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.”
Few things are impossible, but describing a sunset is one of them. It’s like trying to take a selfie with a skyscraper or recreate a Beatles song using only a rock and a stick. You might as well teach a tiger to play checkers. You might as well give up before you start.
What would you say to somebody who had never seen the sun set over the ocean? “Well there were lots of yellows, and then the yellows turned to oranges, and then…”
Some people don’t know this, but our Earth is connected to a parallel universe of magic. We are only connected to this magical universe twice a day – ever day at Dusk and Dawn – during these two times we swing just close enough to this magical universe that a tiny bit of it bleeds through.
The change that takes place during sunset (or sunrise) is blatantly subtle. You know some wacky magic is happening right in front of your eyes, but it’s faster than a hummingbird and gone before you even grab. You can’t freeze it. To take a picture of a sunset is like drawing a rainbow with only one crayon. This is because a sunset dances, not walks, across the red carpet of time. A sunset moves as slowly and surely as your fingernails grow. It moves at the speed of a blooming rose, a climbing vine, a ripening fruit. It moves at the rate that a child grows. You know it’s happening, but you can’t pinpoint exactly where.
Another big problem is, in order to describe an ocean sunset you’d have to somehow re-create wind through the viewers hair. A chilly wind but slightly warm. A wind that isn’t cold but is somehow getting colder. A sunset is not all about color, it’s not all about light, it’s also the air density, the twist of the wind, the blue blanket of night being draped across the bedtime sky.
Sunsets just wouldn’t be romantic if they made sense from all angles. The day belongs to science, and the night belongs to rest, these things are well understood. But the dusk and the dawn, those are something else entirely. Something that reminds us of the truths we knew before we got born.
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.