Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
(Note: the map pin for this is totally wrong, obviously. I am not in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Africa. I promise). Also having a hard time uploading photos again. Sorry. Months ago when learning of my impending voyage, one of the first questions everyone would invariably ask me was, “But what are you going to do when you get back?” I understand why. I do. Don’t think I haven’t asked myself the same question a zillion times. But rather than just straight-old-answer it I prefer to look at the root of the question itself. Most of us are accustomed to a lot of structure. To security and stability and to knowing at least in some measure what the future holds. We are trained to have plans and we are used to having plans. (My friend Christina earns all of my envy in the category of plan and goal making, by the way). Road maps are how the vast majority navigate their way from point A to point B in life, and in many cases they are the key to success. So it is normal to wonder what a woman who’s gone completely off the road map (in so very many ways) is going to do when she has to get back on it. And after all these months, so many amazing experiences, so many incredible people I have encountered, I can tell you the answer I’ve come up with: I don’t know. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. It’s a terrifying reality. I don’t have a plan. It was really nice – really nice – to not think about it for a few months. That time is coming to an end now, and it’s pretty scary. But I do have a hope and a dream. And that’s a seed, and that’s a start. I know I want to write, and I know that it’s pretty unfathomable to think about going back to a 9 to 5 job of any sort. Not much that’s constructive in there, but what can I tell you. I’m trying not to let the subject invade my every waking moment; otherwise I might as well just write off the last few weeks of my travel and go home now. And that would be a shame, because I love it here. What’s not to love about a country where things that were popular back home in the ’80’s -like Fanta orange soda, cassette tapes, Nescafe and John Denver – are still going full-force? (As a side note, in case anyone is interested, J.D. is huge in Thailand as well. Fab and I heard “Take me Home Country Road” about a dozen times. Once, performed live by two Thai guys with banjos.) Oh, wait – I know what’s not to love! I got told today, but good. Get this: I pull my scooter up to a little snack shack (basically lean-to’s that sell cold drinks, pre-fab mystery snacks, machetes, chicken feed and skin-whitening cream) and ask for a bottle of water. Any english-speaking Indonesian will ask a tourist the same questions: Where you from, what’s your name, where you going, when you get here, when you leaving, you alone? Those more proficient in English will tack on a few extra, increasingly-personal questions, which is what happened to me today. The proprietor of the shack fired off a battery of questions faster than a machine gun fires ammo. My head was spinning. When we got to “Are you married?” (“No”) and “How old are you?” (“40”), there was a sudden silence. He was out of ammo. It lasted about 5 full seconds, and was followed by a simple and heartfelt, “Sorry, ya?” Me: “Why are you sorry?” Him: Puzzled facial expression, as in, “Isn’t it obvious?” accompanied by, “Because you 40 and you not married.” Well. There you have it. I’ve been unceremoniously voted off the marriage island by a Lembonganese lean-to owner. No offense intended, I’m sure. But just to make certain I understood how badly he felt, he threw in two more “Sorry, ok?”‘s before I could pull away. I don’t even remember him handing me the water, or the money changing hands. Some subjects are like annoying neighbours: You can do all you want to pretend they’re not there, but they’ll always find some way to get all up in your face. Next day: Something else not to love. Had my flips stolen off my balcony last night. My awesome camouflage supercomfy Reef flips that I’ve been wearing every day for months. Gone. One of the hotel staff was kind enough to run over to the lean-to and buy me a new pair so that I wouldn’t have to a) go barefoot, or b) pay the tourist price. And then he asked me if he could keep 5,000 rupiah for his efforts. Sure kid. You need it more than I do. Maybe the gods are trying to tell me that it really is time to go home. Nusa Lembongan is one of those islands that I assessed on the day of my arrival and quickly decided that I wouldn’t be here long. Two days, max. Yet here I am, and 4 days have already slipped by (actually 6 days at the time of typing this). When not trapped by torrential, torrential rainstorms (torrential), I’m (wow, here’s a newsflash!) exploring on my scooter. It’s a very poor island, surviving on seaweed cultivation and now tourism dollars. As I ride through the tiny villages I see huge tarps spread out on the ground piled with seaweed in greens, browns and beiges, rubbery-feeling and fishy-smelling, drying in the sun. The villagers dock their little wooden boats on the beach at sunrise and load the ocean’s weeds into woven baskets suspended from yokes carried by waiting wives up to their villages. What I didn’t like about the island at first – how disjointed the very few developed areas are, how you can’t really walk anywhere because everything is so far apart – is now kind of what I love about it. (That and my awesome ocean-view room, the one that I will now lock everything inside of every night). I discovered a crazy-beautiful piece of land near Dream Beach – not even sure what it’s called, I think it’s Sunset Beach – but it’s where I chose to make my video for The Greatest Job in the World (which I spent hours making, which I then couldn’d load to the internet. There goes that opportunity). After that bomb of an effort I sat at a cafe looking out over cliffs and crashing turquoise waves and couldn’t help but wonder why nobody had snatched up the surrounding farmland and built resorts on it. Turns out they have, big-time. It’s all bought up. If you want to see the Dream Beach area in all its unspoiled glory, it’s now or never. Like in Southern Laos, I feel lucky to have experienced this place when I did, and also feel sad for its future. That’s progress for you. I looked up the word “pink” on synonym.com and this is what it spit out: “chromatic”. Not quite enough to describe what I witness at sunset here every night. What about rose, peach, salmon, fuchsia, baby’s bottom and blush, just to name a few? It’s astounding. I’ve also been loading up on western food the whole time on the island. A big perecentage of the properties here are owned by Australians and New Zealanders, so the quality of the western food rocks. I’ve had awesome burgers, pizza….you know, all the healthy stuff. Anyway it’s a nice change from rice and fish. I finally tore myself away after 6 days, ready to sail to other shores. What will I do when I land on the shore known as the doorstep of my parent’s home in a few weeks? Nope. Still don’t know. I’m off to the Gilis tomorrow.