I know it has taken me a few months to get this whole story out. More often than not I write things in my head and then edit, edit, edit them down until they are appropriate for the general publics' eyes. I won't lie, Bali took an emotional toll on me. I felt grief, anger, despair, hopelessness, and more anger. It wasn't until our second to last day on the island that I started to see a grain of hope.
The end of our journey took us to the Green School. The Green School is literally just as it sounds. Situated in the middle of the forest, the school is built from bamboo and other natural materials. In addition to standard school subjects, the students garden, compost, save seeds, create things with their own hands, learn about their surroundings and organize and implement programs to help with the trash problem on the island. It is a community lead by brilliant, driven, enthusiastic people.
After nearly two weeks in the depths of despair, disgust and loathing of our insatiable plastic consumption, this little oasis of conservation, education and action was like a cool breeze in a hot desert. We had a tour of the campus and I was blown away. The bamboo buildings weren't quaint huts, they were architectural feats. Each structure was built thoughtfully, functionally and gracefully to mirror the jungle around them. Students are international and local which means that kids from the island will actually be able to help heal their own land. These kids are learning how to solve some very serious problems and are probably the best hope the island (and the rest of the world) has.
When I mentioned that we were going to Bali, people told me I was going to fall in love with this "amazing, magical, spiritual, life changing" place. I might have a different selection of adjectives to describe the island but I do agree with the "life changing" part. It is hard to imagine what the island was like as little as 20 years ago. I'm afraid the amazing magical isle my predecessors spoke of it now buried under mountains of trash. While I honestly believe that things will never be the same, I truly hope that the island has a chance to heal and move forward.
How has Bali changed me? Before our trip I tried, to the best of my ability, to cut plastic and unnecessary waste out of my daily life. Now, I try harder. It isn't easy in this era of safety and sterility but I try to remind myself that every little bit helps. No plastic bags at the store. I shop in the bulk section as much as possible. Mike and I hit up the farmers market for everything from veggies to soap so that we can avoid as much extra packaging as possible. Biodegradable poop bags for our dog. I will reuse or recycle the plastic containers I do have and suppress the urge to throw out things in my car at the gas station if I can recycle them when I get home.
This is the part where I am tempted to get really preachy but a wise friend once told me that in order for people to make a change they need a reason not a lecture. So find a reason. Get out of your comfort zone. Do some research. Make a change. Make a difference.