Farewell Raja Ampat

What a trip this has been. I leave for Bali on Friday. My flight was booked a few weeks ago, when I applied for my visa extension. At the time a lot of travelers told me I needed to experience Bali, and I agreed. I’ll be spending four days there, and then I head home. However, “Clean Raja Ampat” is gaining so much momentum right now, it is very hard to leave.

We have been very busy since our first “Clean Raja Ampat” community event last Friday. We completed major clean ups all over town. We went to the beach and the ferry terminal where most tourists visit. At the ferry terminal I noticed a water bottle about 100 meters from the dock, so I jumped in the water to grab it.

During the initial event I couldn’t help notice that most of the water bottles being picked up were from three companies. For the next four days I collected only used plastic water bottles from these companies.

There is no recycling facility in Waisai; locals have no way of disposing these plastics. Unfortunately they resort to burning them. I took pictures of these burning sites as I walked around town. I only collected bottles from approximately 2% of the town and ended up with 5 very large garbage bags (which eventually equated to 25 kilos). I did not start a collections campaign, nor have bottles brought to me. I picked up every single bottle by hand; most of the time in very unsanitary conditions.

Once collected we placed all the bottles under Waisai’s main landmark. A sort of replica of the Eiffel tower, and took pictures. Waisai is the gateway to Raja Ampat. My hope is to show these specific three water bottle companies the effect their bottles have on the environment, and on the health of the people. Hopefully then, we can get funding for a proper recycling facility. A recycling facility will also create employment opportunities for locals.

We took the water bottles on the ferry, back to Sorong – where they can be disposed of properly. The recycling facility in Sorong gave us 1,000 rupiah per kilo. The payout is roughly the equivalent of $3.00 CDN for 25 kilos of bottles. This is something I will also try to change. Perhaps a tax can be added on all plastic water bottles sold in Raja Ampat, resulting in a higher payout for recycling. A similar process exists in Canada. We wouldn’t have this problem if there was a greater incentive picking up bottles – like earning a decent wage.

On Thursday we continued to pick up plastic near the government buildings in Sorong, and then along the famous beach area where a lot of people dine. The garbage on the beach was absolutely horrific. Four of us spent thirty minutes collecting plastic waste. We filled four bags on a stretch of beach only 25 meters long. It hardly made a dent in the amount of garbage on the beach.

At high tide all of this waste goes out to sea and new garbage arrives with an incoming tide. Sorong’s garbage today will be Raja Ampat’s garbage tomorrow. We hope to make a difference in Sorong too.

My last night in Sorong was a memorable one. Ranny, Yuning, Yoris and I (team “Clean Raja Ampat”) all went to Karaoke. Yuning is a professional singer and it was great watching her in action. This experience was different from my last. This time it was one big room where people sing and dine at the same time.

The restaurant is owned by a Javanese couple. We got along so well that when it was time to pay he denied and said the evening was on him. He made some traditional Javanese food and drink that was off the menu. I was served some coffee which he dropped charcoal wood in – somehow the night ended with us practicing sword fighting.

My experience here has left me speechless. I can’t believe how everything came together. The trip was utterly perfect in every sense. I want to thank everyone I have met along the way. I have met some amazing life-long friends.

I am so happy to have found something meaningful that I can devote my time to. To me, there isn’t a general “purpose in life”; questions like, “why are we here?” and “what is the meaning of life?”. These are questions that will never be answered. Great minds in the past have tried to tackle them unsuccessfully. Everyone has personal purposes. What my purpose is today, might not be my purpose tomorrow. You are here, and what you do with your time is your decision. Experience life as much as you can, while you can, and in the process try to leave the planet a better place. That is my purpose today.

Thank you all for joining me in this journey.  Please keep checking Friendly Drifter for updates on “Clean Raja Ampat”, and the volunteer program.  We have just scratched the surface, there are many possibilities.  I am excited for what’s to come.

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