Certain quiet beaches probably unknown to common tourists in Bali have big villas for rent. You can live there for short or extended periods and live the touted Bali life complete with staff to prepare meals, clean the pool, be at your beck and call — a charmed life in the tropics for people from countries with more powerful currencies than the rupiah, more developed than Indonesia. All around the villa, regular local life goes on, undisturbed, in a way unaffected except for the employment it generates but the contrast is quite staggering. If the beach is dirty, you don’t have to swim there because you have your own pool. The local houses are small and simple while the villas for foreign tourists are straight out of Architectural Digest. It makes one ponder the hard-to-ponder. It makes one ask the difficult questions.
I told Yoni (Rony’s husband) that if those beach villas were in the Philippines, there would be high gates and extra security. Yoni said the security are the staff who work to maintain the villas with the lush lawns. The tourists can keep to their sanitized worlds during their whole stay in the island like in a bubble and never get to know real local life. I guess I have the same issue with the Philippines where the most beautiful areas have been cordoned off, made off-limits to the public and accessible only to an elite membership-card-carrying few.
Although, it’s nice to fantasize living in one of those well-designed houses with unobstructed views of the sea. Still, it begs to be asked, is tourism a modern form of colonialism? But tourism and its ills are everywhere, not just the developing world. It’s a worldwide exchange where people feed and feed off others’ innate curiosity. Beyond the laws of supply and demand, lives hopefully improve and on a personal level, things are not as grim.
Joshua and I began an unfinished conversation about colonized countries and the colonizers and I promised him that I’d google the list of colonized and colonizing nations. In the airport, I was able to research the list online but I haven’t been able to pick up on conversation with him. It’s a conundrum still at the back of my mind, waiting for a catalyst to start the ball rolling again.