I feel bad that my last blog post before leaving for Bali was about cellulite. I've thought a little about cellulite since we landed last Thursday, but not too much.
I've thought about dogs and monkeys and waterfalls and temples and Bintang. I've thought about my privileges as an American the most. See, in some places, things like drinking water and hot showers are a luxury. Places like Bali.
My only preparation for this trip was the Lonely Planet guide that I bought online--the first travel book I've ever purchased.
I'm sitting at a crappy laptop at a hotel near the Bali National Park. Today, we went snorkeling. I swam above living coral reef.
It's amazing moments like today that almost make me forget about the other amazing experiences we've had; the experiences that make you grateful that you are only a visitor and not a permanent resident.
On Thursday, we went on a tour of the Balinese countryside. We saw terraced rice fields, a temple on a lake, a huge waterfall, and a coffee plantation. We ended the tour with a dip in a hot spring that was big enough to swim in. As we were walking through the winding market that led to the parking lot, we saw a baby monkey. A woman was standing beside the monkey.
It took us a minute to realize that the monkey was chained and tied with rope around its back legs. It took us another minute to realize that the woman was not untying the monkey to set it free. She proceeded to drag the monkey away, its little baby hands clawing the ground as she pulled the rope and chain.
I was exhausted and in shock. I didn't say anything. Zack went up to the lady.
"That's wrong!" He yelled. "You should set that monkey free. You can't keep a monkey tied up like that."
The woman looked confused.
"The monkey go in the box," she said. I didn't hear the whole conversation, but she apparently told Zack that the monkey was too small to be released into the wild, and that she would release it when it was a year old.
"You better set it free," he said. "That's wrong!"
She kept dragging the little monkey to the back. It didn't cry or scream; the baby just clawed at the ground in silence.
It was almost a perfect day. We didn't say much on the ride back to our hotel. The Balinese guy driving us around tried to comfort us. He said that maybe another tourist would buy the monkey and set it free. Which didn't comfort us at all. Was this woman going to exploit this tiny animal for money? Was this the first time she had done something like this?
This is the first poor country I have ever visited, and I had no idea what to expect. Travel guides make it sound like paradise, but I don't see much paradise in piles of trash by the side of the road and behind a dilapidated elementary school. I don't see paradise in the mound of plastic and Styrofoam being burned right by people's houses. I don't see paradise in the mangy dogs that wander the sidewalks and the two dead puppies I saw laying like so much garbage in the street and on the beach.
Zack got "Bali belly" last week. For three days, he was in pain from his stomach cramping in an attempt to rid his body of the bacteria. We went to a doctor in a village. The office was filthy and scary. The doctor sold us 2 baggies of pills for about 50 cents. We finally got to see a more professional doctor, whose office was cleaner but still shady, who told us that the medicine we got was no good. What do the people in the village do when they are sick?
I don't regret coming here. I'm learning so much, and I've seen amazing things that I would never see in America or even Japan. The most important thing I've learned from this trip is that we should always be thankful for what we have. Especially in America, where drinking water is considered a right, not a privilege. The people here live in what so many call "paradise," but even paradise isn't perfect. It looks that way in a brochure or Facebook album, but up close, it's just another place with its own problems. Problems that many people can't even fathom, and that the guests of the resorts beside Balinese shanty towns choose to ignore. I don't want to ignore them. I want to take them in just as much as I take pictures of the beautiful cliffs and mountains. I want these scars to be souvenirs, too.