Tales from abroad: Bali

Credit: Ema Woodward | Photo Staff Credit: Ema Woodward | Photo Staff

As an average college student, I never expected to visit a place like Bali. Yet when my mom invited me to accompany her to attend the Pan-Pacific and South-East Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA) Conference this past May, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. After all, who would say no to a vacation in paradise?

It turns out this trip to Bali was not your typical vacation of sightseeing and relaxing on the beach — it was something far better. While my mom and I did get the opportunity to explore some of Bali, a lot of the time was spent at the conference: attending meetings, discussions, presentations, and getting to know an inspiring group of women.

Basically, PPSEAWA is a non-governmental organization (NGO) associated with the UN that, according to www.ppseawa.org, “supports women and children in the Asia-Pacific region through education, better health, balance in the environment, and peace between its people.”

It sounds just like any of the numerous other organizations claiming to make the world a better place, right? Wrong. PPSEAWA is unique because it focuses on a region of the world encompassing many smaller (and a few larger) countries that we often forget or don’t even know about. Just to name a few members, PPSEAWA includes the Cook Islands, Samoa, Philippines, New Zealand, and Fiji — where my mom grew up.

The coolest thing about PPSEAWA is not so much the exotic nations that are members, but rather what they’ve done. In Indonesia, for example, according to the PPSEAWA website, members “performed a program on helping people whose children were in malnutrition condition and participated in a training program to empower women in the effort of prevention, eradication of drug abuse and of the illicit trading cycle of drugs.”

Being new to Bali and new to PPSEAWA, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had only recently discovered where Bali actually was — a tiny island within a series of smaller islands that make up Indonesia. As for PPSEAWA, it was the mysterious reason why my mom had been glued to her computer for many weeks leading up to the conference. But that was all I knew.

When I stepped inside the Agung Conference Hall for the first time, I immediately sensed what PPSEAWA was all about. I was instantly surrounded by women from all over the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions of the world, speaking different languages and wearing their traditional dresses. Throughout the conference, presentations were given and meetings took place, all of which made me realize one thing: What these women were doing to make a difference in the world, and the projects they were taking on to better the lives of others, was something I wanted to be a part of.

As a new youth member of PPSEAWA, I began to lead discussions and become more active overall as the conference went on. I found myself talking about issues I felt strongly about regarding American society today and comparing it to other societies around the world. I had never had the opportunity to share some of these opinions before, but the environment within the PPSEAWA Conference made it possible.

Even after the conference, the same vibe of positive energy among these women remained, although it didn’t hurt that we were on the beautiful island of Bali. Our last few days in Bali were more typical of what one might expect from a vacation in paradise. Since we were staying at the Inna Grand Beach Bali Hotel & Resort, we took advantage of the luxurious spa, spectacular seafood restaurant, and stunning beach. There was so much more outside the resort that we discovered, too. For example, since the hotel didn’t offer wireless Internet access, we became quite familiar with downtown Sanur whenever we wanted to use the Internet. We also got the chance to explore rice fields, which are a major agricultural industry in Bali. That same day, we visited the artsy region of Ubud, which ended up being an amazing place to enjoy delicious food and endless shopping.

My trip to Bali impacted me in so many ways, but it really came down to two major discoveries. First and foremost, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about PPSEAWA as an organization. Secondly, it further developed my global perspective, as travel often does. This trip to Bali reminded me of how big the world is and how much there is to learn, and I was able to further appreciate both the new things I came across and the familiar things I took for granted. That’s the thing about traveling: It teaches us how to live.