If you try, you’ll find me / where the sky meets the sea

It’s anoth­er beau­ti­ful day here in par­adise. The sun is up, its thir­ty odd degrees, the roost­er next door is crow­ing away as it does on and off all day (I thought these things were sup­posed to make day­break noise – this lazy bug­ger doesn’t get going until 9 or so).

Yes, it’s a won­der­ful day, and the local folks out­side are gate are smil­ing as they do all over Indone­sia. I’m feel­ing great…and then, via email, this arrives:

The New Zealand Min­istry of For­eign Affairs and Trade has today updat­ed its trav­el advice for Indone­sia. Full text below.


….. Bali high risk

Our advice against all tourist and oth­er non-essen­tial trav­el extends to Bali…..(the whole thing is here)

I dun­no what to say about this real­ly but I’ll give it a go. I’m aware (more than most gustuofferingI’d say) of the bomb­ings, the after­math to those bomb­ings and the threat to we non-Indone­sians here in Bali. And I’m also aware that our gov­ern­ment has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to warn its cit­i­zens of any real threat to their safe­ty whilst abroad.

And there­in lies my prob­lem with these warn­ings, and, I think, pret­ty much every oth­er New Zealan­der I’ve dis­cussed this with agrees, as do Aus­tralians and Amer­i­cans here.

We live day to day here, we encounter Indone­sians of all reli­gious and polit­i­cal colours and we don’t ever (and I don’t use that word light­ly) feel threat­ened. To be hon­est, as I go about my life here, the per­son­al threat to myself and my fam­i­ly not only feels sub­stan­tial­ly like its less than much of the rest of the plan­et, but, if one is to believe the stats here, it actu­al­ly is.

So let’s toss a few things into the mix – you are warned against vis­it­ing Bali because you are at threat. Non-essen­tial trav­el is a big no no. But this page places New Zealand near the top of the glob­al per-capi­ta fig­ures for crime. And the US and Aus­tralia, the UK and the Unit­ed States all hang around the upper rungs. Have a wan­der through all the stats and you’ll find Indone­sia strange­ly absent from the top of the lists. And Bali is sub­stan­tial­ly more relaxed than the rest of Indone­sia.

Remem­ber, this is an island New Zealan­ders are being warned not to go to because of the extreme per­son­al dan­ger.

Cast your mind back a few years and think of the mul­ti­tude of attacks, mug­gings, rapes and mur­ders of tourists in New Zealand over that time. They still hap­pen and are not uncom­mon. In con­trast last year ago Japan­ese tourist was robbed in a vil­la in Ubud. This was a very, very big deal. It was the first such attack in 25 years and the offend­er was tracked to Lom­bok and then returned here with some noise, to face a very unhap­py judi­cia­ry. A Swedish woman was raped here ear­li­er this year – the first tourist raped on record I’m reli­ably told. The offend­er was Aus­tralian.

Walk­ing through down­town Den­pasar, or most oth­er Indone­sian cities late on a Sat­ur­day night is a damn sight less threat­en­ing than the Auck­land viaduct on a Week­end late night. There is no cul­ture of ran­dom vio­lence in Indone­sia, nor any­where else in South East Asia, unlike the nations that are warn­ing their cit­i­zens not to vis­it. When it exists, it hap­pens often for oth­er rea­sons than the repeat­ed ran­dom­ness found in NZ or Aus­tralia. Crimes against women in Indone­sia, based on UN & NGO fig­ures, are 22 times low­er than they are in the USA. I’ve seen more vio­lence on the aver­age night in High Street than I’ve encoun­tered in Bali over three years.

Of course, the ter­ror attacks hap­pened, but they also hap­pened in New York City, with deaths ten times the Bali toll. And yes, it could hap­pen again. But only a fool thinks it couldn’t hap­pen again in Lon­don, or for that mat­ter Syd­ney (although prob­a­bly not Auck­land, to be hon­est, no-one actu­al­ly knows where it is, let alone plan­ning an attack there). And day to day, all those places are, if you remove the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly unlike­ly chance that the aber­ra­tion of a ter­ror attack will hit you, sub­stan­tial­ly more dan­ger­ous to vis­it than poor slight­ed Bali where the only real dan­ger comes from the lunatics on the road.

So what does the NZ gov­ern­ment say about a trip to the US? That there is some risk but it’s more point­ed advice warns you about, ummm, your visa. For­get the fact that you are sev­en times more like­ly to die vio­lent­ly in NYC or LA than Indone­sia.

I’m real­ly not sure where this warn­ing comes from – is it igno­rance or con­fu­sion, or per­haps both, tinged with a lit­tle good old-fash­ioned racial boysindpsprej­u­dice. I’m lean­ing towards a mix of all three, sim­ply because the warn­ings of vis­its to oth­er coun­tries where tourists are shot, or mugged far more fre­quent­ly are miss­ing from the NZ Safe­trav­el web­site. Or per­haps it’s just an aping of the US web­site (and we all know how bang-on their intel has been in recent years, and how non-xeno­pho­bic they are), via Aus­tralia (who will fol­low the US with­out ques­tion), since the UK and oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries, whilst warn­ing strong­ly about Aceh and Sulawe­si, offer the advice that cau­tion is required in Bali.

That makes sense. It is any­where.

And it looks like much of the rest of the world agrees, as 10,000 del­e­gates from 190 nations arrive today and tomor­row for the largest cli­mate con­fer­ence ever, most, quite clear­ly uncon­cerned that their del­e­gates may find them­selves in lit­tle pieces after a trip to Kuta beach or Semi­nyak.

Makes one a lit­tle ashamed to be a New Zealan­der.

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