Jon de Vos: It’s a third world, after all
March 14, 2008
I was thinking about Tabernash the other day and, of course, that led me to thinking about third-world countries.
The term “third-world country” was coined during the Cold War in the early 1950s, and mostly described countries that had not yet been exploited.
They were, and still are, politely referred to as “developing” nations. They have familiar names even if you can’t place them on a map, out there in Africa, Oceania, Asia and Oklahoma. Tabernash, incidentally, can no longer compare favorably with Soweto as it is currently undergoing a gentrification not unlike Lodo in Denver.
Since I was grilling myself, I popped another question: Why would I, or anyone for that matter, want to vacation in a country where chubby people are hunted down by skinny people and water is the fourth part of Three Bean Soup. Travel writers are touting the thrills and economy of third-world travel. They’re raving about the opportunity to share “experiences” with other people, learning to appreciate different cultures and unfamiliar surroundings, possibly the chance to discuss the image stabilization features of your travel camera with a couple of members of the Janjaweed Militia.
Some years back, I clipped an article from the Rocky Mountain News by travel editor Barry Shlachter, informing us that the time was ripe for an exotic and oh-so-inexpensive vacation in the Third World. For the pinchers of pennies, Barry said the really good travel bargains are found in what he described as the final vacation frontier. His column was full of great tips for the daring adventurer. Don’t wear flashy clothes, don’t wear new shoes, don’t wear an expensive watch, and don’t wear any jewelry. Third World? That’s just good sensible advice for an evening out at the Parshall Inn.
He also advised sightseers to carry a squash ball so to never be without a universal drain stopper. Why on earth one would need a universal drain stopper was never explained. He cautioned travelers to “expect the unexpected.”
Perhaps, the direction of the swirl of draining water provides important clues as to which hemisphere you’re on. I had to think about that. If you don’t know which side of the equator you’re on, the unexpected is the least of your worries.
He makes it all sound so inviting as he goes on, and on, about acute traveler’s diarrhea and other ghastly gastric events. He airily declares that it’s just part of the price you pay to visit exotic places previously available only to Mormon missionaries.
He warns us to prepare for typhoid, malaria, hepatitis, amoebic colitis, yellow fever, meningitis, tetanus and encephalitis. He wasn’t very specific about exactly how to prepare, other than kissing your butt goodbye. Third World AIDS rates alone should scare the pants right back onto you.
Barry suggests you don’t forget pain killers in case you get injured in some out of the way place. He adds that he’s never had to use them himself but he’s occasionally had to administer them to journalists and innocent bystanders who got in the way of history. And then there’s always that Junta thing.
I’m going on vacation soon and I’m going to thumb my nose at Barry’s advice.
I’m going to Lincoln, Neb., which hasn’t been a Third World country for simply eons. There, I will drink the water with gusto and eat native food with wild, reckless abandon.
I’m not taking any damn squash ball, either.
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