24 August, 2010

Neither a tourist or a Resident

Neither a tourist or a Resident

It is an interesting feeling to be the one centered between the two – falling into neither category.  Yet it is a space that I occupy more than not and have for years.

There are times I love being a tourist – bus tours, walking tours, stopping on street corners to try and figure out where I am, taking pictures of this and that only to wonder years later – what was I thinking?  Cities and towns seem to come to life in a different way for the tourist than they do the resident – or maybe it is the mind set of the beholder over the actual beauty of the city or town? 

I recently talked to a woman who’s family had lived in the DC area for generations.  She is a member of a family of interesting women dating from prior to the Civil War.  I could have talked to her for hours listening to the stories she told of her families experience, as black Americans, in this area.  She and I found commonality in our parenting and our love of history.  Though she has spent her life in this area, she has decided to be a “tourist”  this summer.  The idea is not foreign to me, that of stepping out of “resident” persona and approaching the area from a tourist perspective.  How much she will see and learn.  Even though we are residents of an area, it is fun to play tourist now and again.  And the neighborhood walking tours here sound wonderful as each little area has a history all its own.  

I think of all the people I know in this area who have not toured the capital city – not visited the museums, taken in the shows or events, not ventured over the Potomac unless required to do so for work or because there is an expensive restaurant to be tried.    Riding the metro; walking the DC streets; taking part in the culture that is here, it is not part of the life they live. 

I wonder if this is the product  of living in a capital city? 

How often do the Romans notice the different monuments that lay scattered through the city?  How often do they play tourist, visiting the sites that attract international attention?

How often do the Egyptians line up to take a camel ride or travel to see the pyramids?

Do the residents of DC ever feel that sense of “Aw” that I do (still) when I see the Washington M onument?

In DC I am neither a resident nor am I a tourist.  I occupy that space in between.  My home is in Virginia, yet… I could be “home” in many cities or towns.  At some time in my past I seem to have become a permanent occupant of the “in Between” accepted by the locals as not being a resident but not a stranger either.  As often as not I am thought to live there or be from around there over being as foreign to the area as I  could be.  It is an interesting experience when I am thought to be Roman while in Rome or when I am spoken to in Danish even when I am surrounded by English speakers.

The “in between” gives me a sense of freedom.  I am able to walk with confidence while delighting in the known, and not so know, treasures of the city.  I don’t stand out in a crowd nor do I draw attention to myself  or my status.  Perhaps I am able to stand outside the stereotypes or what is expected and experience the people, the culture, and the city with wonder and genuine interest – the sort that comes when there are no filters or expectations.

This summer I explored Georgetown as neither a resident or a tourist.  I took to the Keys and south Florida with the relaxed pace of a native; and I delighted the mosquitoes in Kentucky who feasted on my blood at will – just as my relatives did over a century ago.  

And someday, sooner than later, I will take the walking tours of DC and start exploring the museums a little more in the off season… I can play tourist all I like, but as a resident, I can choose to do it off season!!




LesleyG said...

All of this just speaks to how special it is to be able to appreciate where you are, whether it's home or you're just visiting, or even going back again and again. That's not something everyone is able to do, and it's so valuable in life! One day I'll come to your town and be a tourist! :)

Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point said...

What a lovely post, TE. I'm familiar with the "in between" status especially where gray matters are concerned.

I used to go to DC a lot for work and loved taking the "Monument Walk" at night. It's so beautiful in the spring with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Someday I hope to go back and explore the museums.

Aurora said...

That sense of wonder, and the enjoyment of it, are what makes the combonation of 'tourist' and 'citizen' such a pleasure.

There is much to see and do around Washington D.C. and Virginia. Some of the gardens make me drool, like the Post estate at Hillwood.

And yes, I'd even like to see the Monuments at Midnight:)