The word ‘tourist’ has always had this certain repellent effect for me. I generally try to avoid anything touristy, because I would rather see a place in it’s natural state, in its actuality, in its day-to-day flow. As much as I like subtlety, travelling in an obnoxiously large group of 30 oblivious Canadians has been a little less than subtle, and the fact that we’re going to a lot of tourist-targeted things hasn’t really helped me to feel like we’re blending in. When I think of tourists, I immediately picture old people in Hawaiian shirts, fisherman’s hats and fanny packs, or pretentious young backpackers who look like they haven’t showered since they left their homeland. I’ve striven to have nothing to do with either of these types, but much to my chagrin I see again and again just how similar we are. I can not deny that I am a tourist; paying way too much for clothing and being fascinated by the museums and attractions that are targeted at people just like me. I was struggling with this idea of being a tourist for a few days, and even wrote most of my blog about it, and then Nygel, Genevieve, and Rosie did their devotions on the concept of pilgrimage being different than tourism, and I think it helped me to see our travels in a bit of a different light.
Part of why I’m enjoying Malaysia so much is that it has offered us so much more freedom and mobility than a typical tourist would have; we are able to walk around the streets and just see people doing their daily routine. There’s a certain feel of anonymity that I adore. I like to disappear (as much as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl white girl can) into the background of people’s lives, so being able to walk around in twos and threes has been a godsend. Exploring Little India and China-town has been overwhelming and exciting, and it’s been great to talk to the few people we’ve met about Malaysia and what’s going on here. Some of my favourite moments here have been going for meals in random hole-in-the-wall restaurants and markets, trying to figure out how to order, debating how to eat what you didn’t realize you ordered, and trying to decide whether things in your food are there by accident or on purpose. I especially love these times because they usually come with a ‘moment’; that moment of connection you can have with someone where you’re completely on the same page. It’s where you and the waiter, or the laundress, or the receptionist, share that look of understanding, and you know you’re both thinking the exact same thing. It’s usually over something funny, and I love so much how just a look and a smile can connect people to each other, language and customs aside. There’s no division between foreigner and local; you’re just human beings. I really hope you understand what I mean, because it’s the best feeling, and it’s really been making Malaysia fantastic for me.
This is kind of a choppy ending, but I’ve got some more Malaysia to see! Time is ticking out.
Love you all,