My first thoughts go to the poem by Yehudah Amichai
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel’s Tomb and Herzl’s Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
Once I sat on the steps by agate at David’s Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. “You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!”
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
“You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”
I then think about when does one go from a tourist to being someone who is living? What is the change? Can one live and tour at the same time?
I’ve been in the US now for a bit over a month. There are parts of my day that feel like I am living here- going on the bus, the walk to work, getting to certain places. I no longer feel completely overwhelmed every time I walk out the door. But then there are still times that I feel like I am on the outside. I am still seeing things and experiencing things that are reminding me that I am no longer from here, like the weird looks from people when they talk about a popular place, and I have no clue what they are talking about. Or when I still don’t know where the best place to buy things are.
With my work in the hospital I also feel a bit of a tourist. I am a tourist in people’s lives. My day is spent listening to people tell me about themselves; letting me see where they came from; who are the important people; what are their dreams and fears; and what is their relationship to God or a Higher Power. Sometimes they even bring me into their lives and have me pray with them, and I am no longer a tourist in their lives, but a part of their story.
I was recently offered a position in Australia. I think about going there to do this job. Here I will be in a country that I have never been to before. A place that I want to see and want to explore. But at the same time, I am going for a job, and so I need to be as if I am part of the community. I need to become part of the fabric of their every day life, I can’t only be an outsider or a tourist. It is both exciting and terrifying.
Like Amichai, I feel like the important part are the people along the way that you meet. The ones who are actually living, not just the stones and the streets that have history. By being a tourist we allow ourselves to see things that get lost when we are just living our routine.
What would life be like, if we every so often, took time in our day-to-day life to be a tourist
? What would we see? What would we notice? Would life be a bit more interesting?