Clearly one of the most amazing parts of being an expat in China is the ability to travel around Asia. As I mention in my memoir, the first time I ever left the states was when I moved to China, so the travel has really been a coup for me. There's something happening, though.
When we first started traveling I was in it for a few reasons: the obvious break from reality - or quasi-expat-reality, see new parts of the world/experience new cultures, meet interesting people. We've done all that and more.
It occurred to me in Bali that I'm now seeing the world through different eyes. I don't think this is a new development, but I think it's the first time I've been conscious of the fact that I have changed from being an average American - just doing my thing - to a Global Citizen.
In my first post on Bali I went into detail about the villa and its surroundings. Well, there was this one night early in our stay where the boys and men from the neighboring village descended upon the beach to play soccer (or is it football in Bali?). As they horsed around on the beach, I imagined the women and girls were preparing dinner. Our big kids were swimming in the pool, the naked babies were counting smooth volcanic rocks while Rob and I watched, cocktails in hand, from our walled garden.
Most of the kids were teenager-ish, but there was one little boy playing by himself. He had a mini surfboard that he buried half way in the sand creating a make-shift hurdle. For about fifteen minutes he took a running head start and jumped over the hurdle. If it fell down, he set it back up and repeated his jump. Over and over.
At one point Maggie walked to the compound gate, sat down and watched the little boy with great enthusiasm. Rob, Naomi and I joined her. At first the little boy ran away. But after a while he came up to us and said, "Hello," his only English word.
Eventually his mother came out and told us his name was Andre and he was 7. The Grace and Will also joined us and played tag with Andre on the beach while the babies played with his Mom.
Rob and I just kicked back and observed. I thought about a conversation I'd had with our driver (who is also a rice farmer) earlier that day. He'd explained to me that Bali is changing very rapidly. When he was a child, the economy revolved mainly around rice farming and handicrafts. And now, with development and tourism, people are selling their rice farms for a token of what they're worth just to make a quick buck. Aghast, he said, "We even have to sometimes import rice from Thailand. Thailand! Can you believe it?!"
We continued to chat and then the conversation turned to us. "How did we end up in China? What is it like? etc." Then he asked, "How did you discover Villa L'Orange?" After a quick explanation he then said, "I hope you enjoy your stay here and come back again. I hope you go home and tell all of your American friends to come to Villa L'Orange. It is good for the economic. It is also very good for the village. And of course, it is very good for my family."
Within that 10 minute conversation, he defined the complexities of the world - the inescapable hypocrisy. With progress comes money. With money comes comfort. With comfort we lose something. We lose our culture, our heritage, in some cases our values.
Unfortunately, though we may want to, we can't have it both ways.