Since being here in Ubud I have been struggling with the disparity between what the ex-pats have created and what is a Balinese lifestyle.
The ex-pat establishments are a seemingly somewhat elitist lifestyle of raw/vegan eateries, yoga studios, and new-age studios selling spiritual paraphernalia. The Balinese cultural experience includes a balance between good and evil, mostly animal-based dishes and rice, and daily offerings and frequent spiritual celebrations. It has taken me some time to come to terms with one not being more right than the other. And in fact, it wasn’t until I read an article in a local publication (written by a group of ex-pats) that identified the balance that can be achieved through mindful integration and respect, that I began to relax and enjoy what both have to offer.
The publication is Kula and it is sponsored by a group known as the Desa Seni Village Resort. An article in their July/August/September 2012 issue talked about the environment, sustainability, and tourism. Margaret Mead said, “We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.”
When we travel we not only impact the environmental footprint via our modes of transportation, but in our wake we create a displacement of traditional communities, values, and ceremonies. In addition, each country tries to be ‘good hosts’ by adopting large corporate values and products. If we are to promote tourism then we should be basing its development on sustainability – environmental, economical, and ethical.While in Ubud we toured two places promoting such values – The Green School and Big Tree Farms.
Big Tree Farms is where we get our cacao paste, cacao butter, and cacao powder. It was enlightenng to see where they are producing their products. And they have a lot. Their cashew and cacao nib clusters are amazing. And yes, they guarantee their cashews are absolutely raw – as is everything there. They go to great lengths to ensure that nothing is heated over 105 degrees. The only place I believe where you can get that guarantee as well as be assured that everything is organic and sustainable. They have 9,000 farmers working for them – 4,000 of which produce the cacao. They help the farmers gain organic status and support their farming practices. It doesn’t matter if it is a farmer who has a 20 by 20 plot or a huge plantation. The factory is remarkably clean, all bamboo, no flies or ants or rats. And we’re talking about a structure that is open to the elements in many areas. It truly is something to see.
The Green School has been in operation for 5 years and has maybe 200 students. Again an amazing cluster of bamboo structures support by 170 solar panels. They are 80% off the grid. They have children from preschool at age 3 to grade 12. Their first graduating class will be this year. They financially support 21 Balinese children. Tuition is $10,000 a year. Not inexpensive. The curriculum covers academics but also sustainable and environmental practices. For example they have farm animals that the children need to care for, they grow gardens and rice, they have some birds in captivity which were near extinction which they have brought back in numbers, they do performing arts, they have both an English speaking and Balinese speaking teacher in each classroom as well as an assistant.
They have a few profitable businesses onsite that the parents have established such as FREAK Coffee which is cold pressed and becoming quite popular here in Ubud. And then there is the Living Food Lab where our chef Estela Roderiguez volunteered that provides raw food options for children and families on site. These on site businesses give back to the school and the community.
As we walked around this jungle paradise, covering many, many acres I thought of our grandchildren and that their daily life is a ‘Green School’ on Salt Spring. Granted going to school in a jungle would be a different experience and there are children attending the Green School from Salt Spring Island. It was very inspirational being there. Both the school and the farm are exceptional places that honour the environment, support the local economy, and believe in following your dream, while sustaining the host community.
The article in the Kula magazine summarizes with the following: “Tourism has to be humanized and not just driven by market forces and motivated solely by profit. The participation of the local people and attempts to incorporate their cultures and traditions, call for respect of their environment and communities. “Forty years ago Barbara Ward (Only One Earth, UN Conference on the Human Environment – Stockholm, 1972) said, ‘We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as the other creatures do.’”