Tag Archives | ethics

The Great White Lake and the pathetic dodgy vehicles.


They have these cool Russian vans in Mongolia. Like the icecream, Mongolians think that anything from Russia is superior (excepting of course, occupation and nation wide hunger. Eighteen years later, the youth of Mongolia don’t really remember.)

We expected such a van when we emerged, bags packed, from our hostel.  We were leaving Tsetserleg for the Great White Lake 180kms away.  Instead we found a really dodgy brothers van, whose boot didn’t shut.  We piled in, along with three others sharing the costs.  Then two people introduced to us as ‘the driver’s brother’ and ‘the driver’s mother’ roll started it.  Uh oh.

click here to read what happened next


On not visiting an orphanage in Cambodia

A long time ago, Chris and I worked in an institutional care setting as foster parents with a number of vulnerable children. We lived in the same house, and were responsible for their everyday needs. We were ‘foster mum’ and ‘foster dad’ . It was hard.

Anyway, not once did a mini van full of tourists pull up and come in to hug, kiss and photograph the children. I would have called the police!! And never, ever, did the children have to dress up and dance to earn enough money to buy themselves food and clothing.

No, they were considered vulnerable, and entitled to privacy and security. As a matter of basic human rights they also received education, recreation, food, clothing shelter and participated appropriately in the community. I cannot tell you their names or why they were in care. I certainly can’t put their photos online.  The child protection system in Australia has many shortcomings, but this much at least, I believe, was done right.

In Cambodia, however, its a very different story.

Click here to read it


Elephant adventure

When our quadruplets were little toddlers, and my life invoved very little but bottles of milk, laundry and playing random roulette with nap time coordination, I had a frequent and recurring thought.

“when you guys are seven, I’ll take you to India to ride an elephant.”

So they were eight, and this is Thailand, but WE DID IT!!  I’ll let them tell the story:


Tin Tin on rules of riding Thai elephants.

“We all had a riding lesson in the morning before going on our jungle trek. The main challenge for me riding an elephant was sitting up straight and remembering the words. To make the elephant go you say ‘heng!’ To make the elephant stop you say ‘how!’ To turn left, you kick the right ear and say ‘kwe’. It was funny how the elephant went backwards, you had to say ‘toi-toi’ and wiggle yourself forwards and backwards.”


Sparky and her custom-made insert fitted perfectly on the elephant’s seat.

“Riding elephants was exciting and the best. Tintin was clever” – remembering how Tintin held me tight and stopped me from falling off when the elephant kept leaning and trying to roll us off.

And away they go!


Meena – what’s going on?

“As we started our jungle trek we went up a steep hill. Dad was driving, Snowy was next to me and I was on the side closest to the edge. If the elephant fell off the steep ledge, the elephant and everyone would have landed on me.”


Meena on Driving Miss Daisy:

“After we washed the elaphants, I rode my elephant with Mum and Baby Boy back to the farm. It was really fun to drive. It was scary for the first few minutes before I got used to it. We rode on red sand back up a little hill to the farm.”


Time to wash elephants.


TinTin on the finer points of washing elephants.

“It wasn’t just the elephant that was washed and scrubbed; we got washed as well. When I started, I thought my top half would stay dry but once the elephant sprayed me I figured I might as well get all wet – so I did.”


Chris on playing with the elephants:

“Of course elephants are strong. They lug their 3 or 4 tonnes around all day. I was still surprised how effortessly my elephant lifted Meena and I with his trunk up and flung us over his head.”


Final remarks by Snowy.

“Riding elephants is fun and you would all love it. My favourite part was jumping off the elephant and I’d love to do it again.”



Later we watched this doco


“We were really upset to see how elephants are trained. Why can’t people just make friends with them instead of hititng them?


“I hope the ones we rode weren’t hit. I’m glad we didn’t go to see the elephants painting.”

So, it was a fun day, a sad learning experience and a promise finally fulfilled. We won’t ride elephants again, but what WILL we do?


There are all sorts of ethical issues when traveling, how should we go about deciding what to participate in?  How do YOU make these decisions?




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