People are funny. On one end of the spectrum are those that romanticize the notion of other cultures or societies, as utopian or ideal, on the other end are the apathetic who remain disengaged or removed from cultures different from their own, unable to see our common humanness. I’ve experienced the entire scale in 9 days.
A little over a week ago Glenn and I took a speedboat an hour and a half off of mainland Tanzania to the exotic island of Zanzibar, an idyllic tropical paradise with powder white beaches and warm turquoise water. Glenn is calling it ‘the vacation from the vacation’. After four days in bustling Stone Town - an ancient hub for traders and sellers for close to 1,000 years - we headed north to the tip of the island for a little peace and quiet. Violating one of our vacation creeds (no big fancy American hotels) we checked into the Hilton on a lead from a friend.
I had come down with a cold so the idea of bunkering down in a nice room with a cozy bed and AC overshadowed my discomfort of the ubiquitous ‘vacation resort’; you know the kind, the towering sea of luxury isolated in every way from its surroundings. Aside from the incredibly comfortable bed - covered in crisp white cotton, a fluffy duvet and down pillows - the Hilton is not my kind of place, but it did afford an interesting opportunity to observe people on vacation in Africa. Up until now we have really only come across tourists en mass in the large game parks and at the airports. We’ve seen lots of travelers, but those aren’t tourists, these are two distinct breeds. The Double Tree has tourists.
Sometimes it is embarrassing to belong to my race. Here I go romanticizing the natives, sliding back toward the former side of the scale while at the same time feeling apathy for my own. Yesterday we witnessed several Hiltonites towering a couple feet above the beach craning over the edge of a retaining wall that separates the Hilton beach from the public beach tossing candy down to the local children below, cracking up as the children fought one another for the treats. They didn’t leave the compound. They just stood there watching the kids clamor over one another laughing until all of the candy had been scooped up; but apparently that wasn’t enough. They returned a few minutes later with 6 bottles of coke to be distributed among 25 or so children. All the while they stood perched safely out of reach of the local children as the kids fought to chug the most coke before someone older, bigger ripped it from their hands. The tourists laughed and went back to their chase lounges. I cringed from mine.
Glenn and I decided to stick to our creed. Just by staying here we are supporting this kind of scene. Your dollar is your vote, use it wisely. Travel responsibly.
If you’ve been following our journey shoot us a line. We LOVE messages from home; it makes the distance between us feel smaller.
My love to you,