONDITIONING PILLS” (which I very much hope are for roosters), and the local supermarket did fast trade in a brand of toilet paper called “Sit and Smile.” Perhaps most notably, however, a toy vendor along the main street sold packs of tiny plastic animals that came with a sober warning for parents: “BE CAREFUL OF BEING EATEN BY SMALL CHILDREN.”

To be sure, Thailand holds no monopoly on poorly translated English. Some years ago, a series of forwarded emails made the rounds, describing bizarre signs posted in Kenyan restaurants (“Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager”), Norwegian cocktail lounges (“Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar”), and Russian monasteries (“You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday”). A similar round of emails celebrated the linguistic gaffes that resulted when American corporations introduced new slogans into foreign markets. In Mexico, for example, “Got Milk?” translated into the decidedly un-hip slogan, “Are You Lactating?”

No doubt this tradition of global mistranslation goes back to the days when Greek and Roman tourists frequented the sights of Anatolia and Egypt (one can imagine shaky Latin letters scrawled onto papyrus outside an Alexandria dry-cleaner: “Let us put happiness in your toga!”), but the modern practice of publicly butchering English can be traced back to the American occupation of post-war Japan in the ’40s and ’50s. There, amidst the sudden rush to emulate all things Western, G.I.s were able to buy tubes of “Snot” brand toothpaste, and the Japanese brass band that played at General MacArthur’s election reputedly commissioned a banner that read: “We pray for General MacArthur’s erection.” To this day, Japan still leads the world in mistranslated English (see www.engrish.com for a splendid collection).

Other societies are rapidly catching up to the Japanese example, however, mainly in proportion to how fast they modernize. Korea, where I lived for two years as an English teacher in the late ’90s (“Praise the Load!” read posters for my school’s Bible club), boasts a fine tradition of mangling the English language.

If there is a growth market in dodgy English, however, look no further than China, where one billion increasingly globalized citizens have begun translating area signage into English in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. Brian Baker, a fellow Kansas émigré who spent a year teaching English in China, once found the following tourist information posted in a Wuhan statue park:

1. The tourists must care for the statues, consciously avoid carving, writing, climbing, and damnification. Trying to be a civilized citizen.
2. The tourists climbing the statues must be fined from 5-50 yuan.
3. The tourists carving or scratching the statues must be fined from 50-500 yuan.
4. The tourists making a breakage for the statues’ instruments must be fined 1,000-5,000 yuan.
5. The tourists making a breakage for the second half of the statue must be fined 2,000-8,000 yuan.
6. The tourists making a breakage for the first half of the statue (without the face) must be charged 3,000-10,000 yuan.

One can imagine tourists sizing up such vandalism options with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for fine wine lists (“Ooh look, honey, let’s make a breakage for the statues’ instruments—it’s totally within our price range!”).

Brian’s most vivid experience with Chinese English, however, came in a provincial grocery store. “There,” he reports, “between the natural powdered jellyfish and the yak ham, I saw what looked, to my hungry eyes, to be a package of sliced turkey. Imagine my surprise when, upon closer inspection, the label clearly read: CHOICE AROMATIC LION BUTT. I still can’t imagine what Chinese-English dictionary yielded that monstrosity of translation.”

The potential flipside to all this, of course, lies in the recent Western vogue for Chinese characters on clothing and skin art. As a case in point, I once bought a t-shirt that, according to the vendor, featured the Chinese symbol for “Lucky.” It wasn’t until months later that a Hong Kong friend informed me that it wasn’t even close to “Lucky”—that it really meant “Super.” Had it read “Dork,” or “Kick Me,” I would have been none the wiser. Similarly, all the hipsters who went out and got Chinese ideogram tattoos over the past decade could be in for a nasty surprise if they ever travel to China. After all, a “Crouching Tiger” buttock tattoo purchased in good faith in Seattle might eventually be revealed as provincial slang for “Impotent,” and a Melbourne tattoo artist who designs stylized “Freedom” ideograms might accidentally miss a stroke and send his clients off with a symbol that means, say, “Adult Diapers.”

Beneath the dangers of dabbling in other languages, of course, lies an optimistic truth: that, regardless of syntactic differences, the basic human meanings behind our languages remain the same. After all, “Sit and Smile” is indeed a desirable activity after having used toilet paper, and even the most diabolical of restaurateurs wouldn’t literally serve you fried rice with crap.

To be on the safe side, however, I think I’ll stick to the red curry and tom yam.

Jennifer L. Leo is a magnet for misadventure and always ready to gamble on having a good time. She is the editor of the best-selling Travelers’ Tales women’s humor series, including the award-winning Sand in My Bra, Whose Panties Are These?, The Thong Also Rises, andWhat Color is Your Jockstrap? Her writing can be found in several books, magazines, and websites. Her blog, WrittenRoad.com, was named one of Writers Digest‘s 101 Best Websites for Writers, and a favorite among the editors at Frommer’s. In 2005, Jen moved to Las Vegas to watch the 2005 World Series of Poker and fell in love with both the poker world, and a poker player. Now she is the author of Night + Day Las Vegas, VivaLasVegasBlog.com, and a columnist for BLUFF and Women Poker Player. She aspires to be the Rachel Ray of the gambling world, and bounces between Los Angeles and Las Vegas enjoying her fabulous poker scenester life. Check in with JenLeo.com to find out what she’s up to next.