Last week, I told you that I was looking forward to going back to the island. I was, but when the time came to say goodbye and leave Switzerland again, I didn’t feel like going. It was a lot harder to go away again for six months than it was last summer.
Last year, everything was new and exciting, and I could hardly wait to start my new life at the other end of the world. I was taking off to a new adventure and wasn’t quite sure how this was going to turn out. When I got to the island, time went by very quickly, as I was busy getting used to the climate, the people and the new lifestyle. I had to learn so much that I didn’t really have time to think of home much.
Now that I knew what I was going back to – a paradise that I came to love and appreciate very much, but also a place very far away from my loved ones – I wanted to stay in Switzerland and spend more time with friends and family, enjoy the luxury of the civilized world, go to the movies and concerts or just relax on my couch and watch TV. I realized again how much I still love life in Switzerland, even though in the beginning, it was strange to be back. But I got used to it again very quickly. It will probably be like this every time I go back home: I’ll never have enough time to see everybody, never be able to do all the things I want to do and be torn between enjoying Switzerland and wanting to go back to beautiful Pulau Pef, the warm climate and the laughter of the locals as quickly as possible.
Any expat will probably talk about similar experiences and say that it gets better in time. Just as with the goodbyes on the island every Friday, I assume I will get used to going back and forth between my two lives the more often I do it.
Arriving on Pef, I was greeted with much joy from the team, as always, but it still felt odd to be back, as if I didn’t know where I really belonged. OK, I was jetlagged and had a bad cold, so I wasn’t the best of myself. But it only took one day, meeting the guests, tasting the delicious food, watching the Pef band sing their island tunes and listening to the sound of the waves, and I was back also with my heart.
It felt comforting to know that I am able to switch back and forth between my two worlds because I intend to continue doing it for a while…
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have noticed that there was no post last Friday. I attended the new InterDive dive exhibition in Frankfurt with Maya and our two booking representatives and didn’t have time to write. I have worked at other exhibitions before, but never at a dive show.
Working at an exhibition is a good opportunity to feel the pulse of visitors and potential guests. There are many different types of people and questions you have to deal with. We talked and talked, trying to give visitors all the info they were looking for and answer as many questions as possible. It made me feel very proud to see the amazement in people’s eyes when I showed them the images of our resort and the new trailer. I know it took a long time to get where Raja4Divers is now and it wasn’t always easy for Maya and her team. I’m lucky to work for the resort now that it’s running more or less smoothly and that we are well booked. I makes me proud to be part of such a successful team and company. And this is what I tried to convey to potential guests at the dive show.
We are operating from a position of strength and you might say, it’s easy to sell a successful resort. Try doing it from a weaker perspective and see how that works out! Well, Maya and her team once were there and worked their way up. With a lot of passion, hard work and love for what they do. Our guests feel this and so did the visitors at the dive show. Our booth in Frankfurt was part of a big Indonesia booth which means there are other resorts and liveaboards present and competing for the visitors’ attention. Most of the time, we had a lot of people at our corner while others sometimes looked a little bored. I’m sure it has to do with the way we presented our resort, the decoration of our booth and our open, friendly and passionate explanations. We are truly convinced, our resort is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and this attitude seems to be contagious.
To stay at Raja4Divers is not cheap, we are well aware of this. And I know some of the visitors we presented the resort to never thought they would spend that much money for a dive vacation. And yet, they stopped, listened and some of them even made a reservation on the spot!
As I am enjoying my last days in Switzerland with a busy schedule, I realize once more how incredibly fortunate I am to work at a place like that. For the time being, I wouldn’t want it any other way and I’m looking forward to going back next week!
I’m still in Switzerland, enjoying some time off and meeting a lot of friends and family. Which means, I have to answer many questions about my new life in West Papua. «So, what’s it like to live on a remote island?» «What do you do all day?» «What are the people like? Are your guests nice?» «How do you cope with the heat and the humidity?» «What do you miss most?» «Does it feel strange to be back?»
I love to tell them about Pef and Raja4Divers, even though I have to repeat the same things over and over again. I don’t actually feel as though I have been away for six months – many things felt as always from the day I arrived in Switzerland (except for the cold weather, of course – but then again, I never liked that anyway…). Yes, I did enjoy that first sweet water shower! And the dry air, bed and clothes. And fast internet and the fact that I can just pick up the phone and call whoever I want. But these are not the things that strike me the most.
I appreciate the incredible public transportation in Switzerland – you miss a bus and 2 minutes later, the next one arrives. And I don’t risk my life just crossing the street because traffic is very civilized. I can buy everything I need and pay by app on my phone. But I am surprised about the fact that people seem to constantly complain about something – the weather, the other people, the stress, their boss, their kids, the train being delayed, the high prices (ok, I agree – welcome to Zurich!), politicians, the environment, the future, etc. Hello? You have no idea what a good life you have here! Stop worrying about everything and start enjoying what you have!
I guess, I was the same before I left. But living and working in another country changes your perspective. You start appreciating what you have back home. Things you took for granted suddenly become special and valuable. You start to actually feel that living differently can also be ok. Having travelled a lot in my life, I knew that before, but I didn’t really feel it. I looked at different cultures and traditions from a tourist’s point of view. Now I’m living and working with people who have been brought up very differently and I have to deal with their mentality. I can’t always assume they think the same way as I do, and it’s me who needs to adapt, not them. It works out fine most of the times, but sometimes I do need a little help. Luckily, I have other westerners working with me who have been there for a long time and who are able to help me understand when I’m lost. It’s challenging, but very interesting. I’ve always been curious to experience and learn new stuff, so this is the perfect training field for me!
I never make New Year’s resolutions because if I want to do or change something in my life, I usually can’t wait for the year to end or to start. I want to do it right now! So, when I reflected on how good 2019 has been to me and how 2020 might turn out, I wished for life to just continue the way it was on December 31st.
Of course there are things I wouldn’t mind (not) having, e.g. less pain in my joints, no gray hair, more pocket money to spend on travelling, have all my loved ones come and visit me on the island, speak Indonesian without having to study so hard, find a jogging route all the way around Pef and finally manage to eat less chocolate, but I am also very happy without this. I’m enjoying the amenities of modern life in Switzerland at the moment – running shower with sweet water, fast internet, public transportation, cinemas and much more – but I’m already looking forward to island life again, to the sunshine and warm temperatures, to the wonderful team and their laughter and to contributing to making our guests’ stay on Pef the best they ever had. Never mind the salty water and sweaty temperatures!
My friends sometimes ask me how long I am intending to stay on the island. Honestly, I don’t know. I’ll stay for as long as it feels right, and I hope it will feel right for quite some time to come. Life has a way of taking care of itself if you let it. There were many ups and downs in my life, but most of them happened for a reason. And I was always trying to be open to new adventures, to meeting new people and to make lemonade, when life gave me lemons.
The last 6 months working for Raja4Divers have been incredible. I have opened up and become more generous in accepting other cultures and lifestyles, less judging. Swiss people are very quick with their judgement on the «correct way of living» for everybody, and I guess I had that tendency as well. Of course, I still have my own beliefs and values, but I learned that other ways of living can be very fulfilling as well. And I am not only talking about the employees I work with, but also about our guests. We have various nationalities and very different individuals visiting us, which I find interesting and inspiring even if some of them are rather challenging. They tell us about their travelling – mostly diving – but also about their lives, work, families, etc. I might not end up writing a book about these stories as one would expect, but they will help me see things from a different perspective now and then.
I am convinced, 2020 will be a good year even though we will not be able to stop wars or solve the climate crisis yet. But I will continue to be open to what the new year has in store for me. I’m sure it’s filled with joy and happiness, great encounters and fond memories, but also with difficult times and sad moments. My resolution is to accept all this and make the best out of it, just as I did last year. It’s worked out pretty well for me – it got me a job in paradise. What else could I wish for?
Happy New Year to all of you – may it be the best you ever had!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…