Muriel Ydo, 52, from Holland, moved to Bali over 20 years ago and is now a volunteer organiser at the Rivers, Oceans, Land and Ecology Foundation (ROLE), an organisation that provides free education skills – such as reading – to those in need and teaches communities about environmental awareness. She shared her day with Carla Albertí de la Rosa.
My first thought of the day when I wake up at 6:30 is that life is beautiful, it should remain beautiful and there’s still loads to be done. I go outside, stretch and take a deep breath.
I sometimes wake up a bit earlier so I can take a walk on the beach. I live at Seseh Beach and I walk towards Tanah Lot; it’s very quiet. I only have fruit for breakfast: my favourite is mango but it’s not always available. I have coffee with milk, no sugar. I leave home around 8 and go to work at Nusa Dua. It takes me a good hour from Canggu – it’s not so eco-friendly. I always go by car since it’s too dangerous to go by bike and I cherish my life too much to commit suicide on the road.
I get to the foundation at 9am and overlook all operations. I check that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to and that opening procedures have been followed; and then I check my schedule.
ROLE’s focus is to educate illiterate women, but if there are illiterate men or boys we take them on as well. It’s a shame but some women don’t have the same opportunities as men and education is seen as a luxury. For this to change there needs to be a step away from the patriarchal society where everything is being decided by the man and to adapt some of the traditional values to the current situation.
At the moment we have 12 literacy students and 30 vocational students. Vocational students don’t only take classes but they also work, helping to run the different stations that are their training stations at the same time, such as the warung or the spa. We also teach them about housekeeping, gardening, small business-oriented skills. These are the jobs that are most available.
At the spa we teach them the basics of Balinese massage and how to make the lotions that go with it. We work with the Spa Bali International Academy based in Sanur and prepare them so they stand a greater chance when they get out there into the workforce.
One of the purposes is that they know how to work with their environment, in their environment. Anything we plant is useful, so they learn what you can do with your environment not only by taking but by using it in a sustainable way, adding a value to their future.
They learn about the cycle of life: how everything is interconnected. For example, most things that we use in the restaurant come from the garden. We try to avoid using vegetables or plants that require a lot of water because we don’t have much here. We have eggplants and native fruit trees that grow very well, like papaya, and we also do a lot of spices because they grow well and don’t require a lot of water.
Lunch is around 12, and I usually eat at our restaurant. My favourite is tuna with chilli sauce and I also love papaya salads and snails. We have a snail farm at the foundation; they’re protein-rich. That is one of the micro businesses. We also have a weaving station with natural organic cottons. There is a tradition of weaving on the Bukit but these traditional little things disappear in the bigger picture. For people in the area who want to start something else, it’s a perfect opportunity to get back to that.
I like the environment at work and working with people. Everybody has a dream; everybody has a skill; and everybody has a talent. It’s just that sometimes it’s hidden and some people don’t have the opportunity to discover those skills.
In Bali, most of the staff at hotels aren’t from here but they come from other islands. And there is this whole pool of people that we train up – we give them the basic skills so they can be easily employed. But we train them in a very practical way. We believe in: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.”
I stay at the foundation until 6pm and then go back home and spend time with my family. I’m a bit of a cook and I enjoy cooking everything. I love Mediterranean food but also Asian, especially Thai, Indonesian and Indian. We eat around 8pm and then I read a lot on environmental issues.
When I have spare time I play tennis and go sailing, but my biggest passion is exploring and learning about people and other cultures – life is the best school. At the end of the day I always wish I had more time but as soon as it’s midnight I fall asleep straight away.