Recently, I went to the local natural preserve area (zoo), called Quistococha. I saw some monkeys (including escaped monkeys,) an anaconda, a bunch of Pumas, and quite a few animals I had never heard of and don’t remember their names.
|Yup. Monkey inside and monkey outside.|
Having taken the moment to gawk at these creatures, and having a perpetual internal conflict of what to photograph here, I thought it was time to post my thoughts on foreign tourism. Appropriately, all the pictures on this post are from my zoo trip.
I haven’t felt entirely comfortable taking pictures of a lot of the day-to-day activities that seem interesting or different to me. Perhaps part of my discomfort comes from the safety of not looking tootouristy, but I’ve also been conflicted at the idea of treating these people like some sort of spectacle or unusual phenomenon.
These people aren’t trying to draw attention or do anything weird, they’re just living. They’re society developed in ways nearly parallel to our own, but with results that accentuate the parts that are “near but not exactly” like our own.
I mentioned a lot of things I found different or interesting in my first post on Peru. But there are other things I’ve experienced since then as well.
Here, people gather to buy and sell tons of fruits, meats, vegetables, cheeses, odds & ends, clothes, and what not. The food system in America shields its consumers from lots of what goes on to get meat prepared to sell and eat, but we regularly see a few steps closer to the living chicken here in Peru. Thankfully they don’t slaughter the animals at the open market. That would be a little much.
Although this place smells like a zoo, is as crazy as a zoo, and seems to have about the same sanitation requirements as a zoo, it’s not meant to be a zoo. It sure seems interesting to my eyes, but it’s just life to them, so why should it subjected to the curios desires for entertainment from some gringo? I’m not sure that anyone would care much at my gawking, but that doesn’t make me much more comfortable with doing much more than just trying to be a normal part of it.
Hopefully this one doesn’t catch on back home. For some reason, it’s pretty common for men to not pull their shirt all the way down. It’s like they started to put their shirt on, but by the time they got their arms in they decided they were done and moved on to other things. It’s like a belly shirt, with extra belly.
This is weird and different to me. Not so much that it happens, but that it happens a lot. I wouldn’t say that it’s a style. I wouldn’t say much about it at all. Maybe they’re just too hot and want to cool off a bit. Either way, although it’s different from home (or at least different from Provo and Spokane) it’s not the sort of thing you record in your tourist journal or scrapbook.
These are fun. Often this involves blockading a section of street to play soccer. Usually it doesn’t happen on the main arterials (though the streets are still quite busy,) but kids will build walls, or at least make a line of treacherous stones for motors to cross when they want to have a soccer game in the street. This sort-of happens in the US, but usually the kids have to move when a car comes (instead of the car having to try to dodge the kids at play as it goes through) and the kids aren’t allowed to blockade the street.
Other street stuff happens too. Like lots of groups hanging out and flooding into the street because the sidewalks are too small, forcing pedestrians to go into the street to go around them. The other evening I also saw a group of kids practicing a dance in the plaza (which I would have taken a picture of had I brought my camera. Dance is on-limits.)
I’m not concerned about the architecture, I can take pictures of that all day without feeling uncomfortable. It’s more the contents. A house with a dirt floor but a flat screen TV seems weird to me, but I’m not sure that I should take a picture to remember it. I don’t think I’ll forget it anyway; people bring that issue up in development all the time.
|In black water, you can bet there will
be an anaconda
This dirt floor and TV thing is sort of the number one criticism of people in poverty. You’ll frequently hear people ask “how on earth can they justify buying a TV when they need to buy food!” Or “don’t they know that if they used that money to [pay off debts, go to school, buy more food, build more of their house, etc.] that they would be better off?” These questions often exemplify the issues I talked about in my second Peru post. Are we really going to pretend that poor people are somehow different? Are we really going to ask why they chose some sort of satisfaction now instead of satisfaction later? I mean, which nation is drowning in credit card debt? Remind me…
So perhaps the dirt floor and TV thing isn’t a great example, since it actually is a pretty normal aspect of humanity, it’s just a different manifestation. But so is the rest of the stuff I’ve talked about.
So with the spectacle idea in mind, I’ve wondered (even before I came) what the big deal is about travel. What do we want to go to other places for?
Is it to experience the culture? See the different people? Find out how they do things? I think a lot of people (including myself) have this largely in mind. Different is interesting, and people in other places are supposed to be somehow different.
I think this is the most important reason for travel, but it leaves me with the biggest questions of what “gawking” is appropriate and what isn’t. Like, even beyond what the local customs dictate as being appropriate to stare at and photograph. I feel like there’s some overarching truth or idea that could relate to all of humanity to provide a framework for all peoples. Some sort of moral code or higher ideal.
Cool Man-Made Things
Another popular reason for travel is to see the cool stuff. Things like the Eiffel Tower, Machu Pichu, the Taj Mahal, impressive art and museums, historically significant places, and such. There’s also the pyramids, old churches, the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the cities themselves, government buildings, and plenty of other things.
I haven’t latched on to all of these as much. The Eiffel Tower to me just seems like it would be a big thing of metal and stone. What else is so crazy? Some people with lots of money found a really smart architect and got a bunch of construction workers to make it. Perhaps I would get it if I actually went and saw it. If anyone wants to fund me a trip to the Tower to convince me of its awesome, email me.
Cool Natural Things
There can be plenty of natural things to enjoy as well. Perhaps the climate. Hawaii would be a great place for that. Or if you like hot and humid, the Amazon awaits.
Maybe the topography. Plenty of people like climbing stuff. Some stuff is cooler, harder, or more different to climb than others.
The animal life? I certainly have pictures of those this time. After all, how often do you get to fight anacondas with your bare hands? Answer: only once, because it will be the last thing you do.
Perhaps to see the plants. Like my old PD Bio professor and his research on Quinoa. He would travel thousands of miles at the drop of a hat when he heard about some Quinoa ripening or doing whatever Quinoa does.
There aren’t many qualms with gawking at natural stuff. It just doesn’t seem to bother them. But even with natural things, some of you may look at the pictures of the animals in cages and think “how sad,” or “this is terrible.” They were put there to allow us to gawk at them more conveniently, enabling hundreds more to see who otherwise would never have seen. Have airplanes done the same for humans?
Having said all of that, I’m still going to enjoy my time and opportunity among all the difference and sameness of Peru. I’d even take other opportunities to travel if they were affordable enough in time and money. I just may not take pictures of every cool thing I see.
But if I had Google Glass, I would definitely record some of the motorcycle rides through Iquitos.