Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
(Sorry….for some reason am unable to load photos….will try again soon. Please read anyway! 🙂 ) Jan.22: I can remember back to my high school days in the 80s when I would calculate what year I would turn 40. The year 2009 sounded almost otherworldly back then; like a futuristic time that would never really arrive. It was too far off to perceive as being plausible. Yet a blink later here I am, on the sunset of my 30s. In regard to the myriad scenarios I imagined over the decades about what my life might look like at this stage of the game, the reality could not be farther from any of them. This is not a bad thing. It is just a thing. And as I sit here in this remote, isolated mountain village on the island of Flores, where there are no telephones and no banks and no tourists, I struggle not to let myself feel disappointed about how my birthday plans are turning out. This is not the hotel I dreamed of – not even close. There is no decent restaurant. There is no place for us to buy supplies for our sunrise trek to Kelimutu tomorrow. The cartel that the villagers have formed guarantees that we pay exorbitant prices for everything, no matter who we try to bargain with. But as I let these thoughts and emotions simmer, a peaceful realization: these- the struggles and disappointments and unfulfilled dreams of my perfect special day- are but a reflection of the bigger picture of life on whole. Life never turns out as we planned. But that doesn’t make it bad. The only option is to play the cards we’re dealt to the best of our abilities. Take a situation and make it good. I am so fortunate to be here (to be anywhere, really) – on this stunning island in the middle of the ocean. I am alive and healthy and blessed and happy and so far away from the confines of my former life. My friend flew half-way around the world to spend my birthday with me. He arrived with a backpack full of french cheeses, bread, sausage, wine and chocolates, which we consumed in short order and with big smiles. This night will absorb the last moments of my 30s and the day will dawn on the first hours of my 40s tomorrow. My day will be what it will be. We are where we are and we have what we have. Just like in life, it is my attitude that will determine how things turn out, not material goods or other distractions. My birthday, like life, may not be perfect or quite what I had imagined. But that doesn’t make it any less spectacular to be present for. I will have a very happy birthday. Moni, Flores, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia: Jan 23: A 4am wakeup and a 4:30 am departure had us at the summit of Kelimutu volcano with our new Swiss friends Charly and Monique before 6 am. Here at the volcano, set into deep craters, are three coloured lakes of astonishing beauty. The lakes change colour periodically; and though nobody knows why or how for certain, it is believed that dissolving minerals are responsible. Locals hold Kelimutu sacred, believing that the souls of the dead go to these lakes: young people’s to Tiwa Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Turquoise Lake), old people’s to Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Brown Lake) and those of the wicked to Tiwi Ata Polo (Black Lake). I wanted to be here to witness the sunrise on this day in particular. Not only is it fascinating to watch the sun play off the lakes as it rises higher in the sky, but from here one can see for miles in all directions. Here, with this unobstructed view, I was able to witness something even more extraordinary than the shifting colours of the lakes: my life – 40 years of living – stretching out towards the horizon. I could plainly see how ever day, month and year had led to this place and to this moment. My future, my fate, my yesterday and my today, my here and now, have been and always will be, hurtling towards me at the speed of light. The rest of the day was….well, we’ll just say it’s a birthday I won’t forget anytime soon. We made the best of what we had to work with, and the joyously young-spirited Charly and Monique were a big help in that regard. There was a birthday “cake” (see photos), a dinner (we are not at all sure we didn’t eat dogmeat) and, in tremendous contrast, a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne (Fab fit so much good stuff in that backpack!). When examined on a micro level, as I said, there are disappointments (on birthday, in life). But when I look at the big picture of both of these events, how could I feel anything less than totally blown away? —————————– Jan 29: The days prior to my birthday were spent chilling out in ultra-touristy Kuta Beach, Bali, and in trying to get to the island of Flores in time for my birthday (no small or inexpensive feat). After Flores we plodded our way back west to Lombok and on to the teeny island of Gili Trawangan. Touristy, laid-back, expensive, but with some good snorkeling. Today I thought it might be brilliant if we hit the ocean with our snorkel gear early in the morning for the best chance of viewing sea turtles and other more rarely-seen ocean life that tends to go into hiding when the sun gets too hot. I was right – there was all kinds of fascinating marine life at this time of the day, including about a billion jellyfish of every size who took to treating us to dozens of stings all over our bodies. At least we got to see one turtle before we floundered our way frantically back onto dry land. It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been in Indonesia for 2 weeks and that I don’t have more to report or more photos to post. Truthfully, a large chunk of our time was unfortunately spent in transit with a lot of that transit taking us to completely forgettable and depressing towns like Maumere and Ende on Flores for flight/bus connections etc. There hasn’t been much to photograph, and as far as activities go, so far Indonesia has been much more about taking in the spectacular landscape than anything else. Life is also incredibly hot here at the Equator and it’s tough to find energy to do much of anything between 11 am and 4 pm. Despite it being the rainy season there has been only 1 day of solid rain (the day I arrived). The rest of the time, it rains (hard) at night or in sudden, short and violent cloudbursts during the day. If I had to choose one word to sum up the food so far, it would be “disappointing”. “Nasi Goreng” (fried rice) is the typical Indonesian dish, so nothing interesting to report there at all. Here on Gili T, western food dominates – everything from fish and chips to Mexican food to pasta – so it’s hard to get a feeling of what the true cuisine – or the people, for that matter – is truly about. We’ll keep plugging away and see what interesting experiences we can uncover in our remaining two weeks. We’re off to the even tinier island of Gili Air shortly, and then eventually back to Bali to explore the east and north coasts.