And now for something completely…normal

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Sunset on the Ottawa River. Canada is pretty too 🙂

I have been back home in Canada now for 3 weeks and I have struggled with what to do with this blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative writing aspect of it and have loved engaging with other bloggers and readers from around the world, and I think I have benefited hugely from having the opportunity to share and reflect on all of the moral and social complexities that I engaged with over the course of my time in South Africa. But how do I justify maintaining a travel blog from my couch (okay, Sam’s couch)? Do I still get to call myself Mis Tourist? How to gauge the potential interest of future audiences in reading about my exciting adventures reading Derrida in the windowless basement of the campus library?

*Sigh.* 2016-2017 is going to be awesome (insert sarcastic tone here).

On the plus side, I have had a lovely few weeks reconnecting with friends and family in Guelph, Georgian Bay, Rideau Ferry, and the Ottawa Valley.

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Adorable neffies on Georgian Bay

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Full moon in Rideau Ferry

I have been back to ‘reality’ this week (although I still haven’t summoned the strength to make it into the office), and I have been working on my presentation for next week’s Critical Tourism Studies conference in Huntsville. My presentation topic is on what I have learned through my practice of keeping a blog as part of my reflexive practice in my dissertation research.

What have I learned?

I confess I don’t know, which is why I’m writing this posting rather than putting together a really mind-blowing presentation at the moment.

I had three defined objectives at the outset of keeping this blog. They were:

  1. As a practice of critical self-reflexivity;
  2. As a site of meditation and reflection, and;
  3. As a site to trouble and grapple with dominant discourses of “Third World,” “ethical,” “reality,” and “responsible” tourism in the Majority World.

I must admit I’m not sure I accomplished any of that, although I have felt that the practice of writing for an audience and anticipating feedback has been supportive to my own well-being. I do feel very grateful for all of the wonderful feedback that I have gotten over the past several months, in terms of other people sharing their experiences and feelings on the issues that I have been attempting to understand.

I think my problem is that it is hard for me to express in presentation (read: impressive academic) form just what keeping this blog has meant to me, and what I have learned along the way. My intention was to create a forum where people could engage in dialogue and trouble their own uncertainties related to tourism and poverty and the places where they intersect. I hope I have done so, and I hope that I can continue to do so from sunny downtown Guelph.

I should get back to it (although I am also contemplating going for a run on the treadmill – this is how bad my procrastination angst has gotten), but thanks for letting me ramble on a bit. I do hope to keep having stories to post, especially as I start getting back into my data and reflecting on what it all means. I still have hundreds of photos to go through too, and I look forward to sharing those as well and hearing what you think.

And, in case you were wondering, 10 year-olds make the best welcome home surprises 😉IMG_4641

Oh, and before I go, my last photograph of South Africa before I headed off to the airport. I’ll be back!IMG_4633

A week in Durban

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The Durban waterfront

I have just returned home to Mama’s house after a week at the World Leisure Congress in Durban. Yes I study leisure. No it is not an oxymoron. My dad would prefer I tell people that I’m in the School of Applied Health Sciences rather than the faculty of Recreation and Leisure Studies, but here we are.

Anyhoo, the big bi-annual conference was last week and for the first time it was being hosted by an African city! My advisor strongly suggested that I attend, despite knowing that I have no social skills and would rather sit under a table than chat with the strangers sitting around it. That being said, I put on my big girl pants and made lots of really incredible and inspirational new friends.

I also had an opportunity to present on what I’ve learned in my work so far. Considering the fact that I’m still conducting interviews (I have two more tomorrow. I fly home the day after. I’m organized.), I really only had very preliminary ideas to discuss, but I did share the audio of the interview that I spoke about in an earlier posting. I think my presentation went well and there was lots of good discussion at the end. Two young South Africans asked about the age of the interviewee and when I told them that he was around 40, they assured me – quite strongly – that I needed to balance that with some young people’s perspectives. Of course I do. Why on earth did I not think to contextualize people’s perspectives based on their lived experiences? To be fair, I have done virtually zero analysis thus far, but I am so grateful to those young people for putting me in my place. The ‘born-free’ generation, those born around or after 1994 have their own perspectives based on their very different experiences of growing up in South Africa. White people were not the “bosses” in the South Africa they grew up in. Not legally anyhow. Now I just have to make sure that that comes across in my findings.

Although another conference attendee thought that might end up being a ‘for future study’ addendum to my dissertation. Another cited my new favourite saying: “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” 😀

At any rate, the conference was wonderful and I was able to attend a number of really thought-provoking presentations. It wasn’t all work though! I played hooky one morning and joined a new friend in a visit to an “authentic” Zulu village and reptile park, I strolled the beach a few times, I toured the oldest botanical garden in Africa, and I glommed on to a group of really eminent scholars in the field for their walk to the Moses Mabhida stadium. I mean eminent. One of the men wrote the textbook for the first leisure studies class I ever took. Durban is beautiful and warm and exciting, but I’m happy to be back to my cold and familiar Western Cape, at least for a few more days.

Tourists meeting Zulu performers, South Africa

Tourists and Zulu dancers in their natural environment

A Zulu woman demonstrating in recreated cooking hut, South Africa

A Zulu woman demonstrating in recreated cooking hut

The jinglers that dancers wear on their ankles are made from old soda can lids, South Africa

The jinglers that dancers wear on their ankles are made from old soda can lids

Leisure researchers at the beach, Durban, South Africa

A hard day’s work for leisure scholars

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa

Walking towards the Moses Mabhida stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa

The Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa

Botanical garden, Durban, South Africa

Cat dumping continues to be a real problem for the Botanical garden

The sunken garden, Botanical Gardens, Durban, South Africa

The sunken garden, Botanical Gardens, Durban, South Africa