They say in Indonesia that time is like an elastic.
You quickly get a feel for this stretchy concept and, if slowing down is on your “to do” list, you get to enjoy it too. Maybe even get a little bit addicted…
I have been on Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island just West of Lombok, for over a week and time certainly has taken a whole new meaning.
The waiter slowly walks over to the bamboo seating area you’ve perched yourself on, offers you a wide sunny smile, asks how you are and what you would like. You would like a menu, please. Sure. He slowly grooves back to the bar, picks up a chicken-feather sweeper and, lost in his thoughts, cleans the counter. Suddenly he jolts ever so slightly out of his torpor, puts down the cleaning device, grabs a couple of menus and peacefully makes his way back to your table, offering his beautiful smile again and slowly walks away.
This very casual approach to everything is addictive.
Slowly, every day becomes infused in this relaxed dance of motions. Instead of waiting for the food, you chat with your companions, forgetting where you are and why you are there. When the food finally arrives, you are pleasantly surprised as the whole reason for even being there became a thing of the past. Only the present moment seems to matter to these friendly people.
The roads of the bigger cities are chaotic and impossibly rule-less to the Western driver. However, you are quickly informed that there is logic in this chaos, as the Indonesian drivers have one rule: everyone is only concerned about what is in front of them, what is behind is irrelevant. It is in fact a great analogy to how life seems to unfold in the country in general and more specifically on these peaceful islands.
In a place where the local charm has not yet been overrun by waves of tourists, this slow pace is a delicacy that must be savoured and certainly not frowned upon or rushed. The island life is all about the contemplation of beauty, the intoxicating effects of the turquoise waters, the rejuvenation of the sun and of course the melodies of local language and spice of Indonesian island food.
Gili Air is tiny, can be circumvented in less than 2 hours. A great place to dive, snorkel, take a yoga class or just lay back in a hammock in one of the many quaint local accommodations. Choose a home-stay and you will part with less than 20 dollars. Splurge and treat yourself to a luxurious bungalow with a pool and endless comforts for the equivalent of 50. The overall prices may be a little bit higher than in Bali and considerably more than some of the larger cities, but relatively speaking this is still a budget destination. Everything is to be bargained, but without the intensity of some other Asian countries. A smile and some gentle persistence will get you a fair price.
As most of my time on Gili Air has been spent at a yoga and meditation retreat, I happily espoused this elasticity of time. We would be gently woken up at 5:15 by a bell to walk 10 minutes to the beach and watch the sunrise. The day would continue with the introduction to different meditation techniques and expanding on our yoga practice. The days punctuated by amazingly vibrant group discussions and of course, all the colours of the local food. I could not have asked for more – a peaceful and friendly environment to call home for seven days.
During my time at H2O Yoga and Meditation Centre I was able to dust off the last few particles of uncertainty about my decision to change course, quit my job and begin anew. Being surrounded by people from all over the world, from different walks of life, but who vastly mirrored my own need to explore more, I was reassured that my intuition had served me well. The warm sea water, salty breeze, freshness of the morning sun, abundantly green spaces and those friendly smiles were constant reminders of the beauty that dwells all around us.
Time just stretches in Indonesia and many people stay here for much longer than they anticipated. I can appreciate their choice completely. But I will continue my journey, perhaps a little slower.
Next stop – Ubud and its abundant art and culture… and endless choices of local delicacies!