Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paul's Country Review: Indonesia

When Christine and I were having some lemonade, sitting at a small beach front cafe, a man came up to us selling his paintings. This is how most of the people of Bali exist; selling bracelets, necklaces, sarongs and a variety of other things you don't need. This painter was very nice and nowhere near as persistent as every other hawker in Bali, so we had a look at some of his work. There was nothing special in the quality or skill of the work and he was quick to point out his shortcomings saying that 'I will get better with time'. I don't know what it was about him, but I liked him.

This isn't the guy but I like him too

While flipping through the paintings I came across one that I liked; a simple scene of rice paddies, the volcano in the background and the sun behind it. I handed the paintings over to Christine so she could have a look and we began making our "secret" gestures to each other (they are in no way as subtle as I think they are), which we do when deciding if we want to buy something. She points out the same one that I like, we agree on it and we (Christine) begin(s) negotiating. At this time, he says something that stuck with me the rest of our stay in Indonesia. While holding up the painting that Christine and I have chosen, he says that the painting looks really good from a distance, but isn't really that good when you look at it up close.

Gunung Batur from the side of the road

That simple sentence summed up our whole time in Indonesia. You could be driving down the road, come around a bend and come across a beautiful temple or a stunning series of rice paddies, climbing step by step, up the side of a mountain.

Naturally, you'll get out so you can capture this with your camera. Its a beautiful shot and you're blown away by the scenery. You bring your eyes a little closer to a lazy stream winding its way through the field and notice empty soda bottles, soda cans, food containers and other junk floating by. At your feet, you are standing in garbage.

This is Indonesia, or at least the parts that we saw, but I imagine it will be consistent across the islands. Bali's primary revenue generator is the tourist. Not tourism, that would suggest that there is some kind of plan or governing body that makes decisions for the good of future tourism. No, the tourist comes and Indonesians step over and undercut each other for your money. Some of the prices offered don't even cover the services rendered. In the process of selling they are destroying their land, not realizing that if things continue in this way, people will stop coming to Bali and their livelihood will disappear.

If you look at the boat on the beach, that's all garbage next to it

Indonesia is crowded, dirty, noisy, hot and humid and I love the place. Well, really like the place. It has its moments of beauty; its history and culture so extremely fascinating I can overlook most of the noise and trash. What broke my heart was watching this trash wash up on almost every beach we came across. It will be interesting to see what Bali will look like in 10 years, if there is a Bali.


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