By Gowri Koneswaran, Split this Rock, Washington, DC, December 14, 2016
★ While planning your journey, accept that ethics are not included in the price of your ticket;
★ Tell yourself your currency is helping the country;
★ Do not question government control of the tourism industry;
★ When researching your destination, skip the sections on families in camps,
book a tour even if the army will not give them back their land;
★ Never ask why killing fields have been converted into resorts run by the military;
★ Learn the dominant language, which translates war criminals into heroes;
★ Make eye contact with soldiers and police in the North-East;
★ Inhale island steam from export quality tea, exhale
torture, sexual violence, and surveillance as ongoing strategies;
★ Speak freely in public in your accent of opportunity;
★ When talking about the people, identify them all as Sri Lankans;
★ Do not stare too long at the survivors of genocide;
★ Do not use that word at all;
★ Gaze into the sea that greets occupied Tamil homeland and name it paradise;
★ Collect souvenirs celebrating elephants so your friends envision beauty,
not mass atrocities;
★ Define tourist as none of this involves me;
★ Take photos of every sunset;
★ Always have your passport handy;
★ Keep your conscience secure in the hotel safe.
Used with permission.
Gowri Koneswaran is a Tamil American writer, performing artist, and lawyer. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, environmental protection, the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused in the U.S., and justice and accountability in Sri Lanka. Her publication credits include several poems and two peer-reviewed journal articles on the environmental impacts of farming animals for food. Gowri has performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Atlas Performing Arts Center, SpokenWord Paris, and universities in the U.S. and Canada. She is a Kundiman fellow, poetry coordinator at the non-profit arts organization BloomBars, a poetry events host at Busboys and Poets, senior poetry editor at Jaggery, and co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Gowri shares haiku and senryu on Twitter and Instagram @gowrimozhi.