I have to admit, I actually feel a bit upset at myself that we went to Bali last week. I like to tell myself that I’m a socially consious traveller. I think about where I’m going before I go, and I try to think about the impact my visit will have for the country and (gasp!) the world. I want to make sure my US dollars are doing some good (even if it’s minimal) and not supporting, oh say, military dictatorships while the rightful leader of a country is imprisoned in her home, for example (more here, take action here). So, when we decided to go to Bali, it was more of a last ditch “we have vacation and we have to go somewhere” sort of thing than “oh, my! I’ve been wanting to visit Bali my whole life and now’s my chance!”
In fact, for many years I insisted I would never travel to Bali because of Indonesia’s horrible treatment of East Timor (and I suppose most of the rest of the country as well). I used to go to rallies in DC during university and occasionally worked on behalf of ETAN. And now, even though East Timor is (kind of) independent (but still terribly struggling) I justified it in my own mind, that now it’s officially OK to go to Indonesia (no, not really).
Well, lo and behold, upon our arrival at the “visa on arrival” booth, I see that a 7 day visa is US$10, and anything over is US$25. We’re staying 8 days (natch), so we have to pay the US$25 each, plus, of course, the US$10 departure “tax.” These are the kinds of things that make me not want to travel to these countries. I can see how my US dollars directly affect the quality of life for the wonderful owners of the Villa Sonia in Nyuh Kuning, just outside of Ubud, and our fantastic bike tour guide, Darma. But, these visa and “airport tax” dollars are going straight into the corrupt government. And when I think about the number of tourists that are paying US$35 just to enter and leave the country, just through the Bali airport… Yikes. That’s a lot of money…
And then I come home to this, and am once again reminded why I WILL NOT travel to Burma until Ann Sun Syu Chi (more here and here) is released from house arrest and a new government formed (because, truth be told, I was kind of wavering in my opinion about traveling to Burma too). Even if the New York Times thinks it’s OK to write travel reviews of the country. How can visit a country, knowing about things like this?
It scares me to think about how far I have drifted from my old activist roots. How do people balance all of their interests when they are so different? I spend so much time reading about tech developments and learning about education and taking courses and, oh yes, working, that I don’t feel like I have a second to spare for activism.
I used to think I was going to be a human rights lawyer. What happened to that superkimbo? In Munich I was the Chairperson for the only English speaking Amnesty International group in Germany. And I ran the AI students group at school. That wasn’t enough, but at least that was something. Why am I not taking the same kinds of actions here? This frustrates me, yet I know I feel too overwhelmed with other stuff to actually do it….
Image 1 from: http://hrw.org/images/home/2006/200/eastti13223.jpg
Image 2 from: http://www.sinkers.org/ETimor/StateDeptNov1298-09.jpg
Image 3 (mine)
Image 4 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Daw_Aung_San_Suu_Kyi.JPEG
Image 5 from: http://schema-root.org/region/international/non-governmental_organizations/amnesty_international/amnesty_international_logo.gif