Thank you to Charu at the Butterfly Diary for publishing my article about India: “Raft Building on the Banks of the Lake Palace, Udaipur: Changing the World One Bottle at a Time.” I thought sharing this piece on backpackers changing the world was a good fit for Rosh Hashannah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year and High Holy Days.
After meandering in Asia over the last seven months on sabbatical, we began to discern one of the most noticeable consistencies of the region: the piles of plastic one-liter bottles littered across the landscape. The twin problems of absence of access to clean drinking water and lack of recycling or a plan to deal with trash are noticeable in nearly every country in Asia. At home in Los Angeles, the recycling trucks appear with frequency to transport the garbage away. However having been to the largest landfill on the planet, I know that piles of plastic continue to mount in the United States as well.
Innovators are creating biodegradable plastic and clothing made from recycled bottles. Others carry UV filters and metal canteens while traveling to reduce the consumption of plastic. In Udaipur, a veritable G-8 of travelers created community for themselves and the local children while turning trash into movable art and transport.
Isaac, the French-born Israeli fresh from the army, and Assaf, the sabra, have been biking across India. After a dangerous encounter with a truck that required Isaac to nearly rebuild the bike MacGyver style with a few paperclips and some duck tape, they had a few days rest on the roof of their Guest House in Udaipur. Noticing the pile of plastic and ready for the next engineering feat, the duo set out to construct a raft to sail the waters around the Lake Palace.
Their new friends, Katie and Erika from the Northwest of the United States, Kristen, the South African Brit, and Yanira, the Balinese Italian, were ready for the challenge. Their self-proclaimed task was to build a better boat than Team Israel.