It is yet another day on Eleuthera and the wind continues to blow with the promise of a storm, and hopefully more much-needed rain to fill the cisterns. Just the other day, as I walked onto sunset beach with a group of my classmates, we were joking about tourists and how we are now past the point of being considered one by ourselves and hopefully those around us. After this brief conversation none of us really gave another thought as to our role here on Eleuthera and the role of a tourist; that is, until Literature class. With all the craziness that kayak rotation brings, it also includes the switching around of classes, schedules and even curriculum In Literature class, we have temporarily put our reading of Omeros on hold and embarked on a new task (reading Omeros is quite a challenging task), the reading of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. I certainly was not expecting to be significantly impacted by this short, 80 page book; however, to my surprise the words within the two covers of A Small Place had far more meaning than most likely any other book I have ever read. I have read many books that have left a strong impression on me because of sadness, happiness, love or war. Though I have read many different stories and essays on different people’s perspectives in the world, never have I read a book that directly accuses me, the reader, of being an “ugly human being”. Jamaica Kincaid clearly and boldly stated a rhetorical perspective through this essay that tourist are “ugly”. The accusing narrator of the text says that even truly good people are made ugly when they enter a new and foreign place to marvel at a culture. Marveling at another place’s physical beauty or culture is like turning the native’s home into entertainment. Traveling to a new place for only its physical beauty and entertainment, without any real connection or understanding of that place, is depicted as ugly through Jamaica Kincaid’s powerfully thought provoking portrayal. This raises the question of how does one travel the world and experience new cultures without be a tourist, or more importantly, without being an ugly tourist? The question of what we, the students of The Island School, are was raised in class, sparking many different opinions. Is marveling at a new and beautiful coral reef tourism? Is wandering through Deep Creek to get a better understanding of Bahamian culture and daily life tourism? Will the natives at the Weymss’ Bight walk-a-thon we are attending tonight view us as tourists? Are we tourists?
After a long and exciting Harkness discussion, our class came to the general consensus that we are not tourists, we are students. We have come to The Bahamas not for its palm trees, white sandy beaches and turquoise waves; we have come to learn, about ourselves and the world around us. This includes immersing ourselves in the Bahamian culture and truly coming to understand and appreciate life here on Eleuthera. Through this process and the rest of our lives, we can only hope that we find ways to overcome and contradict the “ugliness” that can be associated with tourists and people exploring other cultures. This reading reinforced the fact that though we have the privilege to temporarily live here on Eleuthera and ‘marvel’ at all this place has to offer, it must be kept in our minds that this island is a home to many people, and if we show we are here for the right reasons, it can also be a home to us. As we venture out and explore in this upcoming weekend, freediving, biking around the cape and attending the Weymss’ Bight homecoming with many of our Deep Creek Middle School buddies, we must continue to appreciate not only the natural beauty, but also make the effort to truly understand the cultural beauty of this incredible place.