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(12/1/2002) The desire to leave stressful city life behind and move to a tropical island is, for most, just a dream. Gaia Grant decided to turn that dream into a reality. Packing up her family and journeying through Asia, she was eventually drawn to Bali for its exotic beauty, vibrant culture, and unique community lifestyle. Seven years on Gaia's still here, running a successful international business with her husband, Andrew, from the same thatched hut on the beach they found when they arrived. In her book, "A Patch of Paradise," (Published by Random House Australia). Gaia Grant shares her unique experience of living in Bali - including the challenges of living and working in a country in dramatic transition.
In the wake of the tragedy recently visited upon Bali, balidiscovery.com caught up with Gaia and discovered her humor and sensitivity remain undiminished;
balidiscovery.com: What is "A Patch of Paradise" essentially about?
Gaia Grant: Seven years ago I managed to convince my husband that we should pack up our comfortable city lives and move to a beach hut in a village in Bali - along with our then 2 year old daughter. "A Patch of Paradise" is my personal story of that dramatic life change. Through the book I describe all the extremes of life in a different culture - both the hysterical incidents of culture clash and the sobering moments when you're exposed to new experiences and confronted with new truths.
balidiscovery.com: How relevant is the book in the light of the bombing tragedy in Kuta?
Gaia Grant: The book is now more relevant than ever. Because I describe the social and political issues in Indonesia from a personal perspective, and because I have reflected on current world issues from an Indonesian outlook, readers are provided with an easy-to-understand and unique insight into what has happened and why. I hope that the book helps to foster an understanding of what the Indonesian people have been going through with the ongoing political upheaval, as well as the ways the Balinese people will suffer through a tragedy such as this.
balidiscovery.com: How has the bombing affected you personally?
Gaia Grant: It has been an incredibly upsetting time for everyone here. You cannot imagine the extreme pain and suffering that has been endured. But a wonderful spirit of unity has also arisen from the ashes. So many people have come together and willingly volunteered to assist the needy in so many different ways.
You cannot help but feel the deep sadness that has cast a shadow over this once continually sunny island. Everyone here is in mourning over the loss of people they have known, and there is also a grief for the loss of innocence for the Balinese people. There has been a time of feeling insecure simply because we have all been thrown completely off guard and have been uncertain about the future, and our business within Indonesia has been affected badly, but we know also that this time will pass and will make us all stronger as a result.
balidiscovery.com: What work have you been doing in Indonesia?
Gaia Grant: My husband and I consult to and train corporate executive groups through our company - Tirian. We love to work with international conference groups that come to Bali - it's such an inspiring environment. To be able to teach about business culture through exposing individuals to the complex community focus of the Balinese culture is incredibly enlightening for many, but unfortunately all of the conferences we had coming up had have been postponed indefinitely. It just means that we're traveling a lot more - working with our clients in other destinations all over Asia and further a field as necessary. So we run the business from our grass thatched beach hut with the help of an Internet connection, laptops and phone lines - and then jump on planes to run development programs with our clients wherever they may be. Perhaps surprisingly, Bali is actually a wonderful place to base a business.
balidiscovery.com: Can Bali still be considered to be an idyllic paradise?
Gaia Grant: Bali will always be a paradise to me. It is an incredible island with so much heart and soul. Terrorists cannot completely shatter our sense of peace and security here, and they cannot take away the enduring spirit of hope that permeates the place. It's going to be a hard road for many of the Balinese people who have had their lives and livelihoods blown apart, but the Balinese are an incredibly resilient people and the island will recover. My book gives hope that paradise can and should prevail, so I believe it will be a positive antidote to the disturbing negative information we're constantly receiving about the state of the world.
balidiscovery.com: Who is the book for?
Gaia Grant: Anyone who loves Bali would relate to and enjoy the stories - but I think people who know nothing about Bali would be equally fascinated by the revelations about this unique culture. Those who dream of breaking away and escaping to a tropical island would be inspired, as would those who are happy to stay home but still enjoy "armchair travel" stories. And, finally, anyone who would like an insider's viewpoint into the potential impact of the terrorist bombing and political upheaval in this area of the world would find it fascinating.
balidiscovery.com: What can readers do to help the Balinese?
Gaia Grant: I have initiated the "A Gift for Bali" program, in which I plan to give 20% of my income from the book to ongoing micro-economic programs for the Balinese through Opportunity International- so those who are purchasing a book are already directly giving to those who need help. After the hype has died down and the money from the initial donations has been used on the immediate medical needs of the victims, there will be longer-term issues for all of the Balinese that will need to be addressed. The Opportunity International Business Development Programs will help these people to get back on their feet and become economically independent.
Copies of "A Patch of Paradise" can be bought online from Patch of Paradise or Dymock's Books.
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