As I was running along the river Limmat in Zurich the other morning with my daughter’s dog Cookie, I was admiring the falling autumn leaves and thought how beautiful this was. The leaves were everywhere, on the grass, the path, the street and on benches. This being Switzerland, I could hear the city employees with their very loud leaf blowers blowing the leaves off the street, the paths, the benches and even the lawn that was perfectly mowed, of course. What a pity, I thought. The yellow, red, brown and green leaves were making the grey city look a lot more colorful. And in my eyes a lot more beautiful, too.
But maybe, this is not the typical Swiss idea of beauty. We normally like it neat and clean and well organized.
On the other hand, when our guests come to Pulau Pef, they like the fact that we don’t control and cut down nature that much and that we all live with and within nature. Of course, we clean the paths, the jetties and the sandy areas every day, as they would otherwise be covered with huge palm leaves very quickly and would make walking around very cumbersome. But apart from that, being on Pulau Pef feels quite the opposite of super clean Switzerland. Suddenly, we think this is beautiful.
Now that there are no guests at the resort, there is a lot of maintenance and renovation going on. Among other things, we also redid some of the pathway borders with new stones and rocks. The idea of our employees was to make these borders as straight as possible, because they considered this to look beautiful. Maya had to intervene and ask them to keep the borders a little curved to make it look more natural. In our – and our guests’ – eyes, it looks more beautiful that way. But not so in the eyes of our local staff…
Maya told me that during construction times, our employees wanted to sand down and varnish all the pillars that were used for the bungalows and other buildings, because they thought this looked more beautiful. Well, Maya thought the opposite – she wanted everything to remain as natural as possible, and so they remained untreated. It is what we westerners feel creates the special atmosphere and adds authenticity to our resort. We look for natural looks and the locals prefer treated materials, maybe also to show that we can afford the treatment. Two rather different ideas of beauty.
Indonesians also like colorful things and clothes and they tend to mix patterns. The more glitter and shiny parts, the more they seem to like it. A western eye might question their taste, but they in turn might question ours, judging our discreet style as too boring. And you have to admit that bright colors do look great on darker skin.
The more I get to know the joyful mentality and the sunny nature of my Indonesian colleagues, the less their idea of beauty seems foreign to me. It simply fits their style, their humor and their behavior. They love life, as simple as this life may be in our eyes.
The notion of beauty is not an absolute value, it depends very much on your personality and the world you live in. Like with many other things I experienced in the last 15 months in Indonesia, I have to let go of prefabricated ideas and think they are valid for everyone. Why would my idea of beauty be the same for my Indonesian colleagues when we grew up in completely different environments, having been taught different values?
I’m still curious to find out more about our two different worlds and what other notions we differ in. And I’ll make sure to tell you about them!
I have to admit, I am very sensitive to the weather. I love the heat and the sunshine and feel miserable if it rains for days and the weather gets cold and grey, which is often the case in Switzerland in fall. I’m therefore in the perfect place in Raja Ampat, utterly enjoying the hot and humid days (ok, I could sometimes do with less humidity…) and complaining immediately if the temperature drops a few degrees. Fall in Switzerland - as beautiful as a hike in the mountains on a sunny day can be - regularly brings me to the verge of depression whenever it shows its wet and cold side for days or weeks.
Many of my European friends say they like our seasons, the change they bring, and that they would miss this a lot in an area without seasons. Not me! I do like to go skiing in winter and love to walk through the fresh snow on a sunny day. But I can perfectly do without, as long as I have the sun and the warm temperatures to make me happy.
People often ask me about the best time for a visit to Pulau Pef. My answer is always the same: basically, all year round. We have no rainy season, nor do we have a dry season. You can be lucky or unlucky every month of the year. Last year, for example, was a very dry year - at least the second half of it that I spent on the island. It hardly ever rained, and the usually lush green vegetation was beginning to look a little yellow and thirsty.
This year, however, it has been very tropical, with a little rain almost every day or night. The rainfall could range from 3 minutes to a few hours, from a light drizzle to torrential downfalls with winds, thunder and lightning. But luckily, we never have big storms as Raja Ampat lies in the center of the equatorial belt. A typical day may start with some rain in the early hours of the morning, some clouds but dry weather during breakfast, beautiful sunshine and hot temperatures in the afternoon and a gorgeous sunset with the perfect number of scattered clouds in the sky to make for beautiful pictures. Repeat the next day.
«Four Seasons In One Day» is a song by the Australian/New Zealand band Crowded House which I like very much. It perfectly represents the weather we often have on Pulau Pef and illustrates why no weather forecast will ever be able to predict our weather. But who needs to know upfront what the weather will be in paradise? If there’s rain, you know that soon after there will be sunshine again. And if you’re going diving, you’ll get wet anyway!
I notice that I don’t mind bad weather that much anymore when I’m in Switzerland, because I know that I will go back to Raja Ampat and enjoy the warm tropical temperatures again. Even though the island’s beauty does have a tendency to become normal after a while, I will never get tired of the – in my opinion – great climate of my second home.
There’s just one aspect about the humidity that I don’t like, which has to do with the fact that we – luckily - don’t have air conditioning in our bungalows: my clothes, towels and bed linens are never really dry. On hot days, I don’t mind. But on wet and cooler days, I would give a lot to have dry clothes to slip into in the morning or a dry bed to lie in at night.
But hey, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, can you?
When I took this job far away from Switzerland, I knew that there may be times when I would have to go home on short notice because someone in my family would need help. My parents are very fit, but over 80 years old and my only sister also lives abroad, so one of us will always have to travel if something comes up. As my mother is currently not feeling well, I’m on my way back to Switzerland as you read this blog post.
My Indonesian colleagues were surprised to hear that I was going to Switzerland because my parents were still living on their own and that neither my sister nor someone else was living with them to take care of them. This would be unthinkable in Indonesia. The family structures vary from region to region, but the principle of someone in the family living with the parents is the same everywhere.
In Papua, especially in small villages, the family structures are very open, and children often stay and sleep with other family members or friends (which most of the times are related too…), without their parents worrying about them. They know that the kids are being taken care of. And the same works the other way around. Old people are usually integrated in some kind of family structure and looked after. But «taking care of» doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning as back home. It may just be food and making sure they are ok. Not the kind of care that we would expect in my country with medical help and integrating them in our daily life.
In Java, I was told, the youngest daughter is supposed to stay with the parents when they get older and take care of them. Sometimes, it may also be the oldest daughter, depending on the situation. The other siblings may live and work somewhere else, but they are expected to support the parents financially (and the rest of the family as well, but that’s another story). It gets complicated when the youngest daughter marries, because she is then expected to live with her husband and – if he doesn’t have any sisters - take care of her parents-in-law.
Looking after your parents is simply normal here and not considered a burden. On the contrary, it’s supposed to bring good luck and as an adult, it is your duty to give back to your parents what you received from them.
How different from my culture! Not many people in Switzerland would consider «sacrificing» their career or their freedom to live with their parents and look after them. I never really considered it either, to be honest, because I will still need to work quite a few more years to provide for my pension. But my current situation and talking to my colleagues here got me thinking. Is it right to be so selfish? After all, our parents did sacrifice a lot for us. So, do we owe it to them to give some of it back?
I don’t think it’s such a simple equation. Our parents raised us to be independent and live our own lives. Many of them would feel like a burden if their children were to take care of them. And we also have our own children to look after, so most of us are already busy juggling job and family at the same time. How could we add the parents on top of this? Because we feel that we would have to be perfect if we took the wellbeing of our parents into our hands. But do we? Maybe, it’s just about giving them the feeling of being part of the family again? Even if they are still able to take care of themselves, they would be less lonely, especially if one of them has already passed away. If the current Corona crisis shows us one thing very clearly, it’s that many people are lonely – young and old. But especially single elderly people who still live by themselves and are not advised to leave the house because they are in the high risk group.
Maya, my boss, has her 87 year old mother on the island and takes care of her every day. And she says she enjoys having «Oma» (as the rest of us call her) around as long as she can. If she took her back to Switzerland, she would have to place her in a nursing home because Oma is not able to live on her own anymore. Even though, it is quite a bit of work for Maya, they both seem to enjoy being around each other, and it looks like a wonderful arrangement.
I must say, I still hesitate. How would I feel if my children were to take care of me? I know I would feel like a burden to them, thinking that they have enough on their back already. And I think, my parents feel the same way about me and my sister. But things may change as we go along…
I’m not there yet and hope my mum will feel better soon, so that I’ll be able to go back to Pulau Pef. But the situation definitely started a process in me. Who knows where it will take me, but for now, I’ll be back in Switzerland for a while.
Do you believe in ghosts? Well, I wasn’t brought up in a society that does, so I don't believe in them. But I do believe that some people have the capacity to perceive supernatural phenomena more than others. Whereas in western countries, a medium who can listen or talk to deceased people is often regarded as scam, in Indonesia they are part of many people’s beliefs. And as different as the various regions of this huge country may be in other aspects, when it comes to ghosts and paranormal phenomena, they all have some. Javanese stories and beliefs may differ from Balinese or Papuan stories, but the common denominator – believing in spirits and strange things happening, especially at night – is the same for most of them.
Soon after I started working here, I heard stories about some of our staff seeing ghosts on the island at night. Hot spots for ghosts seem to be our logistics jetty, the staff area or the building with the generator/compressor. At night, our employees often go to the end of the logistics jetty to call their families, as this is one of the few places on the island with a phone signal. This seems to be the time they encounter ghosts. Iwan, one of our dive guides, told me that he sometimes sees a family with a small child around the compressor area. They open a dive tank and play with the escaping air. But apparently, the parents don’t like the sound of the compressor between 8 and 10pm, which is the time our compressor men fill the tanks for our guests’ dives the next day. So they wait and only come afterwards which is why other people usually don’t see them.
Desmon, another dive guide, had an experience in the staff area near the hot water tap. It was around 3am and he was on his way to the logistics jetty to call his wife, when he saw a woman with long hair and a white dress facing her back to him. He thought it was one of the employees on her way to the toilet and went to make his phone call. When he came back, the woman was still standing there, so he started wondering, but didn’t dare to ask her what she was doing. He remembered that one of our staff had told him earlier that she sometimes hears a woman crying at night. He was convinced that this must be the woman standing there and quickly made his way to his room.
Another time, he was sitting on the logistics jetty talking on the phone once more, when he suddenly felt someone pulling his legs from underneath the jetty. This gave him such a fright that he dropped his phone to the floor and ran away, believing it was a ghost too.
Some of the Papuans also told me that they never see ghosts themselves but that in their villages there are people who can communicate with the dead. They call it witchcraft and explained that these people use a spell to bewitch the water they spray on their face in order to see the dead. Apparently, these women feel when a deceased person wants to communicate with them, which keeps them awake until they are ready to receive the messages from the deceased.
Another interesting story was brought to me by Beti from our housekeeping team. One night at around 4am, she woke up and saw Wiwi, our cook, who sleeps in the same room, praying outside on the stairs. First, she thought nothing of it, because Wiwi, being a Muslim, does this every morning. Beti said she saw Wiwi from the front and was convinced it was her, but when she turned to check Wiwi’s bed, Wiwi was still lying there, holding her mobile phone and checking the time! When Beti turned back to look at the stairs, the «other Wiwi» was gone.
And there's more. My Javanese office colleagues told me about a legend from their area which was also made into a horror movie. Sundel Bolong is the soul of an unmarried woman who died when she was pregnant and gave birth in her grave. The baby was born through her back, creating a hole that is covered by her long black hair. She is said to be a vengeful spirit, which is why her victims consist mainly of men and children, especially newborns, to replace her lost child.
In Java, they believe that spirits live in the large Banyan Trees they have there. On sacred days, a specific Thursday night, they give offerings to these spirits in the form of various flowers, such as Magnolia, Jasmine flowers and also a special type of white and red roses. These are meant to keep the spirits happy and friendly.
Believing in spirits and supernatural phenomena doesn’t seem to be a matter of education, because many of my work colleagues are well educated. It is more a matter of traditions and upbringing. If you grow up surrounded by stories of spirits and ghosts it seems natural to believe in them. And to be a little scared of them too, as they are often described as ugly or suffering and therefore vengeful creatures.
Of course, you may say this is all just a coincidence of events, not ghosts. The woman standing in the staff are may have been a ray of moonlight on the branch of a tree, making it look like a white dress. Or the supposed Wiwi sitting on the stairs outside her room was just Bety’s imagination because she wasn’t really awake and Wiwi always sits there praying at 4am.
But doesn’t it make life a lot more interesting if you can’t always explain everything?
Just as people from this area have a big knowledge about nature, plants and animals, they have also kept a stronger sensitivity for many other things. It has helped them sense danger and thus to survive in the earlier days. And sometimes, it still does today.
The other night, I was feeling blue and was sitting on my terrace for a long time, just listening to music (old stuff, mainly, that made me feel even more melancholy…).
It was one of those almost too perfect nights on Pulau Pef – warm air, no wind at all, the sea as calm as a lake and a million stars in the sky. All that was missing to make the scenery become too cheesy was a school of dolphins jumping in the small ray of light the moon cast on the water.
There I was in paradise, feeling trapped. I knew I was in a perfect place considering the worldwide situation, but all I wanted in that particular moment, was to go home. I wanted to feel and see things moving again, because I felt that on the island, I was stuck in a routine. And I don’t like routine at all. I need to be challenged, I like it when things are moving fast, or new situations come up all the time and you have to improvise or change your strategy. Which is why I love the resort atmosphere with guests. There is always something unpredicted every day, you never know what the next day will bring. New guests come every week and with them come new inputs, new inspirations, but also new challenges. Our resort may be remote, calm and close to nature, but during normal operation, it’s bustling with energy.
There is still a lot of energy on this island and within the team. And a lot of things are moving, are being rebuilt, improved and repaired. The team is busy and Ibu Maya still has a lot of ideas on what needs to be done. As a matter of fact, she feels completely different and has the impression that many things are happening and moving on the island. I agree, they are. But just not in the direction I would like them to move: have guests again.
While having these thoughts on my terrace, I felt guilty about having them. Am I allowed to feel sorry for myself when everything around me seems perfect? After all, I still have a job, the most beautiful office in the world, the best view from my terrace, lovely work colleagues, great food and a wonderful boss who tries to do everything she can to keep our spirits up. What’s wrong with me? When I talked to my daughter the other day she said: «Don’t even think of coming home, mum, it’s so depressing here! The weather is grey, people are frustrated, and the news is bad every day. Just stay where you are, you’re much better off!». I knew she was right and yet, I felt different.
I decided that I needed to challenge myself more. Reading in my hammock and jogging every other afternoon was fine for a while, but now I need a challenge on a different level. But what could I do? Ok, for one, I'm still struggling with Indonesian. Even though I work on my vocabulary every day, I need to intensify it and improve my speaking skills. I already understand a lot, but speaking is still a different story. So, that’s one challenge. Check. What else?
As I was looking up to the stars, I saw a firefly cruising above my head in the dark. I watched it for a while, then looked down in the water in front of me. There was bioluminescent plankton, glimmering from down below. This is a fascinating sight. If you’ve never seen it, you have to google it or check it out on YouTube, it's incredible!
So, there I was, in the middle of all this amazing nature, thinking what a fool I was. I’m still so fortunate and much better off than many other people currently. It’s up to me to make myself feel better. I’m the only one who can change something about my personal situation. If this were a friend of mine telling me her story, I’d probably tell her to get a new hobby!
So, I guess I’ll start thinking about a new hobby then. It may take me some time to find one, but stay tuned and you’ll read what I come up with…
This week, we held a Zoom presentation about Raja4Divers, the creation of the resort, as well as the current situation on the island with the borders still closed for international tourism. The presentation was hosted by one of our longest-standing partners, the Swiss travel agency WeDive. As with everything we do here, we wanted this event to be as perfect as possible – at least the parts we could influence ourselves, considering there were still enough insecurities, such as technical aspects like our slow internet connection.
True to Maya’s concept of involving the team in everything we do, the entire staff was to be present, despite the presentation taking place in the wee hours (4 am Pef time, to be precise!) because of the time difference to Switzerland. Our resort’s special atmosphere has always been and continues to be based on the staff’s presence and involvement at all times. They live and work in the resort and are visible to our guests, unlike in other resorts of our area. And our guests seem to enjoy that, as their feedbacks keep confirming. For our guests to be able to witness and get to know the local people and their way of life, at least for the duration of their stay with us, seems to differentiate us from others and a reason for them to keep coming back.
We definitely wanted this presentation to be an event and to be seen by as many people as possible. So we promoted it widely. I wasn’t going to settle for 50 people watching. I have always wanted to get the maximum out of an effort for which I am willing to invest a lot of time and energy. And I sometimes have difficulties understanding why everyone doesn’t think the same way, but I know people have different objectives...
Luckily, Maya is also a perfectionist which is why we set our bar very high. I think you can be remote, informal, close to nature and authentic, as we are on Pulau Pef, and still aim for the best possible version in everything you do. And there is one thing, Maya and I both hate: boring presentations. Which is why ours had to be anything but boring!
I hope we achieved this goal and that if you watched the presentation, you were entertained.
As always with such events, the last few days and evenings were hectic. Since we were using an external camera to get a better video quality than with the built-in laptop camera, there were several rehearsals to get the technical aspects as well as the angle, the sound quality (which ended up being a challenge anyway) and the focus right. We are lucky to have Marcel, our facility manager, who is quite the tech savvy and almost always found a solution to every problem we encountered.
But in spite of all the rehearsals, there were two factors we couldn’t predict: the weather and the internet connection. Lately, it had been raining hard quite often during the night. Not a problem if you’re in your bed dreaming of beautiful reefs full of fish. But if you’re planning a live presentation at 4am and prefer not to be blown away by the wind or your presentation to be drowned by the sound of heavy rain, you hope for a quiet night. We did, and it worked out!
And to our great relief, our satellite internet was stable too, something you can’t always count on in our part of the world.
Was it a success for us? You bet! Are we happy we did it? Absolutely! Even though at first, we were not sure whether it might be counterproductive, considering we still don’t know when people can travel to Indonesia again. But I think it was the right moment to present ourselves to the world. Our guests, families and friends keep asking how and what we are currently doing on the island. This was the chance to show all of you that we are fine, still busy and keeping the resort in shape for your return. It was also the possibility for people who have never been to Pulau Pef to get a notion of what we mean by «being family», «good vibes on the island» and «informal atmosphere at the resort».
Almost 200 people watching and 90% of them staying for at least one hour is a big success for us. What did you think of the presentation if you watched it?
Your honest feedback would be greatly appreciated.
And if you missed it – don’t despair! We recorded the whole presentation and will upload it to our YouTube channel as soon as possible. Just bear with us for a few more days!
When I first arrived in Switzerland at the end of July, I was still full of hope and confident that people would travel again to Indonesia as soon as the borders reopened. But the longer I stayed, the more my confidence left me. With the regular flow of negative news regarding the virus and the rising infection rates, I started feeling unsure if we were ever able to welcome guests again on Pulau Pef within the coming months… And I felt that many people around me did not believe they would be able to travel again next year, which literally shocked me.
Why was that? What was happening to Swiss people (who are probably representative for many other nationalities too)? Even though life for most people living in Switzerland was close to normal again – with the exception that you have to wear masks and keep your distance – there was still fear and a lot of insecurity in the air. And the joy of life had disappeared because public social life was very restricted. Events and activities that bring you joy were still cancelled, and I felt that many people were sad about this. I know, I mentioned this before, but it only really struck me when I came back to the island.
On Pulau Pef, the joy of life is still so present. Even though our future is as unsure as ever, our staff keeps on laughing, singing and enjoying life as if nothing had changed in the world. You may think this is naive and that reality must be looked in the eye even if you live on a remote island. But I can assure you, it helps to be here and get infected by another virus, the virus of joy and laughter.
Just as everything else is far away from Pulau Pef, the virus also seems very distant. You almost forget it’s still around. The Swiss government keeps repeating that, apart from protecting others, masks are also here to remind us that the virus is still present. On the one hand, this seems like a valuable argument. On the other hand, why don’t they remind us to be careful on the streets? So many people get killed every day by traffic. Or why don’t they remind us to eat healthier and not destroy our bodies with junk food? Wouldn’t that be just as important?
I am convinced that the joy of life contributes to keeping your immune system in good shape. You obviously also need to look after yourself by eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, etc. But it seems evident to me that stress and fear contribute to weakening your immune system, thereby making it more prone to viruses. People in Raja Ampat may lead a less healthy lifestyle in general because they simply can’t afford to do any different. But their joy of life definitely helps them strengthen their immune system and prevent or overcome illnesses.
Even though I do miss our guests and the bustling resort life they bring, it feels good to be back on the island. It helps me believe in a better future and not lose hope that we will survive this crisis. Our staff gives me back my joy of life because their laughter and their jokes are very contagious.
I wish all of you out there could come and see for yourself, get infected by our type of virus and feel the joy of life of Pulau Pef!
When I arrived in Switzerland, many of my friends asked me how it felt to be back and whether it was a strange feeling. I didn’t quite understand what they meant because I didn’t feel weird or anything. Of course, there were the Corona measures – wearing masks, physical distancing, etc. – that I had to get used to at first. But that took me about one day and then everything felt as it always had in Switzerland. I was back home, and it felt like that.
I live in two worlds now and both of them feel home somehow. Each of them is very different from the other, and when I’m in one of them, I don’t miss the other very much. I just switch and do completely different things, complementary almost. When on the island, I read a lot, practice my Indonesian every day, rarely stay up late, eat rice, fresh fish and vegetables and drink very little alcohol.
In Switzerland, I didn’t read one book in two months, watched a lot of movies and TV, went out to meet people almost every day, ate lots of unsweetened plain yoghurt, pasta and bread and very often had a glass of wine to celebrate meeting my family and friends. And forgot all my Indonesian, aduh!
It doesn’t take me much to change from one world to the other. They both have their wonderful and their difficult sides. But this is the reason I chose this job– to experience a new world, different from the one I was used to. However, I noticed that there is a strong common denominator: nature. The more I experience nature on Pulau Pef, the more I also enjoy it in Switzerland. One of the best parts of my day was the morning walk or jog with my daughter’s dog. I will miss him a lot, too!
Pets. I love cats and dogs and I do miss them on the island. OK, I have my very cute sugar gliders that I feed every evening. Bug they are wild animals and won’t let me caress or hug them. And my little gecko friend – let’s face it, he’s not very cuddly either. I do enjoy the spectacular underwater world of Raja Ampat. But I haven’t met a fish yet that was willing to hug me… So, my furry friends at home remain special and very dear to me. But as much as I would love to have a cat or a dog on the island, they don’t belong here. They are part of my other world.
A year ago, when I came to Raja Ampat to work, people thought I was brave to do this. I didn’t understand it, but I think what they really meant was that for them, it didn’t seem easy to switch from one world to the other. So many unknown things in this new world were expecting me. What I considered interesting must have seemed threatening or scary to others. But new things hardly ever scare me, they intrigue and challenge me.
If it weren’t for the C-crisis, I would be living the dream: enjoying the best part of both my worlds, being able to travel and switch between the two of them often and broaden my horizon. Who wouldn’t want that?
#TalkingWithMangroves is taking a summer break and will be back with new posts at the end of September.
While waiting, I hope you enjoy the previously published texts below about my first year on Pulau Pef.
Stay tuned for more and have a wonderful summer!
Back home at last! I arrived in Switzerland a few days ago and am now enjoying the Swiss summer. I had almost forgotten how beautiful this country is – especially the outskirts of Zurich where I’m spending the first week. It’s green, peaceful and very clean. I live in paradise on Pulau Pef, but this is the other paradise. Sometimes you have to go away to appreciate what you have back home…
What’s changed though is the way people deal with each other. Thanks to Corona, the already reserved Swiss people are now even more distant when communicating with each other. Obviously, wearing a mask or a face shield doesn’t help to create a comfortable atmosphere when you meet someone in a shop or on the street and exchange a few words. And I know it’s the right thing to do. But having spent the last four months on our island and not having to worry about distancing and wearing any kind of face protection, it does feel strange to me.
The fact of not being allowed to touch anybody is also difficult to internalize. My first reaction is often to stretch out my hand for a greeting, only to realize that the other person looks at me as if I were a Martian, probably thinking: «Where has SHE been the last weeks and months???». Some of my friends still hug me – with their head turned completely away from mine, and I do the same. I want to hug them because I haven’t seen some of them for a very long time. But I do it with a bad conscience, thinking that I may be putting myself or the other person at risk.
And then I start to rebel internally. What life is this now? I feel that touching and holding each other is a fundamental human right. That we need this in order to survive. That we will become extremely lonely if we are not allowed to have physical contact for a long time. Maybe, I’m romanticizing, and I know that not everybody is the same. But when travelling from Indonesia to Switzerland, I sensed that there was a feeling of suspicion in the air wherever I walked. If I happened to accidentally get close to someone, they looked at me with a slightly hostile or frightened expression. Nobody talked to each other, everybody was minding their own business and hiding behind their masks. And the worst – I felt that I was doing the same, without really wanting it. I thought it was the right thing to do. And in theory, I’m sure it is. But it doesn’t feel right. It should be physical distancing, not social distancing. They may only be words, but they make all the difference.
In Switzerland, infection rates are rising again, so they are talking about reimplementing more restrictions. For how much longer? Is it going to help if what we did so far didn’t? I’m not sure. I just wish, we would stop spreading so much fear and start focusing on what we can do to strengthen our physical and psychological immune system. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying «eat some vitamins and you will not get infected». But I think we should start working on our attitude and how we are dealing with this virus. It’s not going to go away for a long time, maybe never. So, we better start living with it and develop an inner strength. Make sure we keep our body and mind healthy, instead of waiting for some kind of external help in the form of a pill or vaccine. We need that too, and for people with a pre-existing health condition, it’s another story. But us «healthy» people need to take action and not let ourselves be consumed by so much fear!
The area of the world that I am currently spending my holidays in is so rich and fortunate in many ways. I realize that now more than ever because I got to know a little how people live in Indonesia. We constantly worry about everything in the western world, maybe because we have a lot to lose. In many parts of my other world, people’s daily struggle still is to get enough food and a protected place to sleep. They don’t have the luxury to worry so much as we do, and that’s why they probably consider this crisis just another like so many before. And I’m convinced it helps that they worry less.
I hope we will find a way to live with this and all future crises that are bound to come, by focusing on our strength and resilience instead of letting ourselves be consumed by fear and panic. And personally, I am very motivated to make the best of my holiday and not let myself be infected by any kind of worry.
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…