I Wanted Air-Con, Not Amoebic Dystentery
These are not my words but those of Jeff, former EFL teacher and author of Pigs In The Toilet, describing his outlook in Delhi, India. His preference for relative comfort distanced him from a majority of other travelers, who were ostensibly searching for a more “authentic” experience. I don’t think anyone wants amoebic dysentery, really, but I mostly agree that the desire for a rough-around-the-edges experience peaks in the earlier stages of a trip or stint abroad, especially when someone has travel health insurance and thinks it will all be fine. The longer I TEFL, the more apt I am to favor comfort and convenience over local adventure.
As I mentioned in Are You On A TEFL Diet?, it occurs to me that locals don’t eat their traditional food every day…so doing so is actually not so authentic. Similarly, I’d guess that locals in Delhi would also take the air-con over the dysentery.
One related and sometimes neglected area is that of the street vendor, which seems to have both the danger of dysentery contraction (or something) and the quality of being “authentic”.
I don’t currently live in a place with active street vendors, but I think there is a science to selecting street vendors, and that science is observing whether locals go there or not.
On one hand, traveling and living abroad has raised my level of sensitivity and also strengthened my stomach lining.
On the other, it never quite escapes my attention that the girl at the bakery uses a paper tissue to grab the rolls she’s putting in my bag, but uses her bare hand to steady the other rolls as she tears mine from them. Then she takes my money and moves on to the next customer. Maybe there is a system so it’s all okay…but I kinda doubt it. I’m grateful it is nothing like cardboard and industrial chemicals, and it doesn’t actually stop me from going there. Still, it is un-escapable reality that I come from a country where moist towlettes are provided free – to disinfect your shopping cart of course! – at some supermarkets.
What about street vendors where you are? Do you buy from them and do you think your craving for “authenticity” decreases over time?