Tuesday, March 8, 2011

City myths

a shoe shop in Bangalore

I just found this great piece on cities and their myths, in the archives of Ill Seen, Ill Said (a fantastic blog that I highly recommend!).

It's something I was interested to read because it was so honest. A large reason why we travel, I think, is because there is a mystique to the places we want to see -- we somehow want to insert ourselves into a storyline.

And yet, how many times have I driven myself crazy, because as I ate gelato in Piazza San Marco or whatever, I convinced myself that it wasn't authentic, that somehow my living of this "typical" Venetian experience was actually a show put on for the tourists?  I am always very suspicious of these types of "shows," and sometimes that has been to my detriment.  I wonder how many amazing meals I have missed because I insisted on finding some hole-in-the-wall, convinced it was going to be somehow more real?

Too much thinking, clearly.

And this is also something I struggle with as I travel -- turning off the incessant thoughts, the incessant worrying.  Do I look like a local?  Am I speaking like a local?  Am I getting swindled right now?  And the aggression that comes with these thoughts, the insistence on my way of doing things in order to assert that I, too, am from a place with a culture.  At the end of the day, I wonder if we aren't always getting inauthentic experiences.  If we always have to be back in our homes to be truly knowledgeable about a place.

I think about my friend's sister, who has lived in Bangalore, India, for six years now.  She is blonde and blue-eyed -- but speaks some Hindi, is dating an Indian, and can wrap a sari like a pro.  She has said how tired she always is, because she is unable to get treated like the local she now considers herself.  I sympathize with her aggression sometimes, because the myths of places can be just that -- myths -- and the reality is far more nuanced.

This kind of became a ramble, I know (and I apologize!).  I wonder if any of you have more insightful things to add...

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