Friday, March 28, 2008
When you're self employed, it can be pretty rough to take even one week off. I was out for eight days and had to prepare for it for weeks, taking care of work plus advance work plus notifying people plus planning and packing. I did work for regulars in advance, but had to end up turning away some work because there simply wasn't any way to take on more work at the time. I hate to turn away any work, but there are only 35 hours in a day.
I was in Orlando visiting the parks during my vacay, and it was a very different experience than it had been the other times I've been over the past 20+ years. Back in the day the park were insanely crowded with American families that rushed the park with their kids and grandmas. Since 9/11, the parks have been far less crowded. Chatting with employees last year I was told that the Disney park empire had not recovered since that time and that the parks were getting desperate to attract tourists. People have been much more hesitant to fly and the international tourists they had were simply not showing up.
This year was a whole new ballgame. I've never, ever seen the parks so full of international tourists. Actually, I've never seen anywhere so full of international tourists. I've been all over Hawaii, I've traveled through Japan, much of Europe, most of the major cities of the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada. In all of those travels I have never seen such a mix of cultures as I did during this trip. There were several days when we could count on one hand how many times we heard people speaking English. We heard Russian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Hindi regularly. There were also quite a few Scandinavian, Eastern European and Arab languages being spoken.
The whole experience was interesting in the mix of cultures and the variety of languages we were exposed to. But, it was sad in a way. The many languages kept families to themselves, each family group talking only to each other. There was none of the camaraderie that used to be present. While standing in the many lines, families used to talk, commiserate, compare notes, etc. I can only think of one time that we stood next to an English-speaking family during the entire week this time- and even they weren't American. Ironically, that was on St. Patrick's Day and the family was Irish.
Why the International Set?
I think the reason for the cultural shift was twofold: the failing dollar and the recession here at home. Americans aren't able to afford the trip, but to those outside the U.S., it's practically free. The question I had was why so many people had come from Europe and Japan- they have their own Disney parks. It might have simply been a good excuse for an exotic vacation abroad.
On another note, while leaving Orlando, the traffic was horrific. We figured something odd was going on, as police cars and TV news trucks crowded the highway. A wreck? A shooting? No. It was a-holes. The people from that cult that protests funerals was randomly protesting outside a Catholic church. Why? Judging from the signs they were holding, they think Catholics are gay. Apart from the insanity of protesting nothing in particular, they caused us to be quite late on the way back. I won't name the cult or its leader because I don't want them getting more publicity. They are insane and stupid people who should never be taken seriously by anyone.