Trapped in Paradise

There’s a place called Paradise. In fact, there are many of them, all a flight away from Home. But the people that originate from Paradise are often Trapped in Paradise.

A Scene: Visitors and Locals

At the club in a resort, only the adults stay behind after their children have gone to bed under protest. A day full of tanning until having perfected that lobster shade, letting their spawn wreck havoc, swimming in the hotel’s pool – located next to the sea – is over. The included breakfast, lunch, and dinner have been eaten every day for a week. Tomorrow it’s time to get on the airplane and go back home, to a place that lacks sunshine and where their job sucks the soul out of them—but at least they can afford Nice Things. So the gringo doesn’t sleep tonight. The males and females of ripe and over-ripe age go to the club to drink piña coladas and rum-cokes.

At 11 p.m. a little Latino boy walks out of the darkness of the beach over to the hotel and tries to sell some of his mom’s tamales. He’s from what once was a beach-side town, born and raised there, and probably has to go to school tomorrow morning. School is the best-case scenario. The little boy approaches a 62-year-old man from the US, sitting at the bar next to the NO LOITERING sign. The man looks down on the boy while the young’un repeats the options of his merchandise by heart, terribly bored. Twenty pesos apiece. The man doesn’t make eye-contact with the kid as he looks down and proceeds to ignore him in the way high school bullies say to each other “What was that? Did you hear anything? I didn’t think so either.”

Not much later the Latino staff of the hotel kicks out the boy. They know each other because most people know each other around town. The man continues to sip on his tequila sunrise without putting much thought into what had just happened.

Back and Forth

I had just traveled around Mexico for 10 weeks. At the moment I am touring Belize. Both Mexico and Belize – not to mention other Mesoamerican countries I haven’t been to yet – seem to have it all: the climate, the beaches, the low cost of living. Once rich people from Western countries with often-shit weather discover small picturesque communities, the communities have to make space for the resorts. Resorts do employ locals, but the revenue ends up in the gringo’s pocket. He had the money to build this ugly concrete structure designed to give every guest a sea view. He also hired a contractor with sketchy employment conditions to maximize those profits.

With a low wage, mostly women are employed to clean the rooms and serve in the many restaurants and bars on the premises. Considering the demographics, most women probably have small children at home. The men rent out golf-karts or organize fishing and diving tours. Around Easter is the time to build up a financial buffer for hurricane season. That’s when the guests stay away from such places. Paradise isn’t a year-round destination.

Don’t get me wrong, the resorts might benefit the communities slowly, but surely. The infrastructure – mostly to and from the airport – improves. And now every household has a TV. All the while these TVs stand in living rooms of wooden houses with rooftops that might blow off or cave in a squall. Even the breakfast shack in the actual town – a golf cart ride from the resort – has Wi-Fi. So you can Instagram your food or check-in on FourSquare to earn your next badge. They even have speakers blasting Bob Marley or the pop music you listen to at home during your atrocious commute. Yes, progress and development are skewed; some things go fast where others lag behind.

But you, my friend, are leaving next week back to your own continent. There you can show the photos you’ve taken with your camera that costs more than a local person’s house—perhaps to your grandma who grew up in different times. You go and go back to paradise because you can. Because you know you won’t be able to survive a day in the reality of living in Paradise.

Paradisian Perspective: Trapped in Paradise, Still

The people born and raised in Paradise are trapped in Paradise. A Paradisian doesn’t have the wage to go somewhere else on an airplane. Even if you the Paradisian can afford it, the other country asks for a costly visa, proof of employment, a return ticket. (The list goes on.) And still, after ticking all the boxes and bringing a binder full of proofs, any tenth-rate immigration asshole can just refuse you entry based on an imaginary threat. Or because they weren’t feeling you today. Or because it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Even if you receive entry, staying just one week is in a famous city is a heavy burden. One week in New York, Tokyo, Paris, or Sydney would cost a Paradisian about their yearly income. Even when living in Paradise and calling it Home, being trapped there is not a good thing. Though like any place people call Home – whether it’s Paradise or just Home – people appear content with what they have and what they can do.

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