It is an incredible and mysterious society that we live in, where members of the First World pay thousands of dollars to get an sunburn in the Third World, while natives are starving across the street.
Traveling is all about perspective.
Of course there is scenery to be taken in, culture to be experienced, but really how much culture is there in an all-inclusive resort? And how much scenery can be appreciated through eyes that are glazed over by too many Blue Hawaiians?
Of course, this abuse of developing nations is not solely committed by Americans. Let us not be exclusive. People of other nationalities like to have fun too!
The French and Russians and Greeks and Italians also appear to have flocked to Punta Cana for the sole purpose of acquiring skin cancer. I mean, for what other purpose do people with average physiques wear speedos? My oh my, Europeans sure do love their weenie-bikinis. And all that talk about Americans having an obesity problem? Apparently it has spread faster than the melting ice cream I just spilled on the beach.
So much junk in so many trunks.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of this trip is not the nightly performances put on by hotel employees. Nor is it the strange attempt by the beach-side chef to create pizza toppings that appeal to neither Americans nor Europeans (I kid you not: peas and carrots, cantaloupe, french fries, did I say peas and carrots?!?). Nay, the best part of abusing the resources of an impoverished nation is the ability to watch my European accomplices from behind the safety of my polarized Ray-Bans.
People-watching, as effortless as it may seem, should be an Olympic sport, mainly because I have few other comparative advantages for which I deserve worldwide recognition.
I sit here on a woven lawn chair (authentic, no?) and silently judge the parenting, fashion, dieting, and sunscreen application of each and every foreign family on the beach. I know, I know, as a nice Christian girl, I should love my neighbor as myself, but God created us all with flaws.
A father and his two daughters (roughly ages 4 or 5) sit to my left. They speak to each other in Russian and English, alternating languages as easily as the flip of a switch. They are building a sand castle together. It’s sweet. Really.
Suddenly, like any child who has experienced the trauma of being the youngest, the smaller girl shovels a pile of sand onto the older girl. Mira, as I later find out is her name, begins to cry. The father promptly scolds the younger girl, Tatiana, in Russian. In English, he encourages her to apologize. She does.
He turns to Mira and asks, “What do you say when your sister apologizes?”
Mira knows the answer, but clarifies her reluctance by stating, “I cannot forgive her! I simply cannot.” Well damn. Let’s not forget that she is five years old. Tatiana is unfazed by this. It can be assumed that she has apologized for many things in all four years of her life.
The father, determined to restore the peace, says, “Well Mira, maybe when you are feeling nicer, you can send your sister a love letter.” A love letter? Does he know she is a toddler? Russian parents are weird…
Mira dictates her letter immediately. “Dear Tatiana, you’re the meanest girl in the whole world and I. Hate. You. Love, Tatiana.” Apparently she hasn’t seen Mean Girls yet… I start to laugh audibly. The father sees me, and starts to laugh too. He turns red. Embarrassment is just as universal as sibling love.
A waiter takes the plate of half-eaten pizza crusts from the end of their chair. I wonder if he has had enough to eat today, if his family has eaten today. I wonder if he has children that get along. I wonder if he likes to people-watch. Suddenly it doesn’t feel so fun. Or funny.
The peas-and-carrots pizza churns in my stomach. I remove my sunglasses and turn over on my lawn chair. I’m just trying to even out my tan, ya know?