It Only Takes One

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Back in Seoul, trying to figure out what to do when our visa runs out next week. Our options are limited, to put it mildly.

It Only Takes One

When we were in Ecuador last year, we went for a hike above Quito one day, to look for hummingbirds. A taxi dropped us off at the trailhead, and we walked up into the hills. For the first bit of our walk, we were alone, enjoying the quiet and the views. But eventually, we caught up to another couple. We passed, trying to lose them, but they managed to stay just within earshot. They were loud, gabbing away, laughing and chatting, breaking the morning peace. It was annoying, but some people are just oblivious, you know?

When we got to the hummingbird preservation area—a little grove with feeders scattered around—there were SO MANY hummingbirds. They congregated around the feeders in whirring, buzzing clouds, iridescent feathers gleaming. It was like magic. I remember standing perfectly still, not wanting to even twitch, for fear they’d flit away.

Then the yakking couple caught up, still yakking. They seemed just as enchanted as we were, but they reacted very differently: loudly. She kept touching the feeders, trying to get the hummingbirds to land on her so that he could take pictures. It didn’t work, of course—it just scared them away, making me very sad. I’m still upset (I know—I should learn to let go of things). There were hardly any other people on the trail that day, but that one couple, in their oblivion, managed to totally ruin the experience for us.

I didn’t say anything, of course, because it was just hummingbirds.

A couple of weeks later, when we were staying in Puerto Lopez (that weird, David Lynch-esque town on the coast), we had a similar experience on a whale-watching boat. The boat stopped to let people do a little snorkeling in the protected waters of the National Park, and a young guy plucked a piece of coral from the reef and brought it onto the boat. The guide told him off, but it was in Spanish, and the young man played dumb. I know for a fact that he slipped it into his pocket and kept it. A Swiss school teacher and I—we’d been chatting—were both painfully uncomfortable.

I didn’t say anything, of course, because it was just coral.

We go to a lot of places that are known for being packed with tourists (not now, of course, but in non-Covid times). One thing we’ve concluded is that sometimes the problem is not the number of tourists; it’s how they behave. It only takes one badly behaved tourist to ruin the experience for everyone else.

In the last few months here in South Korea, there have been problems with people entering the country, then trying to violate the quarantine. Luckily, the South Korean government is diligent about preventing the potential spread of Covid by people entering the country. When we were transported from the airport to the quarantine facility, we were accompanied by a police officer; during the two weeks that we were there, an officer patrolled outside the building at all times.

But at this point, not all countries have figured out how to make their process work, and it only takes one person flouting the rules to really screw things up. The other day I read about someone entering another Hong Kong, and trying THREE times to escape the mandated quarantine.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a team player—teams involve people, and cooperation, and following someone else’s rules, so yeah. I’m usually inclined to go my own way. I’m not so good at conforming—as evidenced by our peripatetic lifestyle.

But right now, more than ever, I feel compelled to do my part. I wear the mask, even when I’m pouring sweat and freaking out. I keep my distance in lines. I submit to temperature checks, even when it’s clearly pointless. I don’t take my computer and sit in coffee shops to write (and I miss that more than you can imagine). The world will never get back to normal if we don’t all row in the same direction.

This is me, saying something. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

From my writer’s notebook: A random fun fact that I recently learned—some high-end hotels have art collections that are significant enough to necessitate a curator on staff. The Bellagio in Las Vegas comes to mind, but there are plenty of others, including the Four Seasons in Bangkok. We’ve never stayed at a Four Seasons, but I think it should count as research, don’t you?

Take care,


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