Eli (egoldberg) wrote,

Toen de toeristen kwamen...

One aspect I loved the most of my last Dutch textbook was the way it presumed its readers were thoughtful, intelligent, and reflective people with deeper interests than their own visceral self-gratification.

e.g. whereas my French textbook's chapter on tourism involved delicious food and selecting your ideal vacation, the Dutch textbook presented a variety of perspectives on environmental and social consequences of travel, alternatives to automobiles for transportation, and an interview with an ambulance driver about how the local tourist industry affected his work.

That chapter had a poem titled "Toen de toeristen kwamen" (when the tourists came) which I really loved and thought a lot about while in Alaska --- especially when talking with locals about how mass-market middle-class cruise tourism transformed their cities for the good and for the bad.

Here's a super-quick translation (thanks to Maarten for help a while back with some of the harder phrases). The Dutch version is way better, sorry.

When the tourists came,
our island residents changed
to a grotesque amusement:
a show of two weeks

When the tourists came,
our men put down their nets
to become waiters.
Our women became whores.

When the tourists came,
the last remnants of our
culture disappeared.
We sold out our habits for sunglasses and popcorn.
We made a peep-show of our holiest ceremonies.

When the tourists came,
the hunger and garbage remained.
Saved as a spectacle
for passing cameras:
a chic piece of dirt in the eye.

When the tourists came,
we were asked to become "sidewalk-ambassadors",
always to smile and remain polite.
Always to point the way for the 'lost' tourist.

What a hell.
If only we could actually once tell them
where we really wanted them to go?
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