Bali Untamed: Day 7–Rani and Her BioRock

Saving her coral reef
Ronnie saving her coral reefs

A long time ago (in the early 1980s), there was this young Australian woman named Rani Muirwig. She discovered a simple little fishing town called Pemuteran, in Bali Indonesia, where there were spectacular coral reefs for snorkeling and diving. Ronnie loved to scuba dive. So, she made this town her new favorite get away place.

In the 1990’s the Indonesian government declared that bombing was the most efficient way to fish. So the fishermen were encouraged to put explosion into the ocean to kill thousands of fish at a time, despite the destructive impact on the coral reefs. Furthermore, the (very poor) fishermen discovered that aquarium fish were fetching a high price on the market. And the best way to catch them was to put cyanide poison into the coral reef to stun the fish so that they can bag them easily.

Evidence of coral reef destruction at a different beach/town that does not have Ronnie angel protection
Evidence of coral reef destruction at a different beach/town that does not have Ronnie angel protection

When Rani came back to her playground some years later, she discovered that most of her reef were either dead or broken into bits and pieces washed onto the shore. The water was dark and dingy and her beautiful colorful fish were all gone. Rani was devastated.

She didn’t know what to do or whom to turn to. Because this was not seen as a problem to anyone there. She tried to complain, but to whom? The fishermen were just trying to feed their family. Pemuteran was a very harsh place, very little rain, no rice growing field, very little tourist, and no factory. She spent many days walking up and down her favorite beach, sucking hard on her cigarettes, trying to think of ways to stop this madness.

Pemuteran: Harsh and dry
Pemuteran: Harsh and dry

Luckily by 1997, because the reef was destroyed, along with global warming, the fishing became much more scarce and the local government had to do something to address their livelihood problem. At the same time, by some divine intervention (the Balinese would say) Rani met Professor Wolf Hibertz on one of her walks on the beach. This wiry gray hair man, was busy setting up some strange new contraption on her beach. As the two got to know each other, she learned that he was working on a BioRock project, where he and his team go around the world to try to revitalize and safe the coral reefs.

Coral Process
Coral Process

The process was very simple. They attached various live corals to a metal framework (this served as the anode), then ran 12 volt electricity to it (via solar power) and attached a cathode nearby, somehow the current flow between the cathode and anode stimulated growth in the coral, five times faster than normal speed.

Excitedly, Rani said “That’s great!!! can you fix all the reef here? How many more of these things can you put in? Problem solved, right?” “Not so fast” he said. “First of all, to revive this coast right here we would require many structures, and that needs money. Secondly if they continue to bomb the reef as we build them up, it would defeat our purpose. We must get the locals involved and change their thinking and ways of fishing. And we can’t change that unless we help them feed their families.”

Thousand of species of fish have come back to Pemuteran
Thousand of species of fish have come back to Pemuteran

Long story short, Rani got involved! She spent the last ten years taking on this project. She became the protector and driving force behind the technology. Today, the reefs in Pemuteran are beautiful and full of fish. I saw them with my own eyes. The gentle waves that lap onto the beach are not cluttered with bits of crumbled corals, unlike other beaches in Bali, where there is no coral reef protection enforcement. The scientists are long gone. Rani is left with a small handful of locals to maintain and care for the project. Tourism is alive and well in Pemuteran, because people want to see the project and the reefs, therefore the town of Pemuteran has a source of income. So the fish are happy, the people are happy, and Rani is happy.

See the metal structure underneath the healthy growing corals?
See the metal structure underneath the healthy growing corals?

The reason why I wrote about Rani, is because of the leadership story underneath the coral reef story. As I listened to her recounting her involvement, looked a the lines on her face, and felt the passion in her words (ten plus years into this project and she was still passionate), I was moved and inspired by her. She is a simple woman, just another global citizen like anyone of us. She didn’t have any grand plan to do good or make a difference. She just loved looking at those pretty fish around the corals. Yet she made a huge difference because she cared and because she got involved. And she is humble about it, doing everything that is needed to keep the project alive and to revitalize Pemuteran. She is not thumping her chest to say “Look at me, Look at me…” She is truly an example of a female leader.

Here’s to you Rani. Thank you for bringing the fish back to Pemuteran.

ps. If you would like to know more details, this 7min. link explains what happened

A new specie of fish just invaded the reef
A new specie of fish just invaded the reef

And if you would like to participate in saving the coral reefs, you can adopt a baby coral. It’s COOL! and makes a meaningful gift for someone. The gift that keeps on giving.

Bali Untamed: Day 6–We became untamed

WE BECAME UNTAMED. Just like every group that gets together for a purpose, there is a cycle that it must go through: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Six days ago when we first met, we were enthusiastic, innocent, and congenial. The idea of a trip to see the untamed parts of Bali was shiny and romantic. We were on our honeymoon with each other. Well after six days of heat, squeezing 7 American bodies into a medium size SUV, compromising different levels of personal needs, varied definitions of what untamed mean therefore expectations are met and not met, we all became a bit untamed ourselves. I have no doubt that we will come together as a group and finish the trip out splendidly. Its just a little fun to watch at the moment.

Interesting Facts about Bali and Balinese that I learned:

Bali has a cast system that has three levels. Unlike India, they can cross marry easily. But wealth and privileges still belong to the highest level.

Either the youngest or oldest son of a Balinese family must stay home to take care of the parents.

When a daughter gets married, she no longer gets the inheritance of her own family. She becomes part of her husbands family. Her husband gets to have his inheritance. (She is s.o.l. as we would say.)

The oldest daughter or daughter in law gets to serve the meal
The oldest daughter or daughter in law gets to serve the meal

Traditional Balinese meals are served to the elders and men of the family first, after that the women get to eat, then the children.

In general, it appears that as much as one half to three quarter of the land property is dedicated space for the family temple, and the left over space is their living quarter.

They pray and do devotion at least twice a day, the average is five times a day.

Temple space is always divided into three sections: the beginning (birth), middle (life), end (death). So in a town there are at least 3 main temples: Beginning, Middle, End. In a home, the temple area is divided that way too.

For Balinese people harmony, spirituality, and community are some of their highest values.

Daily offering morning and evening
Daily offering morning and evening
Flowers for the Spirits, Rice for the ants
Flowers for the Spirits, Rice for the ants

At the core, Balinese believe in Animalism first, then Hinduism or other religions on top of that. So we see little food offering left out everywhere, to honor the trees, the spirits, ancestors, even for the little ants to partake in the days eateries.

Beautiful sarongs are always worn to the temple to show respect to the gods. (The sarongs are HOT to wear. Cause they block the wind from cooling your legs down. Give me shorts any day)

Many people still wear everyday sarongs for most of their daily activities.

Balinese live in a community based society. Most decisions are decided and carried out from community meetings that are held at local banjars (town hall meeting space).

When you meet a Balinese person, they always ask where are you going? and where did you come from so that they can connect with you. They are not being nosy or rude (or planning to attack you if they know where you will be).

- Balinese people still go down to the river and do their washing and bathing. I have been in that river, and it’s refreshing.

Last but not least (for now), I am rereading the Love part of Eat, Pray, Love. Its fun to experience Bali then check it against what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote so I can understand more of what just happened. To me the book is pretty accurate. Oh, and Julia Roberts is in Bali right now finishing up filming for Eat, Pray, Love Lots of hoo-ha’s and gossips about that. Cant wait to see the movie.

Bali Untamed: Day Five–Golden Hour with Agung Rai

Agung Rai, a self appointed Balinese historian and the Founder of ARMA, wanted to give us a tour of HIS Bali at the golden hour of 6am, when the sun rises. Gratefully and excitedly we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30am to be ready for Agung Rai.

Agung Rai and me walking the rice field, admiring the dew and the golden grains

Agung Rai turns out to be the most passionate man about Bali that I know up to this point in my life. To witness how Agung Rai looked at the children going to school, delighted in the glistening dew on the rice field, greeted the hard working farmers, and cherished every chickens, roosters, and stray dogs one would think Bali IS heaven on earth.

Here is why I wanted to tell you about Agung Rai. He is a special kind of leader who succeed because he believed. His own passion, willingness to see beauty in the midst of chaos and impossibilities, and trust his inspiration are what made him so compelling and easy to follow. Agung Rai was borned into a poor farming family, nothing special, no hand-me-down privileges. Yet through hard work, determination, and inspiration, he built this amaizing site called ARMA Resort and Museum, accumulated countless businesses and enterprises, and has been involved in many causes to preserve Bali. We got to stay there four nights. And it was wonderful with historical charm and elegance. He lives with his father, being the youngest son, in his family’s tradition, it is his duty to stay home to take care of the parents. He loves his country, his people and his culture. He dedicates his life to protect it so that he can pass it on to future generations. Being such a visionary, he is providing land to build the future home of the Bali Institute of Leadership. Because he believes in the Institute’s mission of combining East and West leadership philosophy and preserving the wisdom of indigenous culture like Bali.

I have always believed that hard work alone doesn’t bring lasting success. In fact if I have to put a number to it, I would say 60% inspiration and belief and 40% hard work will get us there faster and more fun than if we flip that and make hard work 60%. Agung Rai gives me hope that I am right. (and gosh darn it, it always feels good to be right.)

Bali Untamed: Day 4–Meeting with the Healer

Isn't he beautiful?
Isn't He Beautiful?

“OH MAN!” This was the most untamed event of the trip so far for me. 77-year young internationally-renown Balinese healer, Prince Cokorda Rai was amazing! (yup, another Prince. This one was destined to be a healer. Apparently not everyone gets to be a healer. They had to be chosen.) He lives modestly and has every essence of an indigenous no-nonsense healer exuding years of wisdom and compassion. The sessions are very short and tend to begin with “So what can I do for you?” We got to name our ailment or discomfort, then sat at his feet, and let his fingers do the walking on our face, neck, and head. From that quick tapping, knocking, pushing, poking of our head, neck, and face he could tell right away, what was out of balance, and at odd in our bodies both in this and previous lifetimes. It was FUN!!!

After he ran his 10 digits over my head, he said “All your organs are well. Nothing is wrong with you. You have stress previously, and you carried some sadness from previous lifetimes.” And I started balling. Didn’t really know why I was crying. I just looked at his face, the way he spoke to me, I felt so seen and loved. And what ever it was that was plaguing me just melted into tears. I can still feel the resonance of that exchange days later as I write this post.

Bali Healer Working on Resetting the Body
Bali Healer Working on Resetting the Body

Each one of us had our own special treatment. Keith got his hip fixed and felt 20 years younger. Lauren had a stroke 14 years ago, which left her face twisted and her body unstable. He said he could fix it, if she gives him a month. Others got toxic thoughts removed out of their head, and special leafy remedy to balance her gall bladder and blood (which left her elated with joy and laughter).

I think I am going to cancel my expensive health insurance plan when I get back in the States. Here is my plan: dental work in Thailand, cancer/major blood treatment in China, and little aches and pain out of balance illnesses in Bali. Care to go with me???

Bali Untamed: Day 3

Leadership Discussion with Prince Cokorda Krisna Dalem Agung of the Peliatan Royal Family
Leadership Discussion with Prince Cokorda Krisna Dalem Agung of the Peliatan Royal Family

The highlight of today was our visit with one of the province’s young prince. He spent a luxurious 3 hours with us, hanging out, answering questions, and having lunch with us. It was very easy, simple, humble, and special for all of us. Of course I had to ask him MY set of questions:

Me: “What’s it like to be a modern day prince?”

Prince: “”Well it’s hard to be a modern day prince. Because I have to balance being a prince and making money. Money is king in the modern day. So I do have to work.”

Me: “What do you do? and what is your main job?”

P: “My job is to MANAGE. I manage my businesses, my people, my projects, my household, etc… It is our duty to create jobs for the people. I am not allowed to do manual labor work. But I am expected to create jobs.”

Me: “So how do you manage people’s corruption, and wanting special favors from the prince, and how do you manage the distribution of wealth?

P: “I don’t come across people wanting special favors from me. (Of course I don’t believe that). And here in Bali, we have this guideline for distribution of wealth: 30, 30, 30, 10. 30% for the workers; 30% for the celebrations/temples ceremonies, 30% for the community, and 10% for me and my family. Keeping 10% is enough. And if I focus on creating large projects, 10% of a lot is plenty for us. (I do believe this and am in awe and hopeful for the people of his province).

We had a few more very cool exchange after that. Here’s my take away: The prince is young and entrepreneurial. He, like all of us, are pondering about his rightful place and contribution in this lifetime. Although he does have access to privilege he also has more responsibilities to think about. One of the thing that he kept saying (that I didn’t leap in to bust him on it (yet)) was “I really want to explore this and that, but don’t have enough time to get involved with it.” Doesn’t he sound like a typcial CEO? or manager? or a female leader? oh wait, how about a male leader? or any human being? So, note to the Prince and to ALL, we never have enough time. WE just do what feels good and right. AND stop saying “I don’t have enough time.” It’s not useful.

Before I leave this post, I just have to go back to the 30:30:30:10 rule, and ponder what that might be like if corporate America consider this model of doing business: 30% goes to the workers, 30% goes to reinvesting into the company, 30% goes to building our community, 10% goes to investors?