Mar 30, 2012, 1:20 pm
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I’ve been quiet on chat/Twitter/this here blog lately, for two significant reasons: one, I’m lazy; two, the lovely Helen Corcoran decided to grace me with her presence. After spending several days getting up early, feeding her silly, and dragging her all across town, I’m back to sitting around in my PJs and trying desperately to catch up on chores and missed sleep.

I love playing tour guide, but sometimes the line blurs between tourist and tour guide. When I took Helen to see places I’d never visited before, speaking another language, I knew anyone overseeing me would assume I were a tourist. I felt  like a tourist, too: obsessively planning my day, constantly checking the map, thinking of where to eat and which bus to take. One moment, I’d be standing in line for the Anne Frank House and be offered an English flyer; the next, I’d be dragging Helen past the house where I grew up so she could see the old, overgrown graveyard where I used to play as a kid.

Being so immersed in American culture–American friends; American books; American television–has given me a very foreign perspective of the city I grew up in. I see everything in a new light. I appreciate the history, the context. Buildings I passed every day suddenly represent so much more. Food I snacked on as a kid is suddenly unique. Little details–the lights fixed around the bridges, the bike-only tickets for trains–stand out in a way they never did before.

It means I can point out fascinating details to visiting friends, because I know it’ll be special to them, but it also means it’s not as much a part of everyday life as it used to be. The normalcy is gone. It may be a good thing: It makes me appreciate my city more. At the same time, I’m not American, I’m not foreign, I am–or should be–Dutch through and through. There’s a fine line between appreciation and feeling like a tourist in your home town.

When I bike to the supermarket, I’ll catch myself thinking about how smooth and flat the bike paths are, I’ll marvel at how natural biking comes to me, I’ll smile at a mother balancing heavy groceries on the handlebars and two kids perched on the rack. Five years ago, I’d just be cursing myself for not checking if I needed to get milk.

It’s an odd feeling to have, and I’m not sure I like it.

Is it just a part of growing older and looking at things differently? Have you ever felt similarly?

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One Response to “Playing Tourist”

  1. Reply Angela Korra'ti  () says:

    I have felt like this sometimes, though I'm not sure if it's happened as intensely as you describe here. A friend of mine from Norway has come to visit my household a couple of times, and that's very much gotten me thinking about Seattle and the surrounding areas as a tourist might–trying to think about the places that would be interesting to visit.

    Sometimes though I get into that mindset trying to write, since I'm writing stories that are set here, too. It's an author's job to show the reader the interesting places and people and imagery, after all–and I could totally see the "author" mindset and the "tourist" mindset being connected, even if not entirely the same.

    It's intriguing to think about balancing both of them with the mindset of "I actually live here'. :)

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