Jamaica Kincaid’s Small Place: Personal Experience
Reading from Jamaica Kincaid’s small place reminds me of the time I traveled to Tanzania. As described by Kincaid, I was a tourist in the East African country which I hoped would be an eye-opening experience (Kincaid n.p). The cultural experience was supposed to help me in perspective-building on the state of developing countries. As Kincaid vividly points out, there are good sides of each country which the hosts or the hotel managers show off to tourists see and then there are bad sides which visitors are not supposed to see. I got a room with a scenic view of the Indian Ocean. Next to the hotel were other beautiful houses some of which were private.
The housekeepers had accidently left a door leading to the back of the hotel open. I wanted to see what was behind this beautiful scenery so I stepped out through the fire exit. I immediately understood why my window was facing the other side. This other end had a heartbreaking image of human suffering as I witnessed bare-footed children moving around semi-naked, similar to the picture painted in the small place (Kincaid n.p). Those with shirts had no buttons and their bellies were protruding –a sign of malnutrition.
The women were busy with their domestic chores and the men were sitting in around a circle playing a game that I later learned was known as the “Ajua”. They were friendly and they allowed me to observe. They even asked me to join them. Behind this beautiful hotel, I was having a firsthand experience of what the citizens were going through.
I realized that following all the instructions of the tour guide would have denied me this experience. My travel was not only to get away from the hustles and bustles of my town but also to learn about Africans in general (McLeod n.p). It was also clear that those friends of mine who had visited and recommended the hotel had done a lot of cropping on the images they shared on facebook. Next to the smiling tourists were hungry children and over-worked mothers.
I came to the conclusion that the tourism industry needs some changes. Tourists should be graded based on their reason for visiting a particular place. There are those that want to interact with the natives, learn their ways and even make a few friends. There are those who are visiting to hide from modernity and should not be confined to the finest amenities a country has to offer as pointed out by Kincaid in the small place (Kincaid n.p). I learned that when you are friendly making friends with the natives is not difficult. My first walk was short because of security issues. However, I made a few friends who ensured that I was safe when I made my second visit. They took me to places the tour agencies never knew existed.
The experience helped me appreciate their culture as well as mine. One thing I still remember was the way everybody was curious to see the look on my face after visiting the toilet. This was a completely new experience to me as I am used to western toilets where you just sit and do your business. The type of toilet required that I squat all that time. This was strange but was another eye-opener and so it fitted within the objectives of this visit (McLeod n.p). Contrary to the notion that these people are dangerous and hostile to strangers, I found out that their hospitality was above that of my home area. The dusty, pot-holed roads and grass thatched houses were common in this place but the natives never cared and seemed to live a happy life.
Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000.
McLeod, Corinna. “Constructing a Nation: Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘a Small Place’.” Small Axe: A Journal of Criticism. (2008): 77-92.