When a tourist travels, most of the time they don’t bother to look into the area: it’s people, it’s culture, it’s history, and how they view the invasion of tourists. While reading the first chapter of “A Small Place,” I put myself in Kincaid’s shoes; explaining to someone that doesn’t live in Idaho that everyone isn’t a country farmer, potatoes aren’t a huge topic of interest, there is no “z” in Boise, and Chindin isn’t schindin, something my GPS just doesn’t grasp. What I learned of Antigua formed a thick knot in my stomach as I imagined my future trip to Japan.
The paragraph opens with a plane landing on the island of Antigua, V.C. Bird International airport to be exact. The airport is named after the prime minister, which may seem an odd place to name after someone important. Anything that would be commendable for being named after isn’t as commendable as what is offered to tourists who come and visit this place. The first page would lead me to believe hospitals provide mediocre care, the schools give poor education, and monuments would hold negative meaning to the people who knew the reason they were erected. After all, the 9/11 monument isn’t named Bush’s memorial.
When unknowing people stumble upon an island that seems so unlike their mainland living, it’s easy to see how this island could be mistaken as peaceful. This island has a good reputation for a false beauty, such as terrible earthquakes that had destroyed the only library. The natives don’t talk about it, but it holds a great significance, a single great quake. A library filled with countless books, potential fuel for a revolution, funny how books get destroyed in the midst of great change. Shortly after the destruction of the library Antigua was liberated, but being free from the bigger power didn’t help much. Their school could be mistaken as a public bathroom and their one hospital has 3 doctors who aren’t trusted. I personally wouldn’t trust my doctors either if, when they got sick, they went to New York for treatment instead of asking one of the other 2 doctors for help.
The natives hate tourists, and for many reasons. While many people can savor long showers and teeth brushing, Antigua natives must ration their water as they have constant drought but are teased by the vast amount of unusable water around them. The ocean water might be reusable if sewage wasn’t pumped into it, or so many lives had been lost to it. Slavery seems to be a huge issue as Kincaid mentions it with quite a bit of sting to her words that scream her feelings, “It would amaze even you to know the number of black slaves this ocean has swallowed up.” I almost feel like their lack of sewers is a way to get back at the fact the island people live in terrible conditions for the prosperity of the mainland, and tourists usually don’t know about that so they swim in sewage as the natives snicker at their ignorance.
Their cars are given to them by a government who only has power through the mainland. This granted power has caused the government officials to prosper in wealth and mansions while the common folk of the island come back from the mainland with cardboard boxes full of cheap clothing and food. The cars are run on unleaded fuel that isn’t available, causing car failure and eventually the need for a new car that is either a new Japanese sports car or a 10+ year old American made car. Oh how ironic it is, that the only two main car dealerships are owned partially, or entirely, by ministers in the government. Even more convenient, housing loans are hard to come by but the government hands out car loans like they are going out of style, some of the people taking out loans aren’t even certified to drive. I was utterly disturbed by the roads, which were last paved in 1985 for the Queen’s visit. It was to give her the impression that driving their roads wasn’t bad. This island is living for, not in, a society run on money.
“Their ancestors were not clever in the way yours were and not ruthless in the way yours were, for then would it not be you who would be in harmony with nature and backwards in that charming way?” Kincaid (1988). There is nothing that can be done at this point to make up for slavery, except to prevent it from happening again. Feelings are already established and unless people can look past their differences, those feelings will fester into a huge mound of hate that backlashes as a negative action. You can travel to Antigua where the natives are displeased by your very presence, eat like them with your hands and get laughed at, eat with silverware and be mocked for your foreign ways. I began to feel like going to Japan may make other people uncomfortable.
I may land in Japan and have a group of young kids pulling their eyes open with their fingers to mock my own, I can’t say as a kid I didn’t slit my eyes with my fingers but only to other kids that weren’t Asian. I could walk on a sacred mountain and have monks whispering of the unusually tan and skinny American girl. I look different from the pasty doughy people from my land, yet I’m still an American so there must be a burning desire to throw trash on the ground and place a hotel upon the mountain. I guess I can only prove to natives that I’m different because people in America aren’t all Americans.
I go out to eat Mexican, Oriental, and Basque because I detest the fatty American diet I’ve become accustomed to. I know a bit of Spanish and Japanese because I’d like to talk to someone in their native tongue, something I believe should be standard before entering a new country. I want to live somewhere where farming and community replaces the instant gratification of a supermarket and technology. I don’t want to be some tourist just looking at the sights to see, I want to be part of every culture that has shaped America into being what it is. Because I’m not an American, part of my known family originally came from Peru and Germany, Americans are the native tribes that inhabited America before Europeans invaded.