The bombing of Darwin, Australia happened 75 years ago.
Soon after Pearl Harbor took place in December of ’41, the Australian government decided to evacuate the city of Darwin. Darwin was an important Allied base on the northern edge of Australia, providing access to Asia and the pacific.
Most residents of Darwin loaded onto ships that ferried them south to the bigger cities like Perth and Melbourne and Sydney. Passengers took turns manning the scopes – looking, watching, waiting, scanning the surface of the water for periscopes.
Australia had a good hunch that the Japanese would come for Darwin sooner than later.
Sure enough in February, just a couple months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese dropped bombs on the Darwin base and the surrounding cities. Hundreds died on the first day, residents and military members both. A destroyer called the USS Peary sunk after being hit by five bombs. (USS Peary still rests in the Darwin harbor today, under about 90 feet of water.)
The Japanese air raids continued over the next few years until America finally ended the war with atom bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Japanese ambassadors, Australian governors and American military members were all present for the 75 year anniversary memorial service this past weekend.
You’d think I was a supermodel, but they only want me for my money.
In Bali everyone honks at me. I can’t go 20 feet down the street without being yelled at. A taxi driver sees me from a mile away, slows down, and starts banging on his horn to get my attention. On a good day I ignore every single one of them. On a bad day, the attention drives me fucking crazy.
My gut reaction is anger and protest. Usually I just pretend I don’t notice. Otherswise I’d spend 8 hours a day smiling and bowing and saying “no thank you.”
One of my favorite feelings in the whole wide universe is walking into a coffee shop, sitting in the back corner by the window, listening to music and watching the movie of the world go by. It’s the happy place I travel to when everyone’s staring at me.
I try to slow the anger when I feel they’re using me. Why? Mostly because I can’t change anything by lashing out.
But also because these experiences give me sympathy. They give me sympathy for women who are all too used to getting stared at, followed, propositioned. They give me sympathy for people who’ve NEVER been able, physically, to blend into the crowd. They even give me sympathy for rich (by american standards) people, because I’m sure your friends and family know you’ve got money.
When I was at the market last week I few things, among them was a bag of chips. The cashier stopped in the middle of ringing me up and said, “These are 50,000 – is it OK?” 50,000 idk is about $3.50 usd. The cashier was essentially asking me, “are you really going to spend so much money on a bag of chips? That same money could buy dinner for four.”
Tourists can be a coffee stain on an otherwise flawless piece of art. We leave trash in beautiful places. We talk down to the locals. We buy a lot of plastic shit and cram it into our suitcases like nervous squirrels prepping for winter.
But also I appreciate tourists. A tourist has chosen to spend his/her money on an experience. They’ve put themselves at a little bit of a disadvantage (long flights, strange food, a pause on all the comforts of home). I appreciate the Japanese families and the Singaporeans and the Australians. They all just wanna see the sunset man.
After you know how vulnerable it feels to be a tourist, lost in a strange land, staring dumbly at your map, fumbling to open the door while a whole room of locals watches… real fast you gain empathy for people who are out of their element.
Tourists aren’t dumb even though they sure seem dumb. They’re just a cow in a tree, an eskimo in the desert, or a French King in a Mac store – taking pictures because they can’t believe the movie taking place in front of their eyes.
Charles Benson leaned forward at his desk and ran both of his hands through his thinning hair. It was much more grey than black these days. His top two advisors sat in black leather chairs on the other side of the office.
All three of them stared at the flat screen TV that hung on the wall. The 10 o’clock morning news segment had just begun. A young woman with the back posture of a flagpole took her seat behind the news desk, arranged a stack of papers, and began in a somber tone:
“Investigators have yet to ascertain any serious leads in the collapse of a major intersection in downtown Singapore over the weekend. A subway tunnel collapsed, causing the streets aboveground to cave in. Whole sections of roads, sidewalks, and even buildings were pulled into the hole caused by the tunnel collapse. The death count is currently at 92 and still rising. The number of injured is over 300.”
A video in the top right corner showed a helicopter’s view of the disaster. The intersection was barricaded off on all sides by police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. It looked like a black hole had opened up beneath the city and swallowed everything in it’s reach. Whole sections of nearby buildings had been broken off and pulled into the gaping hole, like a flooding river pulling off chunks of the river bank.