Gili Air, Indonesia
This tiny chunk of land in this country I wasn’t even planning to visit has completely stolen my heart. It breaks a little more every time I think about having to leave. It was a day-long ordeal to get a new visa (expensive and illegal) and to change my flight (expensive but at least legal), but it’s done, and I’m here until April 11th now. It still sounds way too soon. I’ve known since the day I first set foot on Gili Air that I was meant to stay here for an extended amount of time, but I wasn’t sure why. I still don’t know all the reasons, but some very cool ones have been emerging these last weeks. How many coincidences does one have to experience before one stops looking at them as coincidences and starts recognizing them as conspiracies of fate? I only clicked in to this the other day, but since I’ve been at Sejuk (the bungalows where I stay) there has always been at least one other guest there whom I brought in myself (through referrals etc): Aspen and Isaac. Barb and Doug. Rita. Now Brian and Sheila. It’s as though I’m subconsciously building two separate networks: a tourist-based one and a local one. That’s right – I’ve got bona fide friends here now! It took me 4 1/2 hours to make what is normally a 20-minute journey along the beachfront the other day, as I had to stop so many times to chat and have coffee with people. It’s glorious to have no schedule; to sit and talk without looking at a clock or worrying about where I’m supposed to be. There are no buses, trains, boats or planes to catch, no itineraries to sort out, no adventures to plan. I can just be. Sometimes, when I’m sitting with my friend Ari the jewelry maker, we don’t even talk. He chain smokes and files pieces of coconut shell while we drink strong, sweet Lombok coffee and I greet tourists as they pass by the kiosk. It is quiet and comfortable and familiar, and I can stay there as long as I want. Suzie, the prettiest woman in all of Indonesia, wants to spend a day together in Lombok so she can talk about her boyfriend troubles and I can help her pick out fabrics for her little dress business. There is a sense of belonging that deepens every day and it makes it harder and harder to think about leaving. So I’m continuing to take all of this as a message from the universe; that there is a deeper meaning to my extended stay here. (I’ve got some other thoughts on this as well that I can’t share with you just yet, but I will). The strongest message about why I’m here came in the form of an incredible gift that was bestowed upon me one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. The gift was Shauna, my new soul sister. A fellow Canadian, Shauna also quit her high-octane career to head out and see the world (though is way braver than I am, doing a two-year stint, solo!) Our new friendship was cemented on the first day we met, when we danced until sunrise (!) at a beach party (yes, Gili Air actually had a party! With music and dancing!) She was supposed to leave a couple of days later, but thankfully managed to stretch her stay into a full week. It’s as though we had a whole lifetime to catch each other up on. How connected can two chicks possibly be? Saying goodbye was painfully sad, but Shauna had orangutans to track in the jungles of Sumatra, and I had…um….more seashells to collect? We’ve already started planning where I can meet up with her next on her journey (grape stomping in Croatia in September?) You can follow Shauna’s adventures at artemisaspires.blogspot.com Shauna: I love all the clothes you left me and think of you every time I wear them, especially the pink headscarf. Here’s to us: to topless tans and paper fans, to bad tattoos and…..well, you know the rest. Love ya, sister. Miss you so much it hurts. I’d like to say I have a bunch of other exciting news to share with you, but the truth is, island life isn’t all that exciting. It’s easy and relaxed and zen-like. There is time and space to think; to float on my back in the salty ocean and stare up at the smudges of clouds pressed into the turquoise sky; to sit on the eastern shore to watch the sun come up, and on the western one to send it sinking in a blaze of pink into the horizon, as we sing along to strumming guitars and eat barbecued fish pulled from the ocean just hours before. To quote my new friends Brian and Sheila: “How much better can things keep getting before they just can’t get any better?” I’m so full of contentment I could burst. I feel it vibrating against my fingertips and at the ends of my toes, barely able to be contained in this body. I haven’t seen a newspaper, television newscast or even a CNN web page in weeks. From what I hear via emails from friends and from guests who pass through here, though, it’s all bad and getting worse. We don’t really feel it here, as the local people are so poor they don’t really have much to lose in the first place, and the tourists are all here to escape it and talk about anything but. Aside from missing my family and friends and being out of money, if anyone can think of a really great reason why I shouldn’t just stay here forever, I’m all ears.