Archive | July, 2013

On the thankfulness of not understanding

30 Jul

On Gili Air one of these bright clear days, I came upon a woman in her mid-fifties, wearing a green summer dress and a frown, who I could not be happier to not understand.

“So are you going to put the cushions back?” She had stopped in front of me.

“You are not allowed to move the cushions. There is a sign saying, you cannot move the cushions.”

I stared at her. It was true. We had taken more of our share of cushions though there were plenty more available on empty seats.

It was something in her tone that made me slow to respond. Or maybe the strong German accent that came with it.

“So?” she said. “Can we reclaim those cushions?”

“Can't you just take those?” I said. I looked at her to make her follow my stare to the empty beach hut in front with four large cushions.

“I don't want those. The servants sleep on them all day long.”

“But there is no one there now and we have been here for hours. Can't you just take those and if someone else comes, we'll give them the ones we have?”

“I don't want those” she replied, uttering each word slowly and separate from the next.

She proceeded to sigh.

“I don't want those“, she repeated, with one eyebrow raised, talking to me now in an even slower manner, as it would help me understand.

I didn't.

I did when she lowered her voice.

“I don't want those”, she hissed in a whisper. “The servants sleep on them all day long”.

I turned around and looked at my fiancé. But his dark sunglasses revealed nothing.

A moment passed. I gave her the cushion I had under my feet.

She smiled at me. “Thank you”, she said, as to a stubborn child who had finally come around.

I got up and got myself some servant cushions.


That same evening, we returned to the hotel late at night. There were no cushions in the small beach huts.

“Uhm”, I said, thinking not too much of it. “They must take them in every night.”

“So they all get mixed up then?”

I understood him. We laughed.


Gili palmtree and coral reef

21 Jul

We are on Gili Air in Indonesia and I don't have a care in the world. Time passes unnoticed, one day, five days, ten days and have we really been here already for more than two weeks?

There is an ocean that stretches out of sight. A cloudless sky. And twice daily the ice cream seller nips through the palm trees, accompanied by waves crushing on the sand and a small radio fastened to the top of his ice box. This is picture-book tropics.

There are no cars nor dogs on the island. A few horse-drawn charts make their daily rounds on the sandy tracks. Tourists pleased with life lean out to photograph the chickens who scramble across the road and the sunburned children who drift around like cheerful drunks in the waves.

After the morning swim, I read and read and read and it is time for snorkeling. I see no turtles, but I have already seen four and there is enough underwater wonders to keep me floating for a long time.

When the time comes, the sunset is bright pink and I watch it while I jog on the hard sand by the edge of the water. It is a starry night. After dinner we walk through the small village back to our bamboo hut and snuggle down with each our novel and all I can hear from outside are the waves and I have another attack of happiness and this is all to saccharin to share which is why I have not blogged from this island before, but there you go, I just did.




Incredible Indians

2 Jul

Honestly, when we were re-introduced to the hot, dusty and busy India after our mountain break in the Himalayas, we went into hibernation.

Because once out of Kaza, it hit us that the rest of the country was slowly cooking its inhabitants. The rain had yet to come and temperatures had reached the high forties. It was simply too hot and humid to do anything. And that, my friends, was our excuse for barely leaving our hotel room in Delhi the last few days in India.

Because India is tiring. And we were tired.

After two and half months in India we needed a break from being tourists. And besides, it didn't retrieve our lost tourist spirits that we were staying next to New Delhi railway station. In the competition between wandering out into humidity that left us wet with sweat in alleys smelling of perfume de peepee, fluffy hotel room pillows and our new god, The AirCondition, won. And, we had seen Delhi before, and truthfully, it really was too hot.

So, how was India?

It would be most obvious to tell you about the crazy and wacky, the people curled up on the pavements, how the social mobility ladder is still far out of reach for the many, and how the caste system seems to be hiding in every nook and corner.

But, for every elbow in the ribs from a local queue jumper, there were people who went out of their way to help us. Like the girl who missed her bus to help us figure out ours, the couple who ended up giving us a 20 hour lift, the ones who came with us to ensure we got Indian prices for the souvenirs, and the man who left a nice and warm cafe to walk in the sleet to help us find our hotel. And for every holy cow munching on plastic, every aggressive tout and roadside littered with trash, there were bright saris and turbans, butter chicken and tandoori nan and Indians who were warm and welcoming.

Loved it or hated it?

Before we left for India, we were repeatedly told by other travellers that the country was a matter of black or white. “You either love it or hate it”, they said, “there is no in-between”.

In a way, they were right. India was all the extremes. The highs and the lows often happened juxtaposed. But in the end, there were more good people than bad people, more superb experiences than horrific, and more wacky wonderful memories than anything else.

And above all, India was never boring.