Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Being a tourist Part I: the rainbow bus and tourist groups

11 Oct 2009
How am I feeling as a tourist?

Although I am really glad that a lot of the time when I’m alone I just blend in because I can look Brazilian and understand and speak Portuguese (although I have a distinct accent), there are still many times that I feel uncomfortable being a tourist, for several reasons. I will explain a few of these issues that have to do with being in a large tourist group, with taking pictures, having our tourist sites be things that have such a significance that we couldn’t likely understand fully. Also about the complications that tourism brings to communities, and the inherent racial/class and power inequalities that tourism entails.

The Big 99 Rainbow Bus

Being on the big rainbow bus, separate from all the people outside, being high up above everyone and just looking from behind the window, I feel like it is symbolic of the barrier between us, the EAP people and the local Brazilians.

The bus is like our own little air-conditioned bubble and there is only so much that can be experienced from it.

There are times when I will also feel uncomfortable when for example my EAP peers and I will plan on doing something or going somewhere but when we’re there we tend to be an exclusive group sometimes just standing in a circle talking to only each other and in English. I always find that pretty hard, learning Portuguese but speaking English out on the street. The thing is that a lot of the people on this program didn’t take an courses in the language before since it’s not required for this program. So my other peers that can speak Portuguese would feel bad doing that while so many don’t understand so we just end up speaking our common language.

It kind of feels inevitable that when we travel we travel like this and it is very obvious were "Americanas". But what are we going to do? We are. It may be uncomfortable to me once in a while because of things that I've mentioned, but it doesn't keep me from enjoying myself obviously. We have a lot of good times and I am less self conscious most of the time. Especially since most places we go here in Bahia it is not uncommon to see tourists so people don't react especially in awe or anything like that--with the exception of Asian people I suppose.

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