Scattered Lisbon Travel Notes [en]

[fr] Quelques notes en vrac au sujet de Lisbonne. Résumé: ça se passe très bien.

This post will be updated on-the-go. Come back.

  • Big city. Really big. Jorge, my kind host, says 3 mio inhabitants. If my memory is correct, that’s roughly three times as big as Zürich, the largest Swiss city, and a half of Switzerland’s total population. I had no clue. IIRC Pune had 3 mio inhabitants when I lived there.
  • Praça do Principe Real: very nice and calm square. Lots of benches to sit down, and even tables!
  • Stairs. More stairs. Hills! Lausanne doesn’t even come close.
  • Red and green lampposts.
  • People queue for the bus, “UK-style”.
  • Beggars, some maimed. I’ve seen lots of beggars in India of course, but maybe they just came in as a bundle with the rest of the culture shock, which is why I never had the feeling I had been particularly stricken by the amount of people begging. Here, I am. People sleeping on doorsteps.
  • Hot. Summer-hot. “Where’s the shade” and “can’t we just live naked” kind of hot.
  • Colourful. Day and night.
  • Two classes of kindergarten kids. One with yellow hats, the other with blue hats.
  • Mad drivers. Not the Indian kind. You can’t just jump in the middle of the road and expect them to swerve around you or slow down. You can’t start walking on pedestrian crossings like in Switzerland, secure in the knowledge that you have right of way. I regularly find myself hoping that the driver headed right for me doesn’t consider me expendable.
  • Healthy helpings in restaurants for the moment.
  • Nice supper last night at the Granja Velha, Rua dos Douradores 200 (Baixa).
  • Nice “nouvelle cuisine” style lunch at Porco Preto, just off Praça das Flores. Complete with warm cheese and strawberry jam.
  • My next digital camera will have integrated GPS-based geotagging.
  • Mir. de S. Catarina has a nice view. Unfortunately it seems to be the haunt of a bunch of guys who try to strike up conversations with tourists. I realised that I’m pretty good at playing deaf, or at pretending that I don’t understand English (or French, for that matter). I just tell myself I only understand Hindi 🙂
  • Seriously thinking about not over-doing it, hence this little expedition back to my “couch” before I head out again at the end of the afternoon. It’s too hot outside, and I also need to take a break from new things, or I’ll overdose. I’m also here to relax, and I think I’ll enjoy it more if I don’t spend my whole time walking through the town and playing tourist.
  • More photos on Flickr.
  • The flight of stairs to my host’s appartment just keeps getting longer and longer each time I go up.
  • Weird magic locks (turn three times to the left, once to the right, jiggle the key, do a little dance and the door will open). Well, not quite, but it did take me 10 minutes and a phone call to get in.
  • Lots of francophone tourists.

A Tourist in India [en]

Some thoughts about being a tourist in India, and how I hate being a tourist.

– ‘Your country?’ Asks the man on the bus.
– ‘Switzerland.’
– ‘Svizerrland!? Ooh. Why you are not staying there?’
– ‘I am staying there. I came on holiday to visit some friends. I used to live in Pune.’
– ‘Ooh, so you are just tourist, then!’
– ‘Well, er…’

That was a week or two back, on the overcrowded bus which was finally taking me down to E-Square to see Ek Haseena Thi. I’ve always hated being associated with ‘tourists’, in India or elsewhere.

Tourists come to see, not to share. They watch the world outside from cozy A/C boxes. They are impolite, they don’t know how to dress or behave, they can’t eat the food or find their way around without a map. They see what they are meant to see, stay in places specially designed for them, and buy things in shops that nobody else would buy. They have money, lots of it.

In some ways, I have to admit that I am indeed a tourist. I take lots of photographs. I buy loads of stuff in shops to bring back to Switzerland for my enjoyment and that of others. I don’t really keep an eye on what I spend, I eat in nice places, I go to the cinema as often as I like.

But on the other hand, I much prefer trying to share the life of ‘normal’ people or just walk around the town I’m staying in, rather than sleep in expensive places and do the things that only the tourists do.

I like people. I do my best not to turn them into objects. I like everyday life. I like soaking in the atmosphere of a place or time.

I’m very suspicious of other foreigners I come upon in India. I kind of assume that they are not like me, more the ‘hippy-dippy’ type, as Aleika and I used to call them. Some sort of anti-tourist snobism, in a way.

Of course, I’m wrong. Lots of foreigners in India are certainly nice people. I almost walked off for ever after saying hello to Aleika, mistakenly assuming she would be ‘at the ashram’. Quite a few of my friends from Switzerland or elsewhere have been to India, so they would therefore certainly have been ‘foreigners nice to know’ had I met them in India.

Ironically, I find myself looking at other foreigners with as much curiosity and maybe more questions as many Indians who see me walk by. Why are they here? What brought them to India? What are they looking for? How long are they staying? Do they ‘fit in’ or not in their home culture? What is their life like here?

The result is that I’ve had very little contact with other foreigners in India, and I’m aware that I’m probably passing by people who would be interesting to know. I keep myself ‘aside’, comfortably settled on a jute bag full of preconceptions and marked ‘Fab India, Pune’.