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Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Tour of Tourism

O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

A One-Act Play


Dr. Lester CN Simon



Fibre optic cable is in reference to the confusion between the Government and Antigua Public Utilities Authority about the laying of the fibre optic cable. Dr. Errol Cort is the Minister of Finance. Boggy Peak is the highest point (a hill) in Antigua. ‘Trading Places’ in the annual exercise in which ministers of government exchange places with workers in the tourist industry.

Scene: The reception area of a small hotel.


Jonathan: Mizpah, I was going to throw it in the bin but I am really concerned about this strange email that came in yesterday. See? It’s not clear where it’s coming from; just a set of numbers and musical symbols. At first I thought it was from a prankster or a Spanish tourist. We have had Spanish guests with that name. But last night I had this strange dream that the email was from God and that his son, Jesus was really coming to our hotel.

Mizpah: Jesus Christ? Coming to our hotel? Nah. He would choose an all inclusive.

Jonathan: No he would not. He was born in a manger. He is accustomed to small hotels. Plus, he would want to walk all over the island and sample the local dishes.

Mizpah: Yes. And turn water into wine; walk on seawater (with or without fibre optic cable?); and go fishing with Peter and John and the posse. Why don’t you reply to the email? Say that we are fully booked.

Jonathan: But he will know I am lying.

Mizpah: My point exactly. If the email is from God, he must know whether or not we have any vacancy. And copy your reply to Satan. Wherever one goes the other follows.

Jonathan: What’s Satan’s email address?

Mizpah: www.gotohell.com

Jonathan: Remember he said he would come back like a thief in the night.

Mizpah: Well email Him back and tell Him that plenty thieves down here already. That when we complain to the police about suspicious men loitering, they ask if, “Man can’t lime?” And since He will be coming in the night, it’s time for you to go on night duty. Reply to the email and use the Bcc for Satan.

Jonathan: Why Bcc?

Mizpah: It means “blind carbon copy”. Jesus will not know that the email is going to Satan as well; unless he is not really Jesus. It can also mean “before Christopher Columbus”. He was the first tourist here. Maybe you should invite him too. Do you know that some people in the southern Pacific call tourists, aisalsaliri? It means, “floating ones”. Tourist: the personification of vulgarity, ill-breeding, offensiveness and loathsomeness. As far back as 1870, a clergyman called them that. Have you ever wondered what here was like in 1491? An award winning author, Charles C. Mann did the research and wrote that before Columbus started the cruise tourism business, there were more people living here in the Americas than in Europe. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitl├ín, had running water, majestic botanical gardens and immaculately clean streets; better than any capital in stinking Europe. Tourist! The idea.

Jonathan: Mizpah, if you dislike them so much, maybe you should get a better job. And how come we end up so bad in history if this place was so great.

Mizpah: We end up so for the same reason the tourist gal have you so basodee. But you are damn right about this job. Then again, maybe my job here is to teach people like you about tourism. You love your job so much, you dreaming about it. How can you serve a tourist in a postcolonial society before you understand your own history? People like you are a contradiction, a native tourist on a long, all inclusive vacation. You have to come to terms with slavery, mentally disentangle colonial society and rebuild a society that includes the good ways the colonials behaved to their own. All good societies, starting in ancient Africa, have the same things. Now, black people have to become mentally naked before we can put on clothes. How can we smile, really smile at a tourist before we curse colonialism, rebuild our African culture and add to it (because, Lord, there is so much evil back there) and smile, really smile at each other first?

Jonathan: But isn’t all that the same thing like being born again? That is probably why God sent the email. Maybe everybody should work in tourism as a rite of passage. And not just for a one day, symbolic, play-play foolishness like “Trading Places”. It’s really every body’s business. Otherwise, we are simply moving from what you call political colonialism to economic colonialism and cultural imperialism.

Mizpah: You understand. Tourism is the third largest global industry after oil and drugs, which means that when tourists bring in their drugs, big business going on right here in this little country. Talking about business, you realize that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because his parents were running away from paying taxes in Nazareth?

Jonathan: Well, according to you, nobody will escape Dr. Errol Cort; not even if they hide up Boggy Peak for 40 days and 40 nights. But truthfully, Joseph and Mary had to move from Nazareth, where they were living, and go to Bethlehem because Joseph was from the house of David and he had to move to Bethlehem to meet the empire-wide census and tax decree by Caesar. Jesus was a traveling, tourist baby.

Mizpah: Tourist. Tim Hector said that sugar brought us together in large estates; tourism brings us together in hotels without the same social bonding. From bad to worse. When tourists wanted to buy the Pitons in St. Lucia, Derek Walcott had to ask how anyone can sell a metaphor.


Jonathan: Maybe that is why Jesus is coming again; to change all that. But here is another email from the same….person….. It is requesting reservation for Muhammad, Confucius, Lao-tzu, Buddha, Zoroaster, Haile Selassie and a whole host of people. I wonder what kind of credit card all these prophets use. Must be Master card. All these prophets in our little hotel? Priceless.

Mizpah: Like you said Jonathan, tourism is really everybody’s business; the quintessential, postcolonial rites of passage from servitude to service. Service to self. Service to others, near and far. Service to God. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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