Last week, Ian Nenke and I had the opportunity to interview Will Chua for our podcast at Fine Food and Healthy Living Asia. Will is one of the founding members of FOLO (Feed Our Loved Ones) Farm in Johor, Malaysia. He began his quest for healthy food and living after experiencing his “third life crisis”. It brought him to the Plum Village tradition of Zen Buddhism and Thich Nhat Hanh. When he and his family noticed that a lot of them were becoming ill with auto-immune and other diseases, they discovered Pierre Loisel, who taught them about the healing effects of organic, sustainable farming and eating nutritious and microbe-rich food that can be grown on these farms. Remarkably, diabetics in the family began to reverse their symptoms, kidneys healed and chronic diseases began to disappear with family members now eating from food grown on the farm. Lemuel “the farming doctor’ taught them: “Know your farmer, know your food.” Not only did they know their farmer, they became their farmers.
Will and family base their lives, the farm and their contribution to the world on four pillars:
- Food – eat organic, healthy, non-toxic food.
- Environment – live in a healthy environment in natural surroundings.
- Community – be part of a family or group, have animals, connect.
- Spirituality – do something bigger than yourself and longer than your life.
Through no planning or much conscious thought at all, other than letting Judy Millar know I was into “environmental stuff”, I found myself at FOLO Farm this past Saturday, volunteering to do whatever needed to be done.
Like Ralph Macchio playing Daniel Larusso in The Karate Kid, first it was wax on, wax off time. Or, FOLO style, grab a hoe and clear weeds out of a sand pit.
The patch of sand I weeded.
My introduction to volunteering at the farm was followed by a lunch prepared on premises: a strange hot drink I could not even tell you the ingredients, some fresh vegetables, rice (of course!), and about 30 people of all ages having the best of times sweltering in the oppressive heat, but enjoying the food and each others’ company.
After two hours in the humidity and under the blazing Malaysian sun, around 100 miles from the equator, I was spent. But good spent. The kind of spent that had me reach for a thermos of water, sit down and let my sweat-drenched t-shirt drip a while. The kind of spent that my body craved. The kind of spent that stopped my mind. The kind of spent that when I went home, I fell asleep in a heap, cuddled next to Shiva and Little Bear (after dealing with a leaky ceiling from the powerful monsoon that had swept in and stayed a while).
I don’t know where this will lead, I just know I am being led. I feel a call to be a farmer, or to facilitate organic, sustainable farming however and wherever I can. I never expected this but my heart is opening to dirt, compost, vegetables and food in a beautiful unfolding that seems to come from Mother Earth herself.
Awakening The Dreamer Symposium
I facilitated an Awakening The Dreamer Symposium at our home last Sunday. Thank you Barry, Jackie, Sharan, Odile, Megan, Ian, Indy, Rowel and Rachelle for being there and sharing in something so important. Thanks especially to Rachelle who opened sacred space with a beautiful ritual honoring the four directions. Some actions resulted, including some of us committing to create a community garden here in East Ledang. And, although I have no idea how it is going to happen yet, I have a vision to open a farm-to-table restaurant here, supplied with organic veggies grown right in our neighborhood. Stay tuned…
Things I Notice in Asia
Uneven streets and sidewalks. Steps, cracks, hidden drops, I am constantly tripping, stubbing my toe or negotiating oncoming pedestrians with Gene Kelleyesque sidesteps. (Well, in my mind they look like Gene Kelley.)
I’m Always Bumping My Head. On my kitchen cabinets, on my oven hood fan, on doorways. Exacerbated by the uneven sidewalks that I am always looking down at.
Restrooms have lower floors than the rest of the house/building. I’m actually pretty used to this now, after having tripped into a few dozen toilets.
The Default Coffee is Coffee with Condensed Milk and Sugar. If you want no milk, ask for “Kopi-O”, If you want no sugar, ask for “Kopi Kussong”. No milk, or sugar? Kopi-O Kussong”, of course.”
Everyone Backs Their Car in When They Park. It’s a thing.
Don’t Ask “Where is The Bathroom?”
You will get a blank stare like you are asking, “Do you sell babies?” Instead, ask “Where is the toilet?”
Almond Milk Latte?
No One Calls Themselves “Asian”
You are Chinese, Malay Chinese, Peranakan, Singaporean Chinese, Malay, Japanese, Thai, etc. Basically, your identity is where you are from or what language you speak. Not that “race” isn’t a thing. It is. And it is used to discriminate, just like everywhere else. The divisions are different though. The color of skin still seems to matter, just not in the same way. I’ll probably do an entire blog post at some point about this. I am an “Ang-mo” (Malay word literally meaning “red-haired” and somewhat an epithet although also used humorously), or a “Gweilo” (Cantonese, meaning “foreign devil” or “ghost man”).
Waiting in Line
Or “queueing”. It depends. On the whole, there just doesn’t seem to be the same orderliness to it as in western countries, although it appears there is some kind of logic to it, times when waiting patiently in line is expected (at the bank is one example) and other times when it’s just a mad rush, plowing over anyone who might be thinking this is “The Q”. I think the worst example Rachelle and I saw was when we were running late for a plane to Indonesia and no less than 3 different people just charged ahead of us. Sometimes, coming back from Singapore and waiting “in line” to go through the passport check and customs it is a scene out of some dystopian apocalypse movie with everyone escaping “the sickening” or some zombie invasion.
A quick breakfast is not very common. A typical scene is to go to an indoor/outdoor “Kopitiam” or cafe, where several different vendors sell their food. The owner of the space usually serves Kopi and drinks and you pay for your meal separately with whatever vendor you choose. Lots of families are visible, and there is much more socializing. Noodles in broth with various meat and vegetable choices are likely offerings. I went to Bukit Indah with Russel and Judy yesterday, who seemed to know everyone there, and left with a full, warm belly from my home-made broth, tripe, veggies and chili sauce (hold the noodles).
Rachelle continues to knock it out of the park. In China, they even made a poster of her! After China, she flew back to India again and got to see the Taj Mahal.
More Musings with The Help of Saraswati
Handprint on a Cave Wall
I don’t want to miss a thing.
I want my life to have meant something.
Like the hunter-gatherer who left her handprint on a cave wall.
I want to have been here and had that fact have made a difference.
But we are all going to die.
And when the last human is gone, who will there be to remember us?
What difference will any of it have made?
Will I have wasted my life looking for meaning when just living was the whole of it all along?
Am I confusing “meaning” and something else?
In the dark netherworld of post-dream state and pre-awakening, my mind goes as far back as it can reach in memory and as far forward as it can search in imagination.
(What is the difference between memory and imagination?)
Backward is nonexistence.
Forward is nonexistence.
Behind us the pregnant moment before the Big Bang, or speaking of light (if you must).
Ahead, entropy and dissolution into the infinite void.
Nihilism seems a valid philosophy here.
But consciousness intervenes.
Not as hope, as fact.
It means nothing, yet it is.
We are aware.
Oh joyous miracle!
We are aware.
We can move and dance and think and hold each other and fight and talk.
And have puppies and kittens.
And go blind, and have war and die of starvation.
If there is a god, she’s got a wicked sense of humor.
In her watching, we are fools. In her judging, we are saved. In her embrace, we are loved
If there is no god, we are humans, born of this planet as a species capable of telling stories
I’m a manager
I watch people and count things
I make reports about it
I tell my boss things he wants to hear.
I tell people to do things my boss tells me to have them do
Like park in the employee parking lot
And put things in their places
And clock in and out
I recite mission and values statements
They are not mine
But I’m supposed to make them mine
When people have emotions, I sometimes report it to the Human Resources department.
I have meetings with other managers and we share our stories and reports and things we have counted
We talk about the boss.
It is important that we make more money this year than last
No one ever explains why this is important or how this affects the overall health of the planet, which gives us gifts of food, water, and life which we call natural resources.
It is just assumed as important that we use more and more of those resources every year to increase sales and profits.
There are no measurements or reports which refer to how lonely or scared we are. There are no policies regarding how much love is inside us or how to listen to the wind.
The world keeps trying to blow my mind and I keep trying to hold it together
Stop YELP!ing. It’s not democracy. It’s an extortion racket. You are, at best, saving me from a bad meal. But, more likely, you’re ruining a hard-working restaurant owner’s razor-thin profit margin. Just stop going there if you don’t like it. Just shut up, pay your bill, leave a decent tip and find another place to drag your entitled ass to.
Planet Earth Trip Advisor Rating
4 ½ Stars
When I arrived, the welcoming committee was a bit abrupt but seemed to respond when I started crying and screaming. I’m not a complainer by nature but it seemed the only way to get what I needed here, so I just accepted it and after a while, it just became part of the visit.
It took me a while to figure out my way around (no manual available until year 6 and those didn’t seem to describe what was going on at all!). But after bumping into a lot of walls, electrocuting myself, falling several times and taking a lot of wrong turns, I started to get the lay of the place. Gravity was unrelenting but I soon just got used to it. At least it was consistent.
I Can’t Help but Notice
The universe seems to be presenting me with opportunities to respond authentically with love.