I’ll show you wear to shove that iPhone

Aside

Dear ‘Eye Liner and iphone Hipster’ who cut in front of me,

Your tee shirt is too small. It does not say ‘indie’ – it says ‘I-don’t-know-when-to-use-hot-or- cold- wash.’ Maybe a little bourgeois skill wouldn’t go amiss….?

You’re ordering a fair trade coffee. Yes, I understand that you think you’re saving little African children, whose photos you collect on your wall like arty postcards. But you do realise that your pre-ripped jeans will have been produced by a little Chinese girl in a factory. The only difference is that it’s convenient to drink Fair Trade. It’s not convenient to stop wearing jeans.

May I also add, that by cutting in front of me, I am going to talk very loudly about the artistic brilliance of Britney. Then I’ll wait until you start to shudder convulsively before saying how I feel the lyrics of Katy Perry speak to me on an emotional level.

And , my dear hip one, you may have cut in the line, but I am laughing last. Because I’m a boring, middle class girl who paid attention in Chinese class, instead of being ‘hip’ and arranging my toenail clippings into a sculpture.

You think that the tattoo of a Chinese character on your arm is deep and ethnic. You probably think it says something profound like Love or Honour.

It says Vegetable.

Enjoy your coffee!

Verity

 

Here’s why I can’t take you home…

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In typical middle class style, I like to pretend that I’m from the streets and well ‘ard. Yo. To cement my tough nut image, I like to listen to rap music and pretend I too am from the city that never sleeps. I’m from a village that sleeps at 9pm, or 10,30 if we’re feeling naughty bunnies.

So anyway, I’m currently into Kanye West’s Homecoming. (Which I know is old, but I’m not cool enough to know any hip and happening hip hop right now. So old Kanye is all I’ve got.) Anyway, listening to Homecoming, I always start think about coming home

Except that unlike Kanye, I have no city to come back to. No home with pebble dashed walls, a pond full of frogs and bushes cut into geometric patterns. And that sounds woefully dramatic, it’s not really. It’s when you’re 18, and you’re living in your third country, your home isn’t a house. It’s not a city, country or artfully minimalist Swedish inspired warehouse/space rocket cross loft space.

It’s the feeling you get when you’re around people who know you. I mean actually know you, as opposed to people who acknowledge your existence before continuing talking about themselves.

People who know that you get angry when you eat the wrong sort of museli. (NO. SODDING. COCONUT.) Or know that you like to sharpen your colouring pencils when bored. Or that you detest being interrupted when reading, writing or talking to oneself.

And being around people you know, and most importantly love, is what home is. Which is convenient because it means you can keep it with you – in your phone, computer and heads. Which is great when you have to fit everything else into 23kgs of baggage allowance.

 

Nothing as funny as folk

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I know you’re supposed to describe a trip by the scenery, the food, the cool wind whipping your face as you drip sweat from your lip and curse Rexona. But I don’t like descriptions. Only if they’re of people; people are fascinating.

So I’m going to tell the story of my day in Sri Lanka by describing the people I met. Firstly I met the elephant I posted a photo of, and this blog is a follow up to that post. He was pretty awesome. We bonded over a shared love of bananas. 

After that, I went to an ancient monastery, full of ruins from before the time when Jesus was just a twinkle in Mary’s eye. It’s full of history, religious significance and architectural magic.

But I didn’t give a shit. Not because I’m uncultured (although I do like ABBA and processed bread) but because the lady at the door ripped me off.

I’d pulled out four one thousand rupee notes for the three thousand two hundred ticket. The lady started going on about correct change, and demanding the two hundred rupees. When I explained I didn’t have any, she didn’t understand my English. So I borrowed from a friend. But I obviously had bad karma for breaking English law (never make scene) and the lady kept the extra thousand rupees.  

I tried to protest, so she gave me a lecture about obeying Sri Lankan customs, and when you come to this country, you show us proper respect….

I wasn’t about to start a fight with an old Sri Lankan lady; I was already getting the ‘look at that rude, racist teenage making a fuss’ look from the other tourists in their pristine Kathmandu hats.

 So I thought ‘sod it’ and gave up. It had already cost $35 USD for the ticket, and now I’d lost another $10. Which, despite a reservation for being so tight arsed, pissed me off.

That’s why when I finally got in I wasn’t in the mood to coo over broken pots.

Thankfully I saw a monk in a Burberry scarf which cheered me up. Then I saw the guide. She was surrounded by sprawling temple models, glittering exhibits, and hunks of dense text on religion and architecture. She was also reading Cosmo.

It was like when a kid starts throwing trucks in church. It was one of those moments when, despite everyone straining to be seriousness and cultured and intellectual, reality intrudes. Priceless.

I was further cheered up when we got a guide who looked like a Sri Lankan Indianna Jones. He was tanned, sexy, and bursting with knowledge of Sri Lankan history. But then he asked me what was the main food Elephants eat. I said bananas. He stared politely, and my friend snorted in laughter.

Apparently it’s grass. After that I was too embarrassed to say anything to him. So I spent the rest of my time eavesdropping on some Americans making jokes about dropping their pants.

And so my day passed in a range of emotions and encounters. Whilst I appreciated the beauty of the place, and would have more so if I hadn’t been ripped off, I was just too diverted by the human world.  I’m just one of those people who likes to watch others. In as a non creepy a way as possible.

 

We’re not tourists, darling, we’re not like them…

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Today I read a fantastic blog about Jane Austen and reputation. It sparked off a tangent in my head. I started thinking about women whom Austen would describe as being of independent means, with a tolerable mind, but nonetheless victims of the craving for romance and excitement. How would they look today? Like me, really. This is the post they inspired.

We’re Not Tourists, Darling, We’re Not Like Them….

A tourist never identifies with the label ‘tourist.’

In our minds, we’re a local. Well if we’re not quite locals, we’re at least Experienced Travellers. We know the real country. We’re not one of those tourists. Not one of the burned and blubbery masses, drinking imported beer on the beach.

To convince ourselves we hear the real beating heart of the country, we experiment with ways of being local.  I discovered the funniest manifestation of this: the Sri Lankan beach boy/rich white women coupling.

White, pretentious young things like me always want to get with foreign guys when we travel. It makes us feel like we’re really experiencing local culture. Plus it’s exotic! Refreshing! Culturally sensitive!

We probably shouldn’t do it. But we do. And it’s hilarious to watch.

I’m in a beach town at the moment. It’s a place full of white women in ethnic prints, and mandatory French fries with every meal. I like it though. It’s an urban safari where my Sri Lankan friends point out the beach boy phenomenon.

The beach boy is a manifestation of the ‘getting local’ game.

Sri Lankan friends explained its’ a running Lankan joke about foreigners. What happens is that women of independent means, as Austen would say, come on holiday here. To continue ‘getting local’ game, they hook up with beach combing Sri Lankan guys.

The girls think they’re getting with a Real Local…But, as my friend put it real locals don’t live in places that advertise 10 gelato flavours.

The guys get women with cash, libido and interest in them. I can see why they’d do it.

Admittedly this is a jokey stereotype, and I’m sure a number of these couplings are true love. But today I’ve seen three 50 ish spherical white women making out with a gorgeous Sri Lankan twenty somethings.

Some sly voice in my head, that sounds uncannily like my Dad, says she’s there for the exoticism, he’s in it for the Mastercard.

Now I don’t care who hooks up with who. But it’s funny the extremes we white girls go to.

We buy apparently Sri Lankan things, which we show to our non Sri Lankan friends, as proof that we have experienced the real Sri Lanka. (Can I just ask how many actual Lankans you see wearing anklets and elephant print purple harem pants?)

The local guy is the next thing we collect as proof that we’ve done Sri Lanka, man.

And watching myself, and people like me, with  our silly games and exotic fantasies is hilarious. No wonder Sri Lankans are so happy and friendly; they’re laughing at the comedy of White Woman on Exotic Holiday.