Plottwist!

“Wow, what the hell?! Aren’t you supposed to be on the other side of the world?”
Yes I am. I was…

“So. Like, what, how long are you here for?”
I have a return ticket for September.

“Oh you do have a return ticket this time? Yeah, ‘cause you also have a boyfriend back there right?”
That’s right! Or actually, a fiancé ^.^

“Wow! Congratulations! But that must be hard…”
It is! I miss him like crazy, being on different sides of the world is very frustrating.
Then again, who am I to complain? You have to live in this shithole year-round.
And there are plenty of couples who have to spend months apart like this years on end.
I’m just happy we only have to do it for these few months, am grateful for skype, and hold on to the thought of the paradise we’ll be able to build ourselves by the end of this year.

“Ah-oh, next you’re going to tell me you’re pregnant, haha.”
Not yet, but don’t be surprised if I carry one on my arms next time you see me.

“Seriously, stop it with the bombs now!”
Haha.
Okay, so I came back to earn some European bucks. We have a dream, but to make it come true we need bigger funding.
And for me to find work in Indonesia isn’t easy. They’re not keen on having bule taking their jobs. And even if I’d find something I wouldn’t make enough to save on.

“So is he coming here aswell?”
To get him visa isn’t easy either. Let alone a working permit. He’d have to be hired first; his employer needs to file for the working permit. But to get a working permit you can’t be visiting on the tourist visa.
But how are you going to find an employer if you’re not here, right? Yet another bit of stupid bureaucracy-bullshit to reassure me I really don’t want to live on this end of the planet anymore.

“Then this is the last time I’ll see you?”
I was already packing up before I left last October. But whatever I had left here is coming with me in September.
Of course I’ll be back here on holiday some day. To show my husband and kids where I grew up, introduce them to my family and friends.
But I won’t be wandering aimlessly anymore. I found my place, I found my guy, my home, we have a plan, we’ll have it all.
But hey, you should definitely come visit us some time!

“What happened to the traveling dream though?”
I found something better, something maybe I was already looking for… Plus, plans are there to be made broken, remember? Besides, we can still travel together.

“And how long have you been gone now? Not that long, right?”
No, it was only 4 months. And it feels like I was here just a week ago.
And at the same time so much has happened. I was gone twice as long as last time.
But didn’t make half the mileage, haha. I met him on my first stop, managed to pull myself away for the planned trips to Singapore and then Cambodia, but couldn’t stay away for even one month. Padangbai; can’t stay away.

“So how are you going to manage half a year?”
I have no idea. Just work, think ahead, pull through…

“Just what you tell us not to do..?”
Yeah… I know it’s conflicting, but I’ll find a way to justify that for myself ; )

“So he’s that great? Tell me more about him.”
Well… He’s super handsome, he has black hair, brown eyes…

“Haha. But what is he like, what does he do?”
He’s the sweetest, always taking care of me. And even though he’s a little younger he’s very serious about us. He makes me feel so safe and happy.
He’s also a great cook, loves to make and feed me the best of foods. And he’s really clever and funny, he always knows how to make me laugh.
He likes to surf and go fishing and making music and traveling. And he loves kids. And giving me massages… He’s my dream come true.

“That does sound great. I’m happy for you.”
“But now you’re here. So what will you do?”

Just work. I’m not picky. I need to make money so I can go back asap.
Other than that I’ve got some time to clear up those last boxes I left with my parents and say a final goodbyes.
And dream up our to-be-paradise, of course. But I’ll tell you more about that as it’s unfolding, in due time.
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Padangbai Weekly

But the dreams of Southeast Asia never faded. All through the long days at work and quiet nights at home I kept dreaming of all the alleys yet to be roamed, waterfalls yet to be jumped, villagers and fellow travelers with the same passionate will to live and explore yet to be met.
And on October 13th I finally flew back east to the island I left last, straight on a bus to the town that stole my heart; it only seemed fitting to begin again where I left off.
Initially I intended to stay for about a week. But before I knew it a month had passed.
And I was almost ready to finally move on. You can’t ever stay in one place too long or you get sucked into routine again; precisely the reason you went traveling in the first place, no?
But the lack of contact with fellow travelers made me wonder how much I wanted to go down that path again; the lonely busrides, the ever continuing goodbyes…
This is about where you lost me. And it must have been destiny this is about where it happened.
(Yes I know, destiny is one of those iffy terms. But I’m not afraid to use it here.)

Another one of those encounters where right away it feels like you’ve known each other from before, like you’re old friends who just haven’t seen each other for a long time.
“Why didn’t I meet you before?” finally met it’s context for me.

I’ve been mentioning boyfriends before. After the dark months back home I’ve been getting eager to find someone again. And the closer I got to leaving, the easier that became – long story.
Short: finally I got the commitment I wanted before, but by then I was so close to departure I didn’t want it anymore. I already knew travel and relationships don’t go together. Another long story I mean to go into later.
I’m drifting off again. (Must be because the waves in front of me keep rolling in and out different thoughts.)

He’s different from the other boys here, who all make hunting the many tourist girls that pass through their town a sport. He’s not hitting on me.
But he’s ever so friendly, and open.
On the beach, after attempting to teach me riding the boogie-board, we sit and he tells me all about his life.
And he’s so clever and funny and honest.
And every day I’m looking forward to hanging out with my new friend more and more.
And so charming too.

I don’t have to elaborate on how this turned from friendship to fling to serious. Or maybe I will, for chicklit’s sake. Another time.

This blog is not a dairy. “Today I went to the beach, again. There weren’t any waves though, so I spend most my time sitting at a warung, listening to my boyfriend talking with the other locals, trying to pick up some bahasa Bali. Thinking about how I’m going to find a job so I won’t have to leave the country in three weeks…”
There’s not a lot of new stuff happening yet, since I came back here already more than a week ago. We’re figuring out how we’re going to make our life together. But I don’t have much to tell you yet.

I should tell you about my week in fresh Singapore, the city/country unlike any other, where I received the warmest of welcomes by my awesome friend and host Fauzy.
And the complete opposite in third-world Cambodia where I visited some of my best friends from home; a blast!
But that all doesn’t go in the Padangbai Weekly. Once again I’m telling you “later” – see, I’m talking like a local already.

So I’ll devote this one to this last week, back in the town that started to feel like home since I was first here 1.5 years ago.

I came back so quickly because this guy I met in November and I just couldn’t wait till February; when I’d originally booked my flight back.
I abandoned my traveling dream for a different, no less dreamlike life.

And after a week pretty much off of everything, I’m back in the office; a warung by the ocean, my pen and booklet on the table, describing the same scene all over again.
A tourist couple in the sand, a local sits down with then to make friends and invite them to the bar tonight to get his friend some business. The sarong/massage girls and sunglasses/henna-tattoo guys on the prowl. A little further the kids are playing, throwing sand at each other, shouting at the waves. And a little farther still a group of tourists gathers to pose for a photo with the musicians. My guy’s grilling the fish he just caught to feed me the best of flavors again.

It’s going to be a rocky road. Indonesia is not eager letting Westerners taking their jobs, so getting my long-term visa is going to be a hassle.
My love is four years younger, a surfer, an raised in a completely different culture where ‘hurry’ and ‘now’ don’t have much meaning anyway.
But as long as I can turn off my Western brainwashed “what if’s” and just relax, I truly do live in paradise.
Like I would joke to my friends back home. Most of them haven’t backpacked solo so would ask me “What is your plan, when are you coming back?” Questions that don’t exist on the road.
So I would joke “Maybe one day I’ll meet a hot surfer and we’ll fall madly in love and spend the rest of our days in a shack by the ocean.”
I can’t help it happened this soon. But I’m sure it will bring me plenty more stories to tell.
For now I’m going to put my pen down and just enjoy it some more though.

Padangbai Weekly

sunset padi
(One week ago) At the first day of the fifth week I take a day off.
I’ve taken plenty days off already, or however you call it when you’re still in the holiday-phase of your indefinite travel, so basically my honeymoon with me. However, most of those were due to hangover. Or it was a day off from writing to spend the entire day at the beach, playing in the waves, playing cards, guitar; generally kicking it in an active manner.
I made a new friend who’s taken it upon himself to improve my surf skills. So all I really suffer today is the muscle aches from my first day on the board in over a year.
All in all, a good moment to reward myself by taking the time to finish The Hundred-year-old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared -a hilarious read!- with a fresh pressed mango in the comfort of my fan, on my bed; as I’m starting to notice the lack of sofa again.

Careful what you wish for

I was telling my friend the bar owner/big boss about the idea that was gathering in my mind about my leg-sleeve. I know he’s always promoting his cousin who is tattooer, so should have known better than to bring it up. I mentioned before that once you ask for a price, you open negotiations and there is no way back. Apparently it can happen even sooner.
“Ok ya we can see abouts that tomorrow, I call my cousin to come here.”
“Oh, but I’m really not sure yet! I’ve only just started toying with the idea…”
“Ya no problem, he make the design first, then you can see if you like. If not is no problem. You have reference you like? Just prints it out and then we see.”
Calling the cousin. And though it’s been a month now that I’ve heard mainly Bahasa Bali, and I’m doing my best to learn, it’s such a quicksilver tongue, I never catch what they’re saying really.
“Ok already he comes. Tomorrow afternoon.”
“Oh, eh, okay. But no decisions yet, right. So can you give me a price estimate?”
“No that depends. First he make the design, then we decide.”

When I see my buddy the next day I tell him again I’m not sure. And I’m just getting such good friends with the surfboard; I don’t want to leave it for a week while the tattoo heals.
“No, four days is fine! My cousin already on his way now.”

A few hours later I’m explaining what I want to Wayan, the tattooer who drove all the way from Kuta. His english isn’t very good so my friend acts as interpreter. Wayan sees the lifelike image I found and says he can do that. The work I’ve seen of him implies he could, even though that’s on dark skin in black shades instead of full colour.
The price discussion comes up again, and it’s much more than I expected, but I feel bad about the guy driving all this way for nothing. After some discussion it drops one-third, and for european standards it’s still many cheap.
But halfway it shows he has no experience with light skin, there’s no shading and it’s obvious it’s going to be nothing like what I wanted. Too far in now, so I’m just lying back – on my own bed; my room’s been turned into a studio for the evening.
I’ll just have to find a qualified artist to fix it up.

Second of the clichés I had to go through just to find out, in the name of journalism of course.

The other was loaning a (local; all my friends are locals really) friend money, because his sister had had an accident and needed to pay for the damage and would otherwise have gone to jail.
You hear these stories of westerners being ripped off loaning money to help out family members, so I was cautious.
But I want to help out a friend where I can, and I want to believe in the good of people. So against better judgement I decided to gamble the 3 million rupiah.
I know you would have all called me crazy for doing so, so I didn’t go public with this until I had it all back.
But this one went all right!

(This week) I finally find the time to finish this post, sitting in the fast-boat shop of my friend’s uncle, where I get wifi from the next-door restaurant while the boys are playing football on a PS2, shouting at the screen in their adorable accent, trying to impress me with their english. More and more am I blending in with local life, sharing some arak and a pack of kretek cigarettes.
After this we’re grilling the fish a friend just caught, at another fiends grandpa’s place.
Good times ahead.
I was going to leave this town finally today, but the friend I was going to take this trip with couldn’t go today because his cousin is in the hospital. Instead I got a place to stay with a friend for a few days, before I go hop some of the neighbouring islands with another friend.
Good times ahead!
And last night another girl who’d gotten stuck in Padangbai had to leave for home. A sad thought, I feel for her. And I’m very happy with the visa extension I got to spend another month in this country (read: this town) As much as I am curious to see what comes of another friends invite to start a restaurant here together.
Again I say: good times ahead!

Padangbai Weekly

bias tugel
Do you know the one about the girl who was going to see more of Bali than just Padangbai this time? Yeh, she didn’t.

Okay it’s not too late, I haven’t even gotten my visa extention yet, so anything can happen still. But the saying ‘stuck in Padangbai’ is to be applied yet again.
Besides the many passing through, there are quite a few expats here. And all those who’ve stayed longer, keep coming back. So it really is a saying here. When you tell this to the passersby, first they wonder “What do you do, if you don’t even dive?” second “And why stuck?”, and thirdly “You have to dive though, especially if you’re here for so long!” Apparently this is an exquisite dive spot.
I explain it’s stuck in the positive sense. This town is too much fun to leave. I can’t tire of the waves. I can’t tire of the jokes.
“Goodmorning” at 11 pm.
“Nice to meet me.” as comeback to “Nice to meet you.”
“Can I borrow you later?” when in need of a lighter.

And there’s no pretentions. “If you don’t like it, take another drink” is what the band says. “Quiet, bad bisnis, only 150.000rph” is what the warung at the beach says. They’re not sneaky about it. You’re the tourist, you’re here to generate our income. So let’s make it more fun for everyone, and ‘join us’.

I still haven’t made many traveler-friends; they all keep leaving. But I’m making more and more local friends. And even though there’s a language barrier I’m learning from their culture, and we’re learning from each other language wise.

And another nice thing about being in one place for so long is the almost residential status.
The transport and sarong sales folks have stopped harassing me, “Buy something?” has become “Hallo, where you go?” (which means more like ‘how are you’) The shops and restaurants let me come to them instead of calling out every time I pass by.
Yesterday I wanted a massage, and there are about 5 massage ladies prowling my regular beach. And they kept passing me by, even with eye-contact and saying hallo. I had to go over and ask.
Everything is just so easy. I walk the street, someone passes me and offers me a lift, because they’ve got the time. I forgot my wallet at the inn, so ask one of my friends at the bar if I can borrow his bike real quick. The key’s already in my hand and he’s pointing at the pile of bikes parked out front. Never asking about license (which I don’t have) or skill (I have to ask him how to start it again; I haven’t really driven since I was last here.)
It’s this sense of comunity that is so much stronger here. Helping a friend out is the norm. If there’s something you can do for someone, you do it.
This is not particular for this town by the way, it’s my experience in all of Southeast Asia.

I had started a course on bahasa Indonesia. But since Bali has their own bahasa I changed classes. I’ve learned to say thank you – suksumo, your welcome – maoali and no – sing and a few lines to tell the boys off when they’re trying to hit on me again, shut up – siup/mendup, fuck you – daskleng and go home – magedi.
And even though at a nextdoor bar daskleng almost raised a fight between some Americans who were joking around and a local who was offended, when another boy was trying to steal a kiss and I told him magedi! he pissed his pants laughing.

Same old

Things to get used to again:
Strange currency, counting in the thousands again
Everyone ushering you into their store or offering services
Everybody saying you’re beautiful, great hair, nice tattoo, good body
No smoking inside? Why no smoking inside?? And what is inside anyway?
“Hallo miss, where you go?”
Don’t make an offer if you don’t intend buying. Once you start the haggling game the only way out for the salesman is with a profit turned over a now happy customer.
The townwide powerdrop, especially at night when everything goes dark

Things I forgot:
The kites they presumably put up as scarecrows.
To buy water so I have something to drink in the morning.
To bring a cap. When I checked it off my packlist, I thought I’d suffice with just a scarf to cover my head. On day one of course I got sunburned (it was quite cloudy so I slacked on applying sunblock) and now I don’t have anything to keep my face in the shade.

And the list grows by the day. Until they’re all normalities again.

That first day back here in my sweet Padangbai where the air is a mix of insence, petrol, gambalan and prayers and always someone somewhere playing a guitar, I woke a few times, threw off or pulled up my blanket and turned over. The so-maniest time I check it’s 8 am. Must mean it’s okay for me to get up and be done with the jetlag. The crowing of the roosters or the sun thrying to burn my curtains away was no measure; they start before 6am.
I still don’t feel like I’m on a holiday, or in an exotic place in far far away, so I’ll start with some housekeeping. I plan to spend some time here anyway.

After I’ve enjoyed the banana pancake Ibu baked me it’s time to see what’s become of Bias Tugel.
First things first: a dive. The water is still just perfect, cool, but not too cold, with gentle waves to play in.
As I dry off Nyoman comes running up to me, “My friend finally coming back!” At warung Pari I grab a cold coke, and again get a warm welcome back.
When I stroll down the boulevard, one of the Kinkyboys calls out to me “Hey! You remember me?”
Really? Wasn’t that my line? Don’t you have millions of blonde tourist girls traveling through your town every month? I know we were all on a very friendly foot one and a half year ago, but I’m very surprised they all do remember me.

About a week later I find out what it is: still most people stay for only one or a few nights tops. So whomever overstays a week makes an impression. In the mean time countless locals have started talking to me “I think I see you before. You was here maybe 2 year ago? Ya I remember.”

Slowly I’m finding my footing again, and though I still have a lot of contact with back home, I’m beginning to feel all too much at home here again. Like last time, I have plans to go to the Gilies and Lombok and see more or Bali. But the thought of leaving Padangbai doesn’t sit right just yet, even after two weeks.

So what do you do all day, wasting time in paradise? (As I planned to get all this writing and posting done and we all know that’s not progressing much.)
It’s pretty simple.
The waves at the beach keep me mesmerised during daytime.
At the beach I try to do a little reading, but before I finish a page I find myself in conversation with a fellow-traveler or local. Or I just get distracted by the little local kids letting themselves be thrown around in the whitewash. Or I let myself be tempted to another lesson at riding the waves on a boogie-bord by one of the boys. Or I indulge in a game of boss with the Paries. And of course I have to enjoy their exquisite cooking and freshly grilled fish at some point of the day.

At night it’s the boys playing hits like Another Brick In The Wall and I Want To Hold Your Hand and of course a lot of reggae, sharing Bintangs or arak balinese style; filling the same glass and passing it around the bar.
One night I find myself in Moonlight, one of the three bars around the central parking lot, who take turns so there’s live-music somewhere every night. The name and owner of this bar have changed in the mean time, but aside from that everything is much the same. Mario, the town fool, still bangs the tambourine, the same band still jams, and chain-smokes even while playing. Bob Marley is still favourite.

I’m sorry I haven’t found anything inspiring to write about yet. Sometimes change is good, but I guess sometimes same old is just better.
And it looks like things are going to be quite different from what I planned. Or well, it all remains to be seen. In the end, the only plan you can make is not to make any plans. Which is what I initially said I’d do.

Take off

20131015-094726.jpgEven though I booked 4 months in advance, and took my time saying goodbye; 2 months before I’d fly out I left my apartment to stay with my parents. 2 weeks before, I quit my job. I’ve been having farewell-drinks with dear friends and it seems the big leave is all I’ve been talking about this last month.
Still, of course, I managed to postpone the most important things to the very last day. Insurance, writing myself out as a Dutch inhabitant, the final packing and zipping up.

And all of these little things would make my departure more real, and sometimes might even give me butterflies; like that time when I’d just bought my rucksack and was waiting for the bus on the way back, me and my new home all alone by the side of the road, the way it’s going to be from now on.

But still it feels unreal.

Little over 36 hours ago I said goodbye to the very last guests of my intimate ‘last meal’. I’d invited my closest friends to dinner for a quiet last night at home.
The evening before that, I invited everyone I know to come and get a last free hug at my favourite bar.
And it’s so heartwarming how many amazing people I have in my life! It would almost make me not want to go.

But that’s the point that I’m trying to make here: that it still doesn’t feel like I’m going.

These last few evenings, last few days, with all the final arrangements and final goodbyes, I was still very relaxed about it all, just going around my business, just having good times with great people, kicking back. I felt no stress, no churning gut. It’s a big step, but it’s one that I’ve been living towards for so long now.

20131015-094220.jpgAnd now that I’m here it all feels so strangely familiar. And I’m almost …bored?
I was afraid this might happen. That after last time, and after idolising it for so long, I’d expect too much of it.
And where I’d expected to see a wild greenery, I now see smoke rising.
But besides all the demolision I see, I also see a lot of new, shiny buildings. And all the smiles and “Halo!”s I miss so much in the Dutch streets, are still here in abundance.

Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been up and traveling for over 30 hours. I snoozed a little, but even on that 12 1/2 hour flight not for more than one hour.

20131015-094818.jpgAnd again, just like last time, it still feels like all my dear friends are still so close, like I’m only around the corner from them.
And of course I’ll just need a while to adjust and get into it again.

So I wash up, get into some fresh clothes, and make my way over to my friend’s bar. Just before I put my hands over his eyes, he turns around. “Oh shit!” in his thick Australian accent, with that broad Bali smile.
Ting ting Padang bai, it’s good to be back!