Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Uber-Tourist...

I usually don't feel the need to go on rants and raves about people with a certain mind-set or habits. But this one puts me over the top and for some reason I cannot keep quiet on this subject matter any longer. I am talking about the always embarrassing but equally entertaining "Uber-Tourist." I find myself to be very accepting and in some cases forgiving even. However, this one group I will just never for the life of me understand. Nor, in all honesty do I believe I ever will understand. The Uber-tourist as defined by me is, n. A peorson who while traveling takes it upon themselves to embody every bit of the local culture to a T. This group goes so over the top that they more often than not find themselves as the only ones dressed in local apperal. They out local the locals! Often times today the true locals dress western and still manage to embrace and respect their culture. It is this particular group of misfits that go out of their way to wear the local garb and spout off about how enlightened and accepting of other cultures they are. I am afraid we in the west are slowly coming to a point where our confused youth are in the mist of a mass identity crisis.
Tom Cruise for example in the movie The Last Samurai becomes a samurai warrior and leads the last group of samurai into battle against a westernerizing Japanese army. At the same time he manages to court that hot Japanese woman whose husband he had killed earlier in the movie. In Hollywood or Scientology (often today synonomus with each other) this seems to work. So if you as an "Uber-tourist" are preparing to lead a batch of locals into war against an immenent occupying force then I say so be it, you can wear that full on traditional garb. However, these westerner's that I have come across flat out look ridiculous.
I can only begin to imagine the locals walking around every day getting their own culture shoved down their throats regularly by western tourists. Here is some food for thought, how often have you ever seen a Japanese man walk down the streets of Holland in wooden shoes with a wheel of cheese under each arm? Or have you seen an Indian tourist wearing the wig of our colonial forefathers while walking on the mall in Washington DC? I would bet my right hand that you have never seen either. The fact of the matter is that the reverse does not happen. Why do weseterner's insist on such ridiculous practices. Then often insist that they in fact are the "enlightened ones" and are really truely experiencing and embracing the local culture. The only time I feel the need to extrovertly flaunt my Americanism is when I feel like I am losing my connection to my homeland. Having to dress up and act the part is not in my opinion respecting another culture. It is frankly quite the opposite. I understand that it is nice to pick up a shirt here or an interesting pair of pants and a hat there but to wear it all, all the time is a bit overkill.
These westerner's are as out of place in my eyes as a sunbather in an Antarctic winter. They do not belong and never will (assuming of course global warming doesn't get to that level). The harder they try to fit in and the more they push it the more ridiculous they look. I do not know whether they were bottle fed as kids and are years later looking for a connection that was once deprived from them by their own mothers. I have no idea... But I surely would like to find out. I missed a golden opportunity in northern India because I could throw a rock down the street and hit 20 of these "Uber-tourists" at any time (and trust you me I wanted to throw that rock!!). I am sure more chances will present themselves as my travels through India continue. To get into the mindset of one of these uber-tourist is my self imposed mission.
I cannot wait to let you know what I discover once my research is complete....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Award Speech

I would like to accept this award on behalf of those who cannot make it tonight and be with me here today... And would also like to take you on the beginnings of a journey, so sit back relax and enjoy the ride.
First and foremost, I need to thank my loving family and supportive friends. Without them I could not be taking on such a momentous project. I am indebted to them for more than I can explain in this one speech alone. And for that, to those who are reading I thank you.
Currently, I am taking on India with my itinerary in one hand and a roll of TP in the other. I have my trusty fanny pack filled with all my valuable worldly possessions and a backpack full of an ever changing wardrobe. As I visit one region I pick up a few things with some local flavor and style, while in turn I inevitably sacrifice a few things to the backpacking Gods watching over me (and sometimes it seems as though they are laughing at me having a gay ol' time).
My first travel buddy of many has just left today to go back to the "real world." It is my first glimpse into October when I to will lose the battle and fall victim to a similar fate. However, despite public opinion, I am not dreading the comforts of the western world and my old life per-say. What I am dreading is the looming thoughts of this trip having an expiration date.
I flew into India a little over one week ago and hit the ground running. My trip has included a full day around Old Delhi seeing the mosque and Red Fort. Followed by a day of rest due to unforeseen strikes all over the country. Conveniently enough for me, I got sick and was on bed rest for the entire day. Early the next morning meant a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. And what an impressive symbol of love for a wife it was! Husbands around the world dread the day their wife lays her eyes on this temple because from that point on... nothing, and I mean nothing you do can compare. You will always be trying to keep up with the Jones's or in this case the "Shah Jahan's." A husband's only disclaimer is that if you don't marry an emperor then don't expect a Taj.
Following a day very pleasant day trip to Agra we were scheduled to leave by train north towards Mcloed Ganj. This train left from the train station located at Old Delhi. Let me take a moment here to help you visualize the train station at Old Delhi. Picture this, a very public urinal at the END of a huge 5 day music festival. You with me? So now imagine that this urinal or johnny-on-the-spot is the size of a basketball arena... and this basketball arena has the heat cranked up to about 115 degrees F.. and that the owner of the basketball arena in the interest of making a few more shekels over sold tickets by 100,000 and EVERYONE showed up.. If you can imagine this, then you are beginning to imagine Old Delhi train station. Even, the most veteran of travelers crumble to their knees with tears streaming from their eyes when they hear that their train they just booked is leaving from Old Delhi train station.
After about 30minutes of disorganized questioning of anyone in uniform (I am sure at some point we even interrogated the janitors by accident and for that I apologize to them whole heartedly) we discovered our train, was of course canceled... This cancellation comes at 10pm and we are anxiously trying to begin our trip north to the outskirts of the Himalaya Mountain range.
Will they get up North? Will they be stuck in Delhi? Does Woody become a shoe shiner in Delhi train station to pay for a ticket home? Tune in next week for the next installment... Same India time, same India channel...