Sunday, May 19, 2013

What's a holiday without some serious thinking?

We've lived an experience that has had my mind moving a hundred miles a minute. I've been contemplating how we impact the world around us, as tourists. We are in Puerto Escondido a few days early, having left Mazunte unexpectedly. Mazunte gave me lots to think about. We stayed in a very cool cabana hotel that sat on a bluff overlooking playa Mermejita. It felt wild. We were quite isolated, up a flight of stairs that climbed the hillside, and a dirt road away from the main strip of the small town. I wrestled with this location over the first evening - it was no quick jaunt into town and  the blend of 35 degree heat and mosquitos were getting me worked up. These things in themselves quickly became a part of the experience - what we did have for a time was absolute peace and a wild ocean to watch. Unfortunately the peace was also short-lived. at about 1am on our third night I woke to see a man in our cabana at our bedside table. I screamed like I'd never screamed before, which woke Brian, naturally. I held B back from rushing after the thief, who ran out the front door. Thank goodness we were all unharmed - Otis was sleeping in the bed with us and didn't wake through the yelling. Needless to say, we didn't sleep another wink.

The shadow side of being in a beautiful, wild and isolated place is exactly that. We were the only guests, and while it turned out that the neighbouring family did hear our screams, they didn't think it was anything to be worried about "Those tourists. Probably just a spider" is what I imagine them thinking at the time. The next morning Brian tried to open the locked door from the outside and was able to with just enough jiggling.

The thief ended up ditching my purse, the 6 pack of beer, bottle of wine, and one half of the baby monitor
by the pool - since there was nothing of re-sale value in my purse, and probably running down a hillside with a 6-pack didn't seem like such a bright idea anymore? He did take our camera and my headlamp (which he stole from beside my head, on the bed, within the mosquito netting...uggggh).

The owners of the hotel were very sorry and supportive and took Brian to the police station to make a statement (which we needed for our insurance). This was the first break-in of this nature that they'd experienced. It was such a shame, because this cost them 4 nights stay, and it cost us our peace of mind. I've been jumpy at noises in the night, though we're feeling so much better and safer now. I'm so glad that Otis has been totally oblivious of it all. Even that night when he did wake up to find all the lights on and both of us awake in bed, he just smiled in his sweet sleepy way.

So the theme that has emerged for me is that there is no 'perfectly good, or perfectly bad'. Everything has aspects of each - a beautiful, isolated, peaceful environment clearly has its cost. Tourism has its costs. We are so fortunate to be traveling and I know that we are part of a complex relationship between the local and international. I know this relationship can generate great things; it can also encourage injustice and the shadow-side. I want for us to be a family that participates in, creates and celebrates the great. And I also want us to remember that everything is more complex than 'good' and 'bad'. The theft, which was a terrible experience for us, happened in the context of injustice in wealth, in the perception of tourists as targets and as the 'other'. Just as we are a part of supporting a tourist economy that brings income to people, we are tourists fueling its shadow side. I know I will be mulling this over in the coming weeks. Is there a way to be a tourist that doesn't feed that dark side?

But don't worry, I won't be thinking about this all the time. I'll also continue to enjoy our time here :) Otis will continue to charm the folks here, men and women alike, who squeeze his pudgy feet and call him sweet names. He loves it.


Big T Dobbs said...

Huh, well this almost makes me feel bad for recommending Mazunte. Hope things are on the up and up in Escondido... don't forget to have fun and surf!! Love Uncle Big T.

Leanna Hill said...

We're loving it up back in PE and at least we got to enjoy Mazunte for a spell :) See you back in the homeland and give that wee girl a squeeze for me!