Gili Air, Indonesia
Four weeks might seem like a long time to spend on a tiny, remote, tropical island with limited services (and no bank or ATM!) It’s possible some might wonder,“What does she DO all day?“ It’s a valid question, and honestly, it was easier for me to answer the last (first) time I visited Gili Air. Somehow those 6 weeks in March and April 2009 just flew by. The intricacies of buying land might have had something to do with that.
This time feels different. I’ve been here for almost 2 weeks now, and admittedly I’m feeling kind of restless already. One can only shuffle around on the beach with a Bintang so much. Sure every day is different, and there’s no schedule to speak of, but if I had to make one, here’s what it would roughly look like:
4:15 am: Awaken to the sound of the call to prayer over the mosque loudspeaker. Wait for the plaintive, mysterious voice to lull me back to sleep again.
6:15 am: Awaken to the sound of the boys sweeping up fallen leaves and flowers from the grounds with their skritchy twig brooms. I generally let this stand as my official wake-up call.
Somewhere between 7 and 8 am: Make my way to the guest house breakfast area with my Blackberry and notebook computer in tow. Coffee, breakfast and “office“ time for a couple of hours (mostly blogging, emails and facebook updates…not much real work has come in so far). Breakfast choices are 1) eggs: fried, boiled, or omelette (plain, cheese, or tomato onion and garlic); pancakes (a whole range of choices, including banana and coconut); toast (self-explanatory); or jaffles ( a remnant of old Dutch rule – essentially toast pockets, sealed on all sides and with cheese or fruit stuffed inside). I opt for eggs as often as I can stomach them, imagining myself to be benefitting from the only source of protein on the menu.
Post-breakfast until mid- to late-morning: Generally home-time. Hand-washing clothes, tidying my bungalow, working on blog updates, editing photos, journaling, reading.
Late morning to lunch: Ideally this week I’d be checking up on my well-diggers, but they’ve been AWOL for the last 4 days. A normally 2-day project is taking at least a week, it would appear. So instead, visit friends or check out other construction projects around the island.
Somewhere between 12:30 and 2 pm: Lunch, either at Johana’s Warung in the village (10,000Rp or about $1.10 for nasi bungkus), from a street vendor (the cheapest option) or at my friend Suzie’s restaurant, Chill Out Bar, down at the beach (more expensive, but more atmosphere and more people).
Balance of the afternoon until 5 pm: Wild card. I never know where this part of the day will take me. I could spend it on the beach, talking with friends, swimming and snorkelling; hanging out at a friend’s shop or restaurant; having conversations with foreigners or locals about whats happening on and to the island; or simply `jelan-jelan` – going around. A five-minute stop-in somewhere can easily turn into a 3-hour visit.
5 to 7 pm: Either home to shower and get ready for dinner, or happy hour at one of the beach bars. Two for one cocktails! I always toast my mum at this point, as Happy Hour is our signature event when we are together.
7 to 9 pm: Dinner; could be anywhere. There’s not a lot of variation in the menus from place to place so the choice is based more on who else is around, who’s working, and what music they’re playing. A restaurant displaying a particularly fresh and interesting-looking fish selection might also be a draw. You can get a whole BBQ’d snapper, including rice and salad, for about 6 bucks.
9 pm: It is with some shyness that I tell you I’m usually exhausted by this point. Must be the heat and the sea air, because as you can see, I don’t do a whole heck of a lot otherwise. Generally crashed into bed before 10 pm each night.
A slight variation on this theme: on two separate occasions, I’ve attempted to go for a 6:30 am `run`around the island. Since it’s already at least 30 degrees by this time, it looks something more like this: run for 10 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. Run for 8 minutes, walk for 4. Run for 4, walk for 8. Then just plain old walk, as my alarming heart rate forbids any more running attempts. I’m not giving up, though. I’m determined to run for at least 15 minutes non-stop, one of these mornings. Maybe if I get up with the prayer guy, i.e. before sunrise.
In an effort to do somethig constructive I’ve contacted the coordinator of Gili Eco Trust, an organization set up to help protect the beaches and delicate coral reefs around the three Gili islands. I’ll be heading over to Gili Trawangan to meet with Delphine on Monday, to see if there’s some way I can make myself useful for the rest of the time that I’m here. I’m also planning to take an introductory SCUBA diving course, to see what’s really going on in the depths of the Bali Sea.
Oh, and there’s always that well-digging project. At least, I think.
Despite said restlessness, part of the marvel of being here is how the hours just seem to melt away and the days blend into one another. The schedule above isn’t really a schedule at all. As lazy and lethargic as I feel, there is tremendous value in being able to truly live in the moment. Time is the most precious gift, and I’ve got 4 weeks of nothing but. I’ve worked hard to build my little business over the last 12 months and things are going to be very busy (not to mention cold and grey) the moment I return to Montreal.
So as my muscle tone disappears and my skin turns the colour of cafe au lait, I will try to go easy on myself about taking the easy road on a hot and impossibly beautiful island for a few weeks. Everyone should be so fortunate.