Belmont University

June 06, 2009

And so it begins…

Rashina - GracelandI awoke, as I had expected, in somewhat of a confused daze this morning… as I opened my eyes to a convex wall on one side and a closed curtain on the other, it took a few seconds to understand that this adventure had finally become actualized. A feeling of excitement simultaneously swept over and seeped into me, and as I lay attempting to embrace a feeling that I am sure to have for the next thirty-nine mornings, I suddenly felt familiarity replace the strange excitement I had awoken feeling. Then it hit me… the beginning of my adventure across an unexplored nation began with my hometown of twenty years…

The contradicting nature of this first stop is simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Having lived in Memphis, TN my entire life until coming to college, the idea of exploring a city whose traditions and structures already felt so intrinsic to me failed to initially satisfy my wanderlust. Nonetheless, the day was ours and mine and I knew that there were experiences to be had.

We started discovering Memphis at the famous and original Peabody Hotel, known for its marching ducks. For those of you unaware of this historical tourist attraction, the Peabody hotel marches five ducks along a red carpet to a somewhat ornate fountain each day at 11:00 a.m. Though I had experienced this strange and short-lived viewing multiple times, I eagerly walked with my other eleven colleagues into the hotel, up the stairs, and positioned myself up against the banister. And then we waited… As I glanced across the gathering of over the hundreds of tourists in the lobby – the conservatively dressed businessmen, the older couple whose hawaiin print t-shirts perfectly exemplified their ‘touristic’ intentions, and the young girl playing with the stuffed animal- they seemed eagerly patient, waiting for the chance to experience what their families or friends must have boasted about seeing in years past. As the ‘duckmaster’ stepped into the scene, the crowd silenced itself, awaiting instruction from the man with the walking staff. He began to recount a history of the duck march, using a bellowing tone of voice and pausing for dramatic effect so perfectly that I felt slightly nauseous. Finally the doors opened and five waddling ducks sprinted to the fountain in about five seconds flat. The audience began to applaud the event as the ducks jumped into the fountain, and immediately the expression on each student’s face around me changed from eager to disappointed. While the duck march embodied specific aspects of tourism that fully supported the archetypal tourist, a part of me felt satisfaction in simply Recognizing the construction of this tourist attraction that promoted itself through historic tradition yet displayed itself in a three-ring circus fashion.

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