Thank Goodness There Are No Americans Here

I’ve become increasingly annoyed with English tourists. I’ve met a few thoughtful ones, but by and large those I’ve observed are loud, obnoxious, and in no way sensitive to local culture and people. They complain about the food, the weather, the touts, and anything else they can think of while baring huge expanses of grotesque red and white striped flesh.

In all fairness, however, I have to admit that I’m allowed to hate the English because Americans are few and far between. As a nation we give them a run for the money abroad with our volume, our expectations of food the way we like it, the ugliness and inappropriateness of our travel clothing, and the sheer size of our citizens.

But there are no Americans here. I wonder if it’s the recession, the recent attacks in Mumbai, or whether it’s just a place seen as too far away, too third world for the American package tourist?

I am bespangled these days. What amazes me about Indian women is that even many of the poorest manage to look fresh and well-put together. There is a sense of formality (except for the denizens of the beach towns, who seem to have accepted the casual bedraggled look of Europeans on holiday) endemic in feminine Indian attire: you look the best you can. So I have now purchased a few more ‘outfits’, these ones embroidered in gold thread with shiny bits. I also had a dress made — for 500 rupees I bought a beautiful blue-green light cotton and a jeweled ribbon and had a day dress made so I can fit in better with the saris everywhere. Of course now I don’t fit in with the traveler crowd.

It’s vanity, of course. I won’t pretend to ignore pretty things, and there’s no point in saying I don’t care what I look like. But shopping has also been such fun. As soon as you step away from the hassling at the beach, people are more patient, more trusting, more interested in your story. The woman who made my dress was lovely; we had a great time chatting.

I’m impatient to leave Goa now. People keep warning me that I haven’t seen the ‘real’ India yet. This admonishment (along with its finger wag) is so common that it raises in me a sense of dread. I saw pretty bad slums in Mumbai. There are plenty of shanty towns even in Goa, and you smell bad smells and see loads of garbage strewn about here too. Is is that much worse elsewhere?

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