Back in Australia!

We’re back!
Our year long slow global odyssey has brought us back to Australia where we are now settling and deciding where we should be based for the next years ahead.
Our journey is impossible to describe in a single word – and little by little I will try to share some of the stand-out experiences we had along the way.  As a family, we have grown and deepened our connection with each other, our connections with friends and family, with the Earth – we have woven into our being strands of multi-colour fibres, shining and textured - strong, enduring, resilient, flexible. We are so very grateful for this experience.
For the time-being we are still on ‘holiday’, renting a beachside apartment, just a few minutes walk to the kid’s school. Pacha and Yani have been able to go surfing almost every morning before school – watching the sunrise and sharing the waves with the dolphins.  They have been warmly welcomed and although no-one is really interested in hearing all the travel stories, somehow there is an appreciation of the kind of kids that Pacha and Yani are right now – fun, alive, fearless and full of understanding about how very lucky we are to live here!
Thank-you for your patience with this blog. My expectations about being able to keep up with some writing along the way were obviously not met! I have no real excuse – somehow just enjoying the moments of where we were and dealing with the daily challenges of travel meant I just didn’t find myself with an urge to write it down. Maybe it was because it was all uploaded on facebook (please check my facebook page for photos) there was less of a need to write it down…In any case, my apologies for the lack of communication…
Deep thanks to everyone who opened their hearts and homes to us on our travels...

One of our last days on our journey, Pacha took this beautiful photo on the beach in Hossegor.


A quick note from Ecuador

It's been too long - and I have no excuses!
My sincere apologies to people who have been waiting for an update - we have now been in Ecuador for almost 3 months catching up with family, friends and projects after an amazing (and busy!) 'slow' tour in Japan. We are indebted to the kindness and generosity of our friends in Japan...
I hope to be able to post a longer update soon - but in the meantime, here is Pacha's surf blog:
http://pachalina.wordpress.com/  - that gives you a bit more of an idea about what we've been up to. 
You are also welcome to find us on facebook (Anja Light) for photos. 
And finally - I hope this video (http://youtu.be/OqtZPqNy-sk) will make you smile - an introduction (from the eyes of Pacha and Yani) of the Cerro Seco Reserve.


Too fast for a Sloth...

Slow Mother Blog
(Maybe too fast for a Sloth!)
‘Mum, you can’t be slow – it’s impossible for you!’
This is Pacha’s response to my singing the song words (‘cos, I’m going Slow…going with the flow…') while driving the car, running around between places, trying to calm myself down…Singing can be a kind of self hypnosis really, the more stressful the situation, the more I try to breath and let go – a little like riding a horse, or a surfboard, or a roller coaster - if you are too rigid you are more likely to get hurt…
I do rather agree with Pacha –
I’ve never really been a slow person - definitely more like a hummingbird with a short attention span! But still, I do understand the intention and value of going slow and am so grateful for the slow teachers in my life. I am so grateful to have songs to remind me - and children who will always reflect their honest opinion!
We returned to Australia at the end of February so I could help organise the ‘Economics of
Happiness’ conference in Byron Bay. 

It was also a wonderful chance to reconnect with family and friends, starting with a surfing birthday celebration for Pacha. It is so exciting to see the love for a nature, ocean life bubbling up in Pacha and her friends. When she spent a week with her best buddies in Evans Heads recently, they got up at
5 am every morning to go surfing before school! 12 year old girls surfing before school!! This gives me so much hope!

The Economics of Happiness conference was a great success. The 20 or so speakers (including fellow Sloth Keibo Oiwa) from a dozen countries were inspiring and inspired, along with the 400 plus audience members. It was an intense spiritual practice for me – taking care, supporting, backing up, responding to needs, averting disasters – all in the environment of some of the most evolved thinkers and ‘doers’ on the planet.  

On top of the challenge of the conference, just a few days before the event my Mother took ill and was admitted into hospital with a blood infection…While trying to ‘be there’ for my Mum, Pacha and Yani needed to be looked after, just as I was trying to hold many threads together in Byron Bay…

Somehow we made it through and Pacha was even able to come along to part of the conference and meet her surfing hero, Dave Rastovich. Wonderful friends took care of Yani and Pacha, Mum slowly
recovered in the hospital (with a few speedy dashes from Byron Bay to visit her), I got by on just a few hours of sleep and stayed healthy somehow…

I learned so many things about myself and others – the delicate balance of being there to hold
others and keep yourself together. Humans and their various responses under pressure.

I learnt that a hospital may be one of the worst places to ‘get well’ after a sickness. Yes, they are essential in an emergency – they help to avert death, but they don't really nurture life…To get well we need real, kind, human contact; we need sun and good fresh air, we need bright joyful reminders of life, we need nutritious food and abundant clean water.  To get well we need love.
The first time I went to visit Mum I brought home grown flowers and took her to sit in the sun…she
felt so cold from the air conditioning and they didn’t give her enough warm blankets; a small (600ml) bottle of water was provided to patients for the day…I don’t want to keep criticising because the emergency medical treatment may well have saved her life and that the vast majority of the world’s population don’t have the availability of this free service, but I kept thinking there must be a way to bring more healing into hospitals…

Now we have less than a week to go before we return to our travels, starting with 2 months in Japan.
We are excited and nervous, torn again between leaving our ‘comforts’ to jumping into the unknown but very happy about meeting our beautiful friends and family in so many different countries. Pacha and Yani are getting ready, practicing some songs and dance routines, packing in their skateboards (surfboards are just a little too difficult this time) and making the most of their last days in Australia for a while!


Bali #2 Surfing Wonderland...

The kids love surfing - So we go surfing.

Surfing was one of our main reasons to come to Bali - the place world famous for an incredible range of waves along with warm water, gentle culture and low cost living. Now our time is almost finished here and I share some of the diary notes I have tapped into my phone along the way (mostly while waiting for the children to come in to shore!). For Pacha's surfing stories - take a look here: http://pachalina.wordpress.com/

1 Feb Serangan

Grounded again while waiting for the kids to come in from the ocean...it may never happen!
There are at least 50 people out there trying to catch the same infrequent waves, but that doesn't seem to stop the kids from waiting, trying, waiting...it's been 6 hours...sigh...
Yani told me later that he was helping a local grom get onto the waves.

6 Feb Nusa Lembongan

It is yet another morning of beautiful clear sky day. We were up at dawn to check on the waves...nup, not ready yet - like checking on some bread in the oven, or a fermentation process of some kind - but the surf is even less predictable unless, perhaps, you are a meteorologist and are watching the weather satelites...

It teaches patience and humility, it teaches living in the moment and seizing the opportunity when it arises.

A couple of days ago we had one of our best days ever - setting off on a motor scooter: 2 kids, 2 surfboards and one mother...we drove so slowly - about the speed of bicycle riding - laughing and singing and joyfully interacting with the people we passed along the way. Their advice was 'slowly, slowly' - but it was hard to imagine going much slower than we were - so we laughed some more!

This island of Nusa Lembongan doesn't have cars, just motor scooters and a few small trucks. To reach an even smaller island of Ceningan, you must cross an 80 metre suspension bridge just over a metre wide, the timber slats clack clacking away under the wheels. The whole way we chorused: 'woh, woh, woh' interspersed with laughter and joyous whoops as we made over without incident.

We kept riding along the bumpy, narrow tracks up to the most beautiful point where people jump off the cliffs into manta ray filled crystal blue waters. A little further along was a 'secret' surf spot - big, fat, powerful waves - shifting through shades.

I get into the water - there are big waves, and I have a big wipeout, but just being out there giving confidence to Pacha to catch a wonderful wave...there is still a place for Mum!

Unlike most kids who escape their parents to take on more risk - Pacha and Yani seem to like me near when they challenge their own fear boundaries...feels good.

Pacha describes the amazing sensation of catching a wave over crystal clear water looking down at stunning coral as she glides by...priceless moment that makes life worth living...

10 Feb 

Swimming with giant manta rays
Children fearless in the great heaving ocean - bountiful ocean...
some rubbish floating around, an image that must come to mind when we see any packaging of any kind...
Kids connecting without language with French kids along the way...
So joyful - always the sound of laughter...

15 Feb Bukit Peninsula

Our friend and surf guide Damien eventually finds us waiting on the roadside for a full day of wave searching on the holy grail of concentrated surf spots - the Bukit Peninsula. Uluwatu, Balangan, Dreamland - wave after wave of lefts and rights, barrels and power any variety of levels. At this time of year (monsoon) it's not supposed to be that good - and it's partly why we've stuck to the east coast, but it looks fine today!

The kids have paddled out with Damien, butterflies in their stomachs as always, so excited to get into the surf - they are so far away I have no hope of picking them out of the crowd, but I trust that they're getting some waves...I've bought one of those waterproof pouches so I can take photos of them in the water - leave it till later when the wave is easier to get to!

The highest water level from the tide in the cave Damien has experienced, I watch my children disappear into the shadows, water crashing on the rocks - my heart in my mouth as I encourage Yani that it's going to be fine but inside I'm doubtful that he will go ahead...And he's gone!!!

My heart is beating furiously now as I scramble up the hill to see if they made it through...there they are! No looking back - paddling into the deep blue horizon. Pacha gets one of the first long waves and I can see she has taken Damien's advice to keep her left hand still - she's slowly getting the style and losing her windmills!

Pacha and Yani love leaping!


Bali Time #1

It has already been a month since we have arrived in Indonesia. We have made a kind of base in Sanur, Bali where the kids can enjoy the ocean nearby, and I can enjoy feeling a little productive with a wifi internet connection and a laptop on loan. It is a beautiful place and despite the monsoon season, almost everyday there is some blue sky and warm sun! Everyday starts with a plate of tropical fruit and burst of sunlight on our little balcony.

We have recently spent a few days with my friend Alex Ryan – who remembers just about every detail of our ‘mission’ to the jungle in Kalimantan, Borneo, some 20 years ago. Alex says this was a turning point in her life – she met the love of her life in Kalimantan and now Indonesia has become her home. We hadn’t met since then, but have heard of each other from other mutual friends. We laughed about the similarity in our son's names (Alex's second son is 'Yan' - nicknamed 'Yani') and marvelled at the interesting timing we both built our homes out of reclaimed/thrown away materials at almost exactly the same time (around 2009).

Alex now lives in the famous Balinese cultural centre of Ubud with her husband (from Kalimantan) and three sons, doing a hundred things at once! They’ve built a beautiful home from reclaimed timber and open this to guests and visitors (http://www.pondoklangon.com/), they’ve been instrumental in the local campaigns to reduce plastic bag use and recycling initiatives, they’ve supported community NGOs on a wide range of campaigns and they’ve created a successful family business that promotes and sells reclaimed timber.  If you know anyone who is looking for a completely ethical source of beautiful timber, to be cherished for many lifetimes – please check their web page:http://www.kaltimber.com/

We talked for hours and seemed to have come to similar reflections on life. For both of us the priority is our children, supporting them in their own life journey and celebrating their joy and passion for life. We still do what we can do in service to the Earth, using the skills and experience we’ve accumulated over the past 20+ years, integrating this into our parenting by heart.  We talked about the daily, even momentary decisions and choices we must make for their welfare and for preparing them for what looks to be an uncertain future ahead. It is a constant dance, a constant juggle of priorities and we can only try to trust that our loving intention will guide us in the right direction…
High tech kids at Pondok Langon

The view from Alex and Yoga's home










最終的に、私は、この経済構造を変えない限り、世界中のどこの森林や人々を本当に保護する方法がないということに気づきました―私たちは、根本的に考え方や暮らし方を変える必要があります― それこそが私が行おうとしていることですし、だからこそ、私がサラワクを訪れてから、20年以上経っているのです。

  ◆ ◆ ◆





私たちは多くの吉兆に出会いました: ちょっとした天気雨、川の上のつばめの一群、コワイというサイチョウの鳴き声、S字形の雲、ハチドリ。。。これによって私は、この話をこのブログで共有しようということを思い出したのです。





walking in my footsteps...

 My apologies to people who found my last post a little cryptic: 'Sarawak'? What's Sarawak? Why did you go back? why couldn't you go back earlier? what are you talking about?

It's a long story and someday I'll make the time to write it up properly...but for now, here's a short version:

Sarawak is a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, with the fastest rates of logging from around 20 years ago, threatening not only the forests but the culture and survival of tribal peoples including one of the world's last tribes of nomadic hunter-gathers, the gentle, peaceful Penan. As part of the global protest movement I campaigned for an end to tropical timber waste in the largest market, Japan, and tried to support the Penan by sharing their message globally. In an act of urgency and desperation to get international attention focussed on the issue and in solidarity with the hundreds of Penan who had been arrested for peacefully blockading the logging roads over many years, 8 of us (from Australia, the UK, the USA and Germany) climbed up cranes to stop them loading logs onto ships bound for Japan in 1991 - I brought my guitar and sang (no small feat at the top of a crane!). As a result we were jailed for up to 2 months in Malaysia for 'criminal trespass with intention to annoy'. The authorities called us 'eco-terrorists', local legal representatives supported us, the Penan people perhaps sensed some brief empowerment, Malaysian NGOs distanced themselves from these hot headed foreign activists and the logging continued faster than ever...After jail time we were deported and told never allowed to return...I returned quietly over the border from Indonesia about a year later but felt ineffective in helping...I campaigned in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Canada...but the logging continued, morphing into palm oil plantations as the easiest areas to access were logged out...finally I realised there was no way to truly protect any forest or people anywhere in the world without changing our economic structure - we need to fundamentally change our way of thinking and our way of living...so that's what I've been trying to do, and that's why it has been over 20 years since I visited Sarawak.
Back to the forest
(December 16, 2012)

I'm sitting on the banks of the Limbang river watching Pacha and Yani jump in along with a bunch of Penan children. We are in L. Gita - a small semi settlement of some 10 families. Every so often from a different direction one or two other Penan drift in - the word had gotten out that it is time for a gathering.

Yesterday we travelled by 4wheel drive from Lawas - time becoming irrelevant as we wait till things are ready before gathering in prayer for good blessings before we go.

Our journey was blessed - fine, clear weather as we catch an unobscured glimpse of the sacred Batu Lawi, the last destination of our friend Bruno Manser...Memories of the many visits to this place come flooding back, tears and appreciation...the logging trucks keep coming...communities here have also been fighting the Petronus company that has laid a pipe line under the ground from KK to Bintulu - in it's wake a scar the breadth of Sarawak maybe...

We saw many good omens: a tiny sun shower, flocks of swallows on the river, sound of kowai, hornbill and clouds in the shape of s hummingbird...it reminded me to share this story here...

We slept on the wooden floor last night - Yani complaining in the morning - but somehow we slept ok. They have had so much fun with the kids and with the pet monkeys, wild boar and kittens around the place.
The river is glorious...

Meeting later in the afternoon recalling old stories - a man remembered that he had been the boy of around 10 years old that had been with us when we met the barking deer that gave me my Penan name.

I sang the old protest songs, we talked about the sadness of how much was lost, but how we were determined to continue - our children would need to keep the struggle.























back on track...

Two months of travel have passed already...it's a kind of blur...although we've been keeping up with facebook, posting photos and short travel updates (if you'd like to take a look, please search for Anja Light) - we haven't been stable enough around an internet cafe to be able to update the blog...my apologies!
I've been keeping some notes - so I'll slowly begin to post them here - though it may take longer to include photos...
For me, the most emotional and moving and reaffirming experience has been to revisit Sarawak. To my surprise, our journey went quite well - not only were we able to reconnect with the Penan and campaigners in the ongoing struggle for the forests, but we were able to introduce our dear Slow friend Keibo Oiwa to the people and forest of Sarawak, Borneo. Our prayer continues to protect these forests and support these people who have never given up...

So, here is the first of the notes I have kept...more to come very soon...

Heart thumping at immigration - the officer slowly processes our passports - we're in.
It's surreal. So many, many years ago I left this place. And with so many visions of being turned back at the final outpost. But perhaps it has been years since our activities have been considered a threat - the tide of destruction,exploitation so strong that nothing can hold it back...
Trying to be so secret means that it has been almost impossible to really prepare our movements from here, but we find a hotel and arrange to meet one of the key campaigners here.
There's not much good news. Basically the logging dwindled during the mid 90's as the timber ran out and there was more and more conversion to palm oil. Now there's around a million ha of a projected 3 million - the same goes for timber plantations.
But the word on everyone's lips in this area now is the series of massive dams that is set to inundate vast areas of forest and people's homelands. SAM works to document people's traditional claims to the lands using GPS systems for court challenges. Penan groups blockade the roads and have had some 'success' in claiming more compensation.
The Cheif  Minister's name is still sacrosanct and  no one dares to utter the truth of his most blatant profiteering over the past 30 years.
Miri is a large town now - logging company offices dotted around the business district, palatial houses dotting the outskirts - the gap between the rich and poor like a chasm...
We took a taxi to the beach ( I wanted ti show the kids where I had buried my passport) - the water was brown and bubbly but that didn't deter the many people who had also come down to enjoy the sunset and an evening meal in the many food stands be the shore.
We managed to arrange a visit upriver - starting with a horror drive to Marudi. Nine of us plus the driver and our luggage squeezed into a 4 wheel drive on a mud track through 2 hours of oil palm. The jolting aggravated my toothache and I spent of the way in agony! It seemed appropriate somehow...it matched the pain in my heart to come back to a place so ravaged...
We decided to avoid the car if we could and opted for a river trip to the next stop of Long Lama where we to meet with the car to go further up river. As we arrived after our 4 hour journey the rain came, monsoon rain and our car didn't make it - so another night in a Borneo jungle frontier town...
We shelter from the rain in a small restaurant where the ubiquitous TV blares out MTV ... globalisation is well and truly here - people have all but lost control of their destinies...

We find out that our car is stuck in a flash flood caused by the downpour..we are stuck in L Lama for the night.
We do the rounds looking for a place to stay...it really is a frontier town and the best place has seen many better days!