Monday, May 31, 2010

Moving On

In Hamilton I have seen how the image of the city impacts the identity of local residents, how the identities of tourists are constructed and performed in certain spaces around Hamilton, and lastly how the identity of a tourist is developed depending on the choice of accommodation and the places visited. All these conclusions that have been drawn have helped me understand not only Hamilton tourism but also my own identity as a tourist, and I am sure that this experience has impacted the way I will travel in the future. Thank you Hamilton, see you next time!

Hamilton Zoo

My last day in Hamilton I decide to visit the zoo. The layout reminds me again of the Museum visited earlier, that there are set paths and routes to take, certain information is revealed to you and others are not. There is a sense of superiority felt by the visitor in that your identity becomes one of an observer, that the animals are there for your entertainment, that is their identity and yours is merely to consume. Zoos bring about mixed feelings because the true identity of these animals are stripped and they are being controlled to feel and act in certain ways. Another aspect that is interesting is that to witness wildlife and exoticness is apart of travelling and gaining social capital, and yet visiting a zoo I feel is a cheap way for people to gain social capital without travelling to the natural habitats to see it.

Constructing Identity at the Waikato Museum

My first night at a 4 star hotel on Victoria street was far more comfortable than the backpackers in all forms of physical comfort, and yet guests did not socialize or befriend each other. This is reflective of the different 'types' of tourists that stay here and the different experiences that are constructed and performed. I found myself changing the way I would have interacted or behaved had I been at a different accommodation, and I clearly saw that I was an example of performing a certain behavior that is expected in certain environments. As I am contemplating this I recall my visit earlier to the Waikato Museum and the identities that are constructed in such an enclosed environment. I remember how the different galleries of various themes were organized, designed to guide the visitors in semi-strict directions around the museum. These paths lead the visitor and construct their identity through the information that is revealed to them at certain points. These paths tell a sequence of stories that are designed to appeal to a wide range of audience, for example at the beginning of the path is a history on the Maori community in the Waikato Region, this information is shown in the form of maps, paragraphs, videos, pictures, music and physical artifacts. These apply to a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds which reminds me of my publication regarding place meanings and the responsibility of tour companies, or in this case the museum itself, in controlling narratives which tourists participate in. This publication (Narrative of Place and Self: differing experiences of package coach tours in New Zealand 2005) illustrates how the narratives that are created by the companies are a reflection of an array of different meanings regarding both place and self. The museum to some extent controls the mood through lighting and atmosphere, the emotions through displays and information given, the way we behave through the amount of resting places provided and the paths we take. This controlled environment even takes away from us our camera, our fundamental element of both identification as a tourist and recording document for future reference. This takes away from us the identity of being a tourist and gives us an identity designed by the museum, we are at their mercy as we passively receive the information that they want to give us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Waikato Rugby Stadium

Among the attractions of Hamilton City is the Waikato Rugby Stadium. Home of the Chiefs and host for international rugby games, a home game at the Waikato Stadium is a must see...(apparently). Fortunately for me there is a game on Friday between the Chiefs and the Crusaders. So along with my fellow travellers that I have befriended at the backpackers hostel, we buy our "green zone" tickets and catch a bus to the Stadium, arriving a few minutes before the kickoff at 7:35pm. I look around me, at the spectators in the green zone and at the people who have paid extra for better seats. It is interesting to see how people in the different zones are behaving. The occupants of the green zone is mostly young people, students I assume, and others who have taken advantage of cheaper seats and a fun atmosphere. These "green zoners" are full of energy, are singing and chanting and waving big home-made banners. Spectators in the seated zones were more reserved, they sat and waited patiently for the game to start, the only form of visual support for their team was the iconic black or white Chiefs jersey. I noticed that wearing this famous Chiefs jersey was a form of social capital, not only were these jersey's comparatively expensive, but it gave the person wearing it a sense of identity. An affiliation with their team who represent their home, the identity of the team becomes intertwined with their own personal identity; their identity was now a united front with the rest of the spectators supporting the Chiefs. The next aspect that I took into consideration was my own company. I recalled my previous publications on packaged tours within New Zealand (Tucker 2007 and Tucker 2005) and how the experience of place is heightened by a) the social capital gained, b) the social interactions and c) the development of ones own identity and group identity. These factors were all coming into effect at this rugby game. I was gaining social capital in that I was participating in an activity that was reputable in Hamilton. I was interacting with young people and other travelers, my own identity was being developed as a traveler who was restricted to a tight budget but which resulted in more fun, and my identity within the group was being developed as I participated and experienced these things with my companions.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

People and Their Places

After my excursion around the Hamilton Gardens and the subsequent thoughts about the effects of social interaction, I decided to pursue this idea and link it with one of my initial goals of coming to Hamilton; to explore local residents' perception of their city in terms of their own identity interwoven with the identity of the city. I start talking with the ladies behind the counter at an i-site, asking questions about Hamilton and the reasons why they are living here and how it affects their lives. After this conversation I walk around Victoria Street at lunch hour and find even more people to talk to, I do not tell them I am researching but simply an interested and curious tourist. I realize that I have received different responses from the different age groups I engaged with. Older aged residents claimed that they have always lived in Hamilton and enjoy the size, the activities that go on and the familiarity of the place. Young working men and women claimed that this is where they have found a job, where their friends and family are, yet on the most part they did not think too much about the activities and events, but more along the lines of a lack of activities. This was quite interesting for me in that I did expect a difference of response but was taken aback at how some young people's responses were similar to older generation responses and vice-versa. This provokes thoughts that the event oriented nature of Hamilton City has quite an impact on how local residents perceive the city.
(video of Sheldine Christie, local Hamilton Resident)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hamilton Gardens

My first night at the backpackers I met some young youth who were planning on visiting the Hamilton Gardens early on Friday morning, so I decided to join them. for the first hour we walked around the gardens together, exploring the various themes in each space and having little adventures. taking photos every chance we got, as if time was running out and the crazier the photos was the more cultural capital we would gain when we posted them on the internet or shared with friends. I enjoyed this part and I felt that as I took good photos or laughed with them that slowly I was fitting into their 'youth culture' of taking a calm peaceful atmosphere of the gardens and turning it into an adventure in its own right. The youth quickly became bored and wanted to leave, I decided to stay and continue through the gardens by myself. It is at this point where I realize the difference in my experience of the environment dependent on social interactions; neither one is better than the other in this circumstance. with the youth I was able to socialize and laugh, by myself I am able to absorb the full beauty of the gardens and nature. Both equally, yet differently, add to my experience and enjoyment of the area.
(photo from Chris Russett 2010)

A Decision...

Looking at the variety of accommodation I must make a decision, I could chose to stay at a high class hotel in the middle of the town center, have access to immediate and easy transportation, and consequently will have a limited interaction with fellow travelers. Or alternatively I could stay at one of the many motels rather close to the city center yet again with limited contact with the occupants as most of these locations have self-contained rooms. apart from home-stay opportunities in the outskirts of the city I can chose to stay at a local backpacker accommodation. These hostels are usually occupied by young ambitious travelers on tight budgets, and yet it is from these travelers that amazing stories of kinship and spontaneity are born. So I choose to stay for a few days at Backpacker hostel and the following few days at the hotel. I feel that from this split choice I will be able to experience two extremes of traveling styles, and reflect on the impressions that both will leave on my identity as a traveler. I will be able to gage the different people I will meet and draw conclusions about my theory on traveling styles in relation to identity formation.