I went to the Brazilian embassy to collect my visa on the 5th in order to catch a flight on the 6th. Yes, I was cutting the dates extremely close, which I recently learned does not jibe well with not-so-advanced government systems. So, on the way there, it felt like my heart was stuck in my lungs*.
At the embassy, I sat peacefully at the counter while the staff sifted through the drawer for my passport…. and kept searching… looked puzzled, then returned to me and asked whether I went by any other name.
Any other name? Surely he didn’t mean the pseudonyms I use for free samples and random people at bars?
I said: No…
He returned to the drawers, found nothing, and disappeared into another room.
In the mean time, I preoccupied myself with a stack of pamphlets that screamed: “If you’re looking for sex tourism, we’ve already booked the best room in town.” The picture depicted a tanned white man with silver hair (presumably our classic sex tourist); he was wearing an orange jumper suit and lay forlornly on a bed inside a dark jail cell. “Child sexual exploitation. It’s not playtime. It’s a crime.”
Only specific countries have risen as culturally popular destinations for sex tourism — or at least associated with it, such as Brazil, Thailand, and Kenya. It probably starts with a few enterprising individuals (social morals aside) who develop efficient business models to serve market demand which snowballs over time into thriving industries, and this perpetuates the market further when access becomes qualitatively easier in one country over another. The level of success is typically a mix of business energy and government regulation.
I mulled aimlessly on the uneven growth of the industry until the staff emerged from the other room and presented me with my passport and visa. I’m ready!
* I know the actual expression says that the heart is in the stomach, but to me that connotes a sudden sense of shock or fear. Feeling like your heart is lodged in your lungs refers to a temporary inability to breathe or perceive anything else within a suspension of time until the suspense is finally over.