Back on track

Time started passing. Slowly at first, when I was still surprise-visiting friends I hadn’t seen for a long time and enjoyed western comforts like a hot shower and a fluffy blanket.
But it started running faster and faster as the frustrations of finding a fulltime job in a financial recession grew. And the daily grind, the general state of “meh”, snuck up on me.

Remember how I was writing I felt a vibration in the air, like something spiritual was upon me, like something big was about to happen, when I had just settled on Bali?
I lost that…

Even though it’s great to see my Hillywood friends (when I do) Holland isn’t giving me what I came for. And I said that if the job at the coffee-corner wasn’t going through I’d be out of here. So when they had to let me go last weekend due to too little business, I made some changes.

Like my flight date; going back to my love two months sooner (still five months too late) on July 8th.
I could stay those extra two months, to spend more time with friends and family, but it’s not like we’re going to see more of each other, be honest guys. There would just be more teary scenes in August instead of in June.
Besides, we did all those already, remember? I left for indefinite last October. Only to come back now for cleaning- and picking up my last things and to quick-feed my funds.

I said goodbye to the Netherlands, Europe, the Western world because I grew tired of that tunnel vision way of life, the each-for-their-own (no, this does not apply to most people I know, so don’t take it personal! But it does apply to most people that make up our society) and the general life-philosophy: work/money/status first, doing what makes you happy and helping others after. This competitive, individualistic, indoors life is not for me.

So I left the dull, organized, bureaucratic life of the West. And now I find myself caught in that rat-race again.
I want out. I want to do my own thing again. I want my freedom back, my flipflops; no more walls and closed doors.

I was set for the adventure of a new culture, a different pace, another time zone.
And I met someone I want to start the adventure of a family with. And skype is great, we spend a lot of time together getting to know more of each other and our future plans. But it is frustrating too; there is just nothing like the smell or touch of your significant other, missing that is driving us both mad. And building towards a future is difficult living on different sides of the globe.

Also, I’m very happy and grateful my folks are letting me stay with them. But at some point you’re just too old to be living with your parents.

It turned out going back to wealthy Europe to make money wasn’t the best idea. With unemployment rocketing skyhigh my broad but undeep experience and lack of bachelor diploma it is nearly impossible to find a job.

So to enhance my chances at finding income in Asia while we’re working towards our own paradise, I’ve stared a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course.
I’ve always entertained the idea of teaching. The memories of my weeks in Samroang, Cambodia with those eager little students, are very happy ones; a very rewarding experience! And at the time I already said I would like to do this for a longer period to actually make that difference.
Studying for it now makes me very excited to get going all over again.

To top it off I found a Dhamma Vipassana 10-day meditation/silence retreat closeby only a month after I arrive. Something I’ve been interested in since I first heard of it.
Not speaking for 10 days; a challenge for everyone I think, for me certainly. But I am very curious to what you might find out through this experience. I think I might be very enlightening.
So it would boost that spiritual vibration that I felt in the air once more, replenish my soul, mark the new era.

I am so ready to begin again!
schoolgirls

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Day 1 back home – JUNE 5, 2012

Reversed jetlag. Waking up on Dutch time while my internal clock is still on Bali, 6 hours ahead.
I open my curtains to the cold grey street I’ve been looking at most of my life. I pull on a robe and take a look around.
I moved in with my parents again when I got back from France half a year ago and unpacked my books and clothes. When I look at all that now I can’t believe how much stuff I have! Especially the clothes; who needs so many clothes?!
All these cute little dresses and pumps and funky sneakers. They feel brand new to me. And they make me feel rich, but at the same time I’m overwhelmed.
I never owned many cd’s but already messed that pile up last night looking for Bob Marley to chase a feeling.
My books… I didn’t even manage to leave the ones I bought on the way. Yes, bought, because I didn’t manage to swap either. And all of them are dear friends with a story and memory behind the one they describe.

I never used to be one for breakfast; but in Asia I learned, and I’m hungry. But all the food that I craved out there isn’t as good as I imagined it. I’d just like some campur.
Banana’s here look weird too, huge and pale.
Going to the loo, I really have to tell myself it’s okay to throw the paper in.

Two steps forward one step back I make my way back into homelife.
And then there’s a letter from a retirementfund I’m apearently in. A feeling of being pinned down by our bureaucrastic society chokes me.

The biggest difference and what I’ll probably miss most is living outside, together. It’s just too cold for outside life here.
And everyone is used to living their own little tunnelvision, hidden from the fresh air. There is a lot of talk, a lot of communication, through facebook and phones, or even face to face, but it’s nowhere near as warm; so much more focussed on ‘me’ and ‘looking out for my stuff’ and ‘taking care of my business’ instead of “How are you, really? Where are you going, where have you been?”
I’ll be homesick to that for a good long while I imagine. I came home much, much too soon.

From singlets and flipflops it’s back to trousers and longsleeves under my same same shirt.
All I want to do is drown myself in all these memories – and I don’t know where to begin.

Lists!

Sights
ngkor
#1 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
#2 Halong Bay, Vietnam
#3 Nam Kha National Park, Laos

Country
#1 Laos
#2 Indonesia (Bali)
#3 Vietnam

Town
#1 Padangbai, Indonesia
#2 Luang Prabang, Laos
#3 Hoi An, Vietnam

Locals
#1 Padangbai, Indonesia
#2 Samraong, Camboia
#3 Canggu, Indonesia

Day 0 back home – JUNE 4, 2012

I landed early in the afternoon and had a small welcome-committee to accompany me on the train back to my hometown 30 minutes from Amsterdam. My parents were there, and two of my best friends; the same group that waved me off 11 weeks ago.
And there’s the guy that I was seeing before I left. But it’s a little awkward between us, and pretty obvious that whatever we were doing before, wasn’t actually ment to happen. So we’ll go back to just friends.
On the train everything is quite alright. They ask me if I had a good flight and am not too exhausted, I begin telling little bits and they ask me sometimes how things work.
Then we get our bicycles. My dad brought me mine. We have this saying ‘like riding a bycicle’ meaning that you’ll never forget how to do that. My feet are freeing though, and I’m glad my mum brought my wintercoat for me. It may be June, but it’s not summer in Holland.

I might have mentioned before how blessed I am with some amazing friends. I had been looking forward to seeing them again very much. Also I’m really bad at being alone, especially after big events like this. At parties and festivals I’m always one of the last to leave; if I don’t the fall asleep in a corner of a couch. I don’t like the sudden solitude.
So I invited my very closest friends for dinner.
Time to do some shopping, at the grocery store I’ve been going to for most of my life. And though I know where to find what, the concept, efficiency and consumerism staring you blank in the face at every turn scares me like a jack-in-a-box. (I’m one of those people who find those and clowns and other childrenstoys very disturbing.)

It’s a good night. And with each of them it feels like I could’ve just seen them yesterday. But still I feel a million miles away.
I’m glad none of them asks that dreadful question “How was it?” There just isn’t an awnser, there is no way to begin to try and explain. And people who haven’t done a solo backpacking trip simply never will understand…
And it’s unworldly to me to hear them talking. About daily things. Things that I might have found important before, now sound so bizar to me and like no issue worth mentioning. The traffic to work this morning, the boss whining about one thing or another…
It’s feels a bit like a hangover. Vivid images of the last few months keep flashing in my mind, and I can’t really connect to the people around me.

It’s almost midnight when I cudle up in my own bed with my own kittens in my old room at my parent’s house.
All the comforts of a home, a warm shower, ‘my own bed’, a warm blanket… nice, but nesecary? a
Of the close friends I invited for a dinner get together a third was no show. Or didn’t feel half as close anymore. I miss Padangbai and my on the road life so much right now.

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.

Day LXXVII – JUNE 3, 2012

Every day a new adventure.

That this should just happen to be my last doesn’t even start to break that rule.

I’m woken by a knock on the door at 9am. And then again at 11 am, and at 12pm –check out- I awnser it.
Last nights there was a little incident where one of the employes knocked on my door with broken English and pretty much forced himself in, sat down and asked if I had beer and if he could stay. I got him out again easily enough, but still he scared me and I kept my door locked and closed for the rest of the night.

Now it’s just the minivan service to the airport. And while waiting the guys make some more (rude?) comments, and one of them wants to take his picture with ‘the blond girl’.
But finally we load up and leave this place. I share the backseat bench with 4 other customers and we pick up 2 more who get the passenger seat. Not too crowded.

At the airport again I have to pose as ‘the white girl’ a few times. I’m sure they were saying in amazement “and she was smoking too.”

I was hoping to stash my bag in the Emirates office, but after trying to arrange that for 2 hours with a lot of asking, walking back and forth, and no success I give up. Not a lot of English is spoken or understood around here on Soekarno Hatta International Airport. I’m glad the signs at least have translations on them in small writing.

I sit down with starfucks and order a ‘coffee’ to get on their wifi.
A nice young man from Bandung asks if that other chair is taken. His Ingris is very good and we have a nice chat.
Yeah. Airport days aren’t that bad.

And that’s what you get for talking to strangers.

A look into the airport backstage and a free local meal. And of course the company and insight of life of a local.

Sjaf, who works here in logistics –but not today; so what was he doing here? – took me.
He just starts talking to me, not in the annoying way the ignorant-to-buleh guys at the hotel did. He’d actually seen and learned something of the world, has a French girlfriend now living in Bali and aspires a trip to New Zealand to visit a friend and work in the kiwi business. Good English too.
I ask him for a tip on good, cheap, local food and he tells me there is a place he can get that. “You want to go now?” So I follow him into a staff only area where a woman sits behind a table filled with local goods. He gets a fish pindang and fried potato and nasi goring. Enak sekali!
He insists on paying, and makes sure I put down his contact info for when I come back. “You can stay with my girlfriend maybe, she lives in a big villa. No charge of course. Call me when you get back ya?”

It’s funny: back there in the staff area I expected more funny faces like “Who the hell is this?” but I didn’t get any at all.

Sjef walks me outside and tells me “Thank you for your time.” For real? All of that, you just get, all it takes is an open mind, or maye some would call it naivity. I’m still just a little blond girl travelling alone with my big backpack. But you’ve got to be able to let go of those things and just roll with it.

At 9pm check-in starts, my visa gets that big ‘used’ stamp on it and in line the number of none-asians suddenly grows fast.
The only smoking area on this side is a café where I wasn’t allowed a table without consumption, but another guest invites me to sit at his. However, he continues down the tunnelvision of his smartphone. Welcome back into ‘the real world’…

An other airport employe has seen me walking around this gate the past 3 hours, and comes to sit with me while I steal some power to make sure my music won’t die on the 16 hour-flight ahead of me. He hands me a can of coke and tries to strike up a conversation, but is something like a deaf mute. At least it’s not the language that’s the barier, and he’s such a sweetheart for noticing and sharing this with me!
I cannot bare to leave this place! But he signs for me I should probably precede to bording. I give him a peck on the cheek, swing on my small backpack, and walk out of Indonesia and on to Emirates.
About 6 hours later I find myself on Dubai International Airport again. With a new free for use smoking lounge sponsored by Winston. So I walk past the Irish pub I once envisioned running into one of my on-the-road-crushes. As all of those have faded, so will eventually do my feelings for Padangbai and becoming a Balinese, I suppose…

And thus I get on another airbus, back to Amsterdam.

Day lXXVI – JUNE 2, 2012

After a hasty wake up, final packing and race to the airport, I’m waiting to board flight QZ7521 to Jakarta.
So I put up my hair Balinese stye like Nyoman taught me and draw in the happiest memories melancholicly while I try to stay focussed on the boardingscreen.
My liver and brain are doing their best to process the many satu lagi’s I shouldn’t have had last night. To feed my sentimental mood I check the footage I recorded. Man I’m going to miss these guys!
Welcome to hotel Padangbai. I checket out but I never want to leave.
Oh stop being such a baby; in a few weeks all experiences of the last months will just be warm and fuzzy, distant memories.

On the plane I’m sieated next to this elderly couple, the man in traditional muslim outfit, the lady wears a headscarf. They keep smiling at me very friendly but I can’t keep from wondering: what must they thing of me, a girl all alone on a plane…
And then suddenly you’re a young woman travelling alone in a Mulsim country.

From beautiful fresh happy Bali to the dusty Jakarta area.
I land at 2 o’clock and had forgotten to look up a hostel or a town; I don’t want to go into Jarakta city since I only have 30 hours or so to kill till my flight home leaves from this same airport 30 kilometers out of the city.
So I try asking at the infostand, but they can only tell me of hotelrooms starting at 200.000 rupiah a night or don’t speak English at all.
I meet a guy named Finman, a 28 year old banker that works at the airport, who offers me a ride into a closeby town. “There is transit hotel.” He gets off work at 7pm but goes to have a chat with his boss, who is eager to meet me and practise his English, and throws some names of apparently famous football players my way that don’t ring a bell, but are supposedly Dutch, “Ya, bagus!”
Finman gets some time off to bring me to a hotel. I’d spoken with him for a while and he seems like an honest young man so I take him up on his offer.

We drive for 10 minutes and get into a dusty town of little shacks shattered around the side of the road. It all looks so different from Bali, even from th rest of Southeast Asia.
The first hotel stinks, literally, and they charge 170 for a muffled room. 20 meters further is the next. They’re full.
But there is a somewhat persistant mister of the place two doors down, and that place looks clean. 175 a night sounds fair enough, so close by the airport, plus they include a taxi to the airport. Transit Hotel Serasi it is.

The room is still a concrete cage without windows. But with tv… no wifi though. I guess I’ll finally get to catch up on the many hours of sleep I’ve been missing.
The place is ran by men only and, well, it feels like a world apart.

Finman asks to use my bathroom; least I can do. He asks if he can sit down for a moment; sure. “A few more?” Ok. “You want me to pick you up for dinner tonight?” No thank you, you’ve been very kind, but I’m tired. “You want a massage? No charge, because we friends ya.” Ehm, no, no thanks…
It might be a culture or language issue, so I always try to stay openminded about these things, but is getting a little weird right here.
He points to my belly and says “You big, ya? I think you like the food.” and smiles. I think that’s another culture thing. In the west you just don’t tell a woman she looks more than thin. But Koming also had made this remark, very frank and forward, on how I’m a little chubby, but therefore no less gorgeous. So how do you respond to such a thing?

I leave the hotel for a little stroll to get to know my suroundings, as I always like to do.
I walk along the main road and pass a few empty warung-like stalls that seem uninhabited. There’s a lot of traffic and honking at me and people shouting things I don’t understand. Everybody looks at me like “What the hell are you doing here?” I guess they don’t see a lot of tiny blondes wandering the streets alone…
I see plenty of alleys leadig out to what looks like the place where people actually live and the action is. But because of all the funny faces and that I have no idea of the way things work around here I don’t dare explore them.
I go into a bigger lane or what looks like a square and find a warung where I even see some girls sitting without chaperones.
The lovely bosslady helps me with the manu, but still we can’t figure it out too well with hands and feet and the slightest bit of bahasa Indonesia and bahasa Ingris we share, so I follow her to the counter and point at some things that look tasty. An elder man comes to warn me “bery spicy”, but I love my last meal out on the streets!
I’m going to miss you so much Indonesia!

I suppose I should be home before dark.
It’s going to be a long night. Ah well, gives me some time to reflect on everything I’ve been through, to put it dramatically.
And with that realization of how I only have a few hours left on Asian time I suddenly wish there was someone bisa berbicara Bahasa Ingris, to get to know the local life here as this is such a different place again.

I’m back in my room at 5.30 and for the first time this whole trip I feel so very very alone and overpowered by it all I cry.
A refreshing shower later and I’m ready to face this lonely night. My body should be exhausted enough, and I’ve got plenty left to write about, photo’s to sort, things to read, thoughts to wander…
And if I should need the distraction: I have an artschool admission in a few days I still have to get started on. However, those are the serious kind of things I’d rather postpone as long as I can.

Home, or all the awesome beautiful people I met on the road for that matter; they feel so far away at this moment. I know I love them with all the passion my heart beats with, but I will only feel it again when I’d see them… no that’s not exactly how I mean to say it. Or maybe it is… I just can’t tell right now.
I’m convinced tomorrow, another Java day, will be less of a culture shock than the day after, back in the Netherlands, where I’ll possibly feel more lonely, having discovered this new world and now leaving it much, much too soon.

To get used to the cold I turn on the AC tonight and sleep with an actual blanket pulled over me.