Jen Yih1 Comment

Enlightened in Asia

Jen Yih1 Comment
Enlightened in Asia

I sh*t my pants in the middle of Shibuya, Tokyo. Yep. Just before Japan, I'd returned to the gentle island of Bali for surf, sun, and rejuvenation. This year, worse than last, the deterioration of Bali due to pollution was unavoidable. My memories from just a year ago of playfulness & days in the Indian Ocean felt ignorant as I, again, paddled my way through plastic and poop. Yeah...


Most tropical islands experience a rainy season, typically in the winter, a surplus of rainfall. This is natural and normal. But what isn't natural or normal is pollution, trash, plastic, pesticides, mismanaged "waste programs", chemically based cleaners, cosmetics, and soaps entering the ocean... When islands like Bali or Oahu or Maui flood they create these raging riverways high from the mountains through the fields and farms and streets and empty out into the ocean. If you've ever witnessed this, you'll be warned not to enter the ocean for a few days until it "dissipates". It's quite obvious, the ocean doesn't look or feel inviting with its murky, muddy, stinky condition. What washes out into the ocean isn't just mud - it's all the disgusting things I mentioned above. In places like Hawaii and the intrusion of GMO farming like Monsanto, you can be sure as shit the reefs are dead. So, you're wondering why I shit my pants in the middle of Tokyo? It's because I'm one of those stupid people that paddles out into contaminated ocean water, takes a big gulp on a duck dive, and ends up sicker than a street dog. Did I mention that my vision was blurry for 6 days as well, I probably should've taken those itchy red eyes after surfing as a sign. 

I love riding a motorbike through Bali, gazing at the rice patty fields & farmers. The gentle sway of the palm trees, dodging stray dogs scavenging scraps. The smell of incense around every corner on a temple stoop. But how could I look past locals fishing & farming in these polluted waters, still primitive, natural, living off the land as they should? To see a country's naturalness crippled by tourism, imports, just felt wrong. I don't need to be an environmentalist, economist, or scientist to see that. Just being human will do. 

Realize, most Indonesians don't ever leave Indonesia, not because they aren't curious about the world but they simply can't afford to. They're locked to their island strictly by the way of their currency juxtaposed to strong dollars like the US, Euro, or Australian dollar. They don't have grocery stores that give a shit if you bring your own canvas bag. If something happens to Indonesia, they have to deal with it - they can't just leave. While, people like me and the rest of the vegan, yogi, bleached out Australian surfers can come and go turning a cheek to the island's environmental problems. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, "If this was happening on California's beaches there would be outrage." But what I don't understand is why we think of Indonesia's environmental problems as an Indonesian problem? Like... "their country, let them deal with it." Eliminate countries and borders and you've just gone one Earth, one ocean, one race. Their problems are our problems... 

There's more to it than that. More and more people flock East, Westerners flooding Southeast Asia for surf trips, yoga & meditation retreats to escape the stresses, pressures, and broken-ness of Western "culture"/"society".

Go, go, go, work, work, work, be this, be that, busy, busy, busy, easier, efficiency, more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger, best, greatest, want, need, hurry. We go about life like there's just not enough for everyone in everything.

As we take ancient philosophies and habits from the East like yoga or meditation or mindfulness or spiritual awakening or connectedness - we have to do it responsibly. We don't know ourselves, a place built on unrealistic expectations & dirty habits. Eastern practices & philosophies have been around far longer than we've existed and will definitely mend our current way of life. But we've got to give what we get. Every day is a new god damn day, look around, see the world, talk to people and be in touch with what is happening right here, right now. No history book, classroom, or TV show is going to give you the concreteness of what the fuck is going on in the world - be a part of it - and not the pollution part of it. Be a part of the solution in some way possible. "Those peoples" problems are our problems. 

*Pollution = environmentally, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, culturally, spiritually. 


I took a walk on the beach my last day in Canggu, Bali. I met Neeta. She was raking trash off the beach, which outnumbered seaweed or any sea life, into a big pile and told me she was going to burn it. She was part of the Canggu Beach Clean Up Crew. Mind you, just a few yards away was the infinity pool of "The Lawn", a very trendy, organic restaurant pool bar zone. 

What happens when you burn plastic?  The most dangerous emissions can be caused by burning plastics containing organoch- lor-based substances like PVC. When such plastics are burned, harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals are emitted. Dioxins are the most toxic to the human organisms.