Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Blogger named "Ampotan" Nails It

A bit earlier, I groped at the concept of what I'm trying to get at while traveling. Or maybe more precisely, what I am trying to leave. This blog is clearly about me and my personal beliefs about what I experience, but I want to have some universalizing theme here so that other people (and not just the spammers who have eaten this site alive) read it. But I don't want to talk about how Turkey has just opened my eyes and made me into such a person. Because it hasn't. I have made myself through my experiences, and Turkey will do whatever the hell it wants without me.

I haven't found a good way to express this, but fortunately, two different articles came my way (thank you, Mrs. Nesterov and Mr. Foust) that get the nail hammered on the head. My recent trip to the Philippines only emphasizes the thoughts that these people had.

First off: Jezebel. No, I don't read it. But I will when someone links me to it. Apart from the fun in the comments thread on when Bali was ruined (my vote: Muslim conquest). The article itself is a quick enough read, but here's my pull quote:
Ubud's strange post-Gilbert scene is about to get even more odd, seeing as there are now ostensibly two Gilberts: the author herself, and the author as depicted by Julia Roberts. Roberts stayed in Ubud during the filming, but the film's locations and real-life counterparts don't all match up. This may very well double or triple the must-see sites on a tourist's itinerary. You can go to the restaurant Gilbert ate at in the book, the restaurant "Gilbert" ate at in the movie and the restaurant Roberts herself ate at when she wasn't filming. I fear that once the movie opens, this whole area will turn into a far-flung Magnolia Bakery line, with women typing frantically on their blackberries and snapping photos of menus and street signs as their bored boyfriends gaze off into the middle distance.
I got into trouble a few years back when I openly laughed at a girl for having Eat Pray Love on her bookshelf. I can't help myself, it's the sort of affirmative pap that isn't actually about anything. Hey! If you have money and time, eventually you'll find someone that'll love you for it! And if you can do it in a heart-renderingly beautiful place, all the better! It's 200+ pages of a country song, telling you everything about yourself that you want to hear.

Island tourism works the same way. It gives you the opportunity to "meet locals" and "experience the culture" all within a safe, hermetically-sealed, arena. You can't do anything too bad on an island vacation. You just experience what you are told that you are supposed to experience. I can't complain about some of this stuff: snorkeling rocks. But there is, potentially, something just a bit off about the whole experience. It's all out there to explain to you how to feel. Not enjoying it is simply not an option, unless you're just trying to Chris Hitchens it or something.

The second thing is something I pretty much fell in love with. But before I go on, there are well-thought out rebuttals to it which I will link to first. Complicated issue is complicated and all. And again, more fun in the comments section:
the point is that third world nations tend to attract the lowest quality whites, like those you can find happily partying around in Pattaya or Koh Samui.
When those douchies find out they didn’t land in another place where people make a living dancing to shitty top 40 in go go bars but they just spend their days commuting to their office/factory and they have hence very little tolerance for buffonesque behaviour, well that’s when the whining ensues
The actual article is far more interesting than expat mud-flinging. Which is saying something, because expat mud-flinging is fantastic. This quote is what I've been trying to say myself for a while now.
Another factor–in Japan at any rate–is that they feel cheated because the Lafcadio Hearn experience is no longer open to them. They’re disappointed that time and traffic doesn’t stand still because they happen to be walking down a street filled with people more interested in the concerns of their own lives than their proximity to a member of the Master Race Mr. Global Adventurer from a country Far Across the Sea. Yet another is that it gives them a cheap excuse to bask in the sunshine of their superiority.
The whole denigration of locals (unless they'll sleep with you, of course), or other foreigners (same) for your own sake of superiority...that's the rub. The whole "I am better because I am living abroad" thing, that's the rub. Because as all your friends know...you're not.

And I really shouldn't use the second person, because Lord knows I'm no better at this than most other people. I'll be very upfront about my weaknesses: my Turkish is passable and declining rapidly, I came here for the simple reason of running away, and I still like the food. I'm not perfect. I deserve all sorts of criticism, especially for what I write.

This other quote gave me the shudders:
But I’ll bet he drank it anyway–with other foreign friends who sniggered at his stories and then told some of their own.
The fraternity of expats lives on this. Drinking with friends while mocking the culture that we leech off of. Look, my job description is basically, "speak English." I only am working here because of accident of birth. I wouldn't have a chance here if I was born in, say, Malawi instead.

I'll make fun of Turkish culture more than my fair share...wait for my upcoming article on moustaches and facial hair. But I'm thankful for the opportunity that I stumbled into. And to bring the country metaphor back full circle, you can call me Trace Adkins, because I'm trying.

Unlike all of you jerks, right?

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