Tucked in a valley of the densely jungled mountains, north-westward of Chiang Mai, there lives a man providing for his wife and daughter in the only way he can: farming. His practices are organic and natural, the only he’s ever known. The gates are open for anyone the world round to come and spend time, contribute to the running of the farm, learn something about growing food and take part in evening meditation. The Mindful Farm is a practice of living together.
Today I’d like to introduce you to a sport discipline. This would be completely irrelevant for this blog if not the fact that if you wanna freedive there’s one thing you must make sure you do – drop the tension.
We were in Kaula Lumper last week, out for lunch with an ex-college of Jurek’s. Long before we met, Jurek worked 8 months for an IT firm in the ugliest building in the KLCC precinct. Passing through KL this time around called for lots of catching up with friends unseen for years.
This particular friend asked questions I hadn’t been asked for a long time, with a directness that demanded answers, and something I at first mistook for aggression. “So travelling is great, but at some point you have to stop and get a job, what are you going to do for money?” I reacted. Fell into the trap of defensiveness. Fumbled to justifying myself and voiced thoughts about potential development work, courses I may or may not take and other ideas I’m carrying round in my pocket. Answers I’d pull out for a worried grandma.
Later, it appeared the question was masking something quite different, given away by a flippant comment delivered in the same masculine tone, that almost had it slip past me unnoticed. “Yeah, I really hate this company since that happened. But I don’t want to leave until I have the next job lined up. I’m not the type of person who is okay with not having a plan. I mean, I can’t just do what you guys are doing.” A convoluted, backhanded compliment. On surface glance, I’d thought it a stab. A dig that we’re free wheeling hippies who are going to have to give up these idealistic dreams at some point and suit up to an office for a salary like the rest of the world. But this wasn’t it. I examined more closely. The bravo was a cover up. This was about his own fear.
Too sold on the collard shirt, sitting across the table in the nice restaurant in the swish new mall that commerce built, I nodded and the conversation continued without missing a beat. I kept the peace but I missed the opportunity.
Well, there’s a different response I’d like to give to this comment. A turn I’d have liked the conversation route to have taken. I USED TO BE A PERSON WHO NEEDED A PLAN. I’ve sat in that chair. In my mind, I’ve rationalised away the hopes and actions of those who are brave enough to be living out their dreams. I’ve been judgemental of those who actually seem to be genuinely happy. I’ve even been the person asking those questions that pull these people back down to earth from the higher place they’re acting from. All of this because I was scared.
We want you to meet our friends from eastern Indonesia. They’re a student organisation called MITRA, or ‘partners’ in Bahasa Indonesia. It stands for Mahasiswa Indonesia Timur Relasi Asing, or East Indonesian Students Foreign Relations Society. Their goal? To empower the students of East Indonesia. After travelling East-West across Indonesia, I understand why MITRA’s work is so important.
From the outside, Indonesia seems to be another Muslim, South East Asian country. But it’s actually a complex and extremely diverse “empire” ruling over many different nations and regions, with differing languages, customs and even climates. This is a country made up of more than 17000 islands! I didn’t realise before arrival that Indonesia is the world’s 4th largest population! However, 58% of these people live on Java – the most densely populated island in the world. This skewed population density makes for inequality of resources, as allocated by the central-focused government.
During our visit we met a bunch of passionate people with exciting ideas to help shape the future of Timor-Leste. While you’ll find plenty of foreign aid workers in this new country, surely the Timor of tomorrow is best shaped by those who know it best: Timorese people. Here is a brief look at just some of the cool projects we discovered:
– Arte Moris: walking in off the dusty streets of Dili into the Arte Moris gardens is like arriving in the Berlin underground art scene… In a tropical jungle?! Amazing sculptures made almost entirely of collected rubbish. Litter is everywhere in Timor-Leste, with waterways often looking more like rubbish tips. There is no waste system in place and at best it’ll be burned (which of course isn’t good at all!). So to find people using this rubbish as the raw material to make something beautiful is really exciting. The team of artists who live and work at Atre Moris (the vibe is totally ‘artists squat’), run workshops to encourage local youth in creative expression, interwoven with themes surrounding the environment. Inside we caught an exhibition of two local artists, giving insight into daily life in Dili. Other works combine traditional handicrafts into modern works.
Recently my sister said on Facebook “I want to live in a world where money doesn’t mean a thing.” Some of her friends said “me too!”, others “dream on!”
Well, such world does exist. Not far from Nimbin, New South Wales, we met a lovely, down-to-earth couple living on their permaculture farm, without money. They said they do use some, but try to limit it as much as possible, and it has a very positive impact on their lives.
That’s pretty advanced though. It’s a long way and not everybody would be comfortable with getting to this stage. But what most of us don’t realize is that you can stay being who you are, stay cool, while getting to be less tied to your wallet. And I guarantee it’ll make you happy! Here’s a few tips on what to start with.
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We’re a couple of two; Wendy, an Australian, 24 years old and Jurek (pron. yoo-rek, as in ‘you reckon’), a 28 year old Pole. We haven’t always been the people we are now. We haven’t always done the kind of things we now find ourselves doing. Because, like most people, we’ve been too scared. Yet here we are! And we’ve decided it’s a journey worth sharing. Turns out living the life you only let yourself dream about starts with one small step… Drop the tension!