I drive through your town, and while I am the one behind the glass, you are the one under the microscope, a grazing beast on my human safari. I am the looker; you are the looked upon.

I come to your home, my attention rapt upon you, a voyeur with a camera, legitimized by my passport. I am the visitor, you the local, yet you become the foreigner under my gaze. Your normal becomes exotic, your habit queer. Do not forget that this exchange is for the benefit of the intruder.

I watch you live. I see you cook your food and wash your clothes. I see you pray; I watch you grieve, documenting your life under my rapaciously curious gaze, snapping photographs – memories archived for amusing gossip with friends upon my return. Having witnessed it for a few days, I stake ownership over your story and tell it now as the expert, the wisdom of a worldly traveler.

You endure my objectification, smile at my unencumbered white skin, because more than you are here for my enlightened diversion, I am here for your necessity. The scraps you live on are viciously insufficient, forcing you to beg for some off my own gluttonous plate. I chafe at the expectation, indignant that the price of a beer has outrageously ballooned to three dollars a bottle when in the last town it was only two. If you are lucky, I will remember I pay eight dollars at home, and tip you the difference. Do you feel lucky?

You are examined, inspected, scrutinized, and then you are abandoned. You are left in your poverty. You remain without. I return to comfort, and declare your life “interesting.” Your role as an item on my bucket list has been fulfilled.

We the tourists are entitled to the world, colonizers with fanny packs.

Yet those who never leave their home cannot see. They are limited by a provincial myopia, and the world revolves without them. Your story is forever elusive. If you are seen at all, it is through the distorting prism of media gloss and political bombast. You are both monster and victim, your humanity buried under self-serving spin.

Is this an improvement? Are you better off ignored? Must I remain detached from your existence to avoid exploitation? How can I see you without looking? How can I engage with you equitably when my very status as visitor privileges me over you?

I aim to exemplify the virtues of the guest. I engage with you on the terms of your household. When there is discomfort, I tolerate it, recognizing the privilege of your hospitality and embodying the humility of one out of their element. You are my host, receiving me with gratitude and generosity. No longer taking, what I gain is what is shared.

We are no longer detached, observer and the observed. We embrace across borders. I do not return to a different, more comfortable world, recalling you as an alien Other. We persist in the same world, unfair in my favour. I seek you in solidarity, a global fraternity. May we remain united.