The Ugly Truth
If you’ve been following any of my social media or blog blah blah blah it really looks like its all stars and butterflies doesn’t it? Magical islands, surf, sunshine, and beautiful remote beaches. It’s true! But, there’s a lot more truth behind these photos than you think and unfortunately it is an ugly one, sort of like when I wash off my mascara and de-filter my photos…
Ugly Truth #1 The Plastic Devil
The first morning in Bali, I was staying in a treehouse up the road from Dreamland and Balangan Beach. Christina (friend) and I took a scooter ride down to take a dip. We’d woken up in the hot sticky jungle and were craving the water, I couldn’t wait to taste the salt on my lips.
As I walked down the stairwell to the beach I started to notice piles of muddy driftwood. Under the driftwood was a few plastic bottles, and as I continued to the beach behind some makeshift shacks of cafes and surf board rentals - there was massive piles of plastic bottles, I’m not talking 10-20, but 100’s.
I went to the water, it was low tide. A stray dog with mange ran up to me just to check out if I had anything to offer him, I didn’t but a pat on the head. I waded into the water, warm, creepily warm…like contract a parasite or bacteria warm. Around me floated little islands of seaweed and sticks, if you looked close enough you’d see plastic bags of, I don’t know, ramen, chips, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, lids, and juice cartons. I waded further out in absolute disbelief, feeling naive and ignorant. I reached my hand in the water and pulled up a laundry detergent bag. Like out of a scary movie, I spun around and there was trash everywhere…plastic on plastic on plastic on plastic. Islands of plastic.
Of course, I started asking a lot of questions hoping to burst my naive bubble. China, Java, Jakarta supposedly dump all their waste into the ocean, still...and it doesn't just disappear or sink, it shows up on the Balinese beaches, in the wildlife. Meanwhile, Norway and Sweden are running out of plastic and waste since they're busy converting it to energy, they're actually BUYING trash off other countries. Read more about that here... This was author Ernest Callenbach's "Ecotopia" dream come true, great read if you care about the future of the world. Go Norway/Sweden! But...Indonesia, how can we help you? I suppose just chatting about it can make a difference, my cab driver and I got into a deep discussion as I pounded him with questions about the plastic problem. I told him about re-using waterbottles and not using the plastic bags at the grocery store, educated him about how places like San Francisco have permanently banned plastic like that - he was mind blown! He said he was going to bring a sack to the store and get a sustainable waterbottle to refill. In my heart, I don't think he was saying that just to please me. He was really excited to take that information home to his small farming village (also ridden with unusual droughts and flooding).
Ugly Truth #2 Survival of the Fittest
A few days later, I decided to go for a little jog in the early morning to beat the heat. I’m running towards Echo Beach in Canggu. I’m literally smiling as I run through rice fields, passing cows, and stray dogs are chasing me playfully. I come to a bridge and almost had a heart attack when I heard screeching. I look down and to my right was a cuddle puddle of two puppies that fit in the palm of my hand. They were too young to be stranded from their mom dog, wherever she was, but they were orphaned! They started following me and licking my feet, so desperate, barking and crying. I looked closer and they were covered in little ants, so dirty in mud from the rainstorm the night before. I didn’t really want to touch them bare handed because they were seriously, flee infested, most likely and if you’ve ever seen my hair in person, its animalistic - I could easily contract some flees.
Near the bridge, that dropped down about 20 feet into a river, there was a fresh, rain water stream. I wrapped puppy number 1 in a banana leaf and took him to the stream to drink some water and wash him off. Puppy number 2 who stood on the bridge barking at me, he seemed worried where I was taking his little brother. I was walking back up the bridge coming for puppy #2’s bath and he went to the edge of the bridge, looked down at the rushing river, and jumped. My heart sank and I ran to the bridge where he’d jumped and looked down, I couldn’t find him. I ran downstream to the other side of the bridge to try and spot him, nothing…In my professional opinion, these pups were too young to be able to swim in a deep rushing river. Yeah, I just witnessed puppy suicide and the poor pup that I held in the banana leaf was stranded!!! I shamefully walked this pup to the beach where there were other stray dogs, full of mange, bloody, scrounging for scraps and attention, and had to leave him there in hopes his mom might come for him. Trust me, I wanted to take him home - but…the longer you stay in Indonesia and see dogs running free and realize that they kill hundreds of them a year because the stray dog population continues to increase, you realize it's really survival of the fittest out here (not just amongst animals) and these dogs were meant to stay wild. I couldn't save them and looking back, maybe I just shouldn’t have interfered with nature… So, if you're one of those people with an $10,000 shihtzu dressed in a skirt and shoes that eats only organics and thinking of adopting another dog, maybe go to Indonesia and pick one up from the beach since there's quite the surplus.
Ugly Truth #3 Religion, one that isn't yours.
In October 2002, Kuta, a super young party tourist scene on Bali was bombed, killing 202 people including Australians, Indonesians, and 20 others of other nationalities. After further investigation of the suicide bombs, it appeared as if Osama bin Laden had been one of the masterminds behind the inhumane scheme & was directly linked to the United States war on terror and Australia’s role in the liberation of East Timor. Of course, when any Westerner hear’s the words terrorist attack, bombing, and linkage to Osama bin Laden - there’s a looming Muslim shame lurking above it all. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, as well as Hindu, and some Buddhists. In fact, Bali is mostly Hindu. Before I left, I had side comments from people mentioning this bombing, 15 years ago, and links to the Muslim religion, and thanks to the new President whose been banning Muslims from entering the US - there was even more heat, commentary, & fear from outsiders around the topic.
The Balinese and Hindu worshippers I met and saw in Bali, may have been some of the most peaceful and beautiful people I’ve ever seen, in regard to their faith. Every single day there’s a celebration in Bali, mostly “offerings” which comprise of a small amount of flowers, food, maybe even a cigarette that is put out in front of their home, entry or passage way to give to their Gods. Every single day they do this…They pray, celebrate, and give thanks for birth, death, marriage, just like “we” do with beautiful linens, dances, music, and wardrobes. Meanwhile, many of us are reading self-help books about how to "give thanks" or "find gratitude" in the little things we take for granted vs. gratitude and appreciation is ingrained deep into the DNA of the Indonesians.
The people I spoke with are super karmic, meaning the way they act now (or in the past) decides their fate and future existence - there’s a direct cause and effect…and you can REALLY feel that they believe this... They are so generous, helpful, and its as if they’d never do something wrong or shameful because, well, why would you ever want to mess with your own destiny. That'd be masochistic.
One of my main taxi drivers (who I hired on a regular basis) said he didn’t travel very much, but when he did it was for a pilgrimage - to visit other temples and parts of Indonesia to pray and give thanks. I felt like a P.O.S. traveling simply to learn and gain a new understanding for the human race, but no, he travels to pray…
As an American and the chain of events going on with Muslims in my home country, this is all just crazy. Yes, we need to be vigilant to the micro-minority group of terrorists that hate the USA and its allies but those psychos don’t represent an ENTIRE religious group. It’s a hard one to swallow, but the Muslim, as well as Hindu, faith’s are just great. And as far as I'm concern, I don't care if you worship God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or the Easter Bunny, we're all playing for the same team, trying to survive in a confusing world. Like my boy the Dalai Lama would say: "Our prime purpose in life is to help others, if you can't help them, at least don't harm them."
Check out this video: What does it mean to be Muslim?
So, what's the moral of the story here? Educate the human race about recycling and waste management, maybe dogs aren't mean to be trapped in a New York City flat, or hopes to be less discriminatory against people in regards to their faith and spirituality? All of the above.