My friends and our guests often ask me what «doing marketing» at a dive resort really means. «What do you do all day, Monika?»
I usually like to answer that I just hang around a little, enjoy the beach and the sun and go diving all the time.
Well, not quite… My workday starts at 8am with the daily staff meeting. We all gather in a circle on the floor between the office and the dive centre. First, everybody gets called out to check if they are present. Without this daily routine, I guess some of the staff would just show up to work whenever they please. Or not at all. Afterwards, we are informed about the day’s events or exchange information between the various departments. At the end of the meeting, we all pray in silence, everybody according to their religion. Or – for those that are not religious – we keep silent for a minute or two.
After the meeting, I usually try to get hold of some of the dive guides to hand them the camera and ask them to take pictures of our guests during coffee break between two dives. One of my responsibilities is to manage the “Guest Comments” page on our website, including the guest pictures.
The rest of the day I spend at my desk, planning social media campaigns, writing newsletters, updating the website with new info or assets and once in a while creating ads, leaflets or other printed promotional material. I also write press releases and advertorials and deal with dive magazines or other publications and websites around the world for editorial or advertising space.
Whenever we participate at a dive show, my job is to make sure we have enough printed promotional material for our booth or to send images and videos to our partners or the organizers of the show for their website or other channels.
Additionally, I also deal with expat organisations in Asia to promote Raja4Divers to their members. They represent a target group that lives closer to Raja Ampat than our other visitors from Europe or North America and are therefore likely to visit us.
And then, there is the guest relations part of my job, which basically starts the moment I set foot in the office in the morning and ends in the evening when I leave the restaurant or the bar to go to sleep. This is not all hard work, but it just means I am constantly available to our guests whenever I am not in my room. Don’t get me wrong, I love the contact with our guests, and almost all of them are great! There are just days I wish I could «go home», close the door and spend a quiet evening on my couch watching TV.
Of course, this is what working in tourism or at a resort is like. Anybody who has ever worked in the hospitality industry will tell you the same. But for me, this is new as I have never worked in this area before. But I’m getting used to it and enjoying it. And I also love my day off, when I relax in my hammock and read for hours. Or I spend the morning diving with our guests and «work» a little…
No Doctor, No Worries?
I’m well aware that I live on a very remote island with no easy access to medical care. Luckily, I’m not someone who worries quickly. I tend to believe that everything will be fine somehow – a good quality, I guess, for the kind of life I’m living at the moment. And I’m also lucky that – apart from a twisted knee last September, which took rather long to heal – I haven’t had any major health problems. Of course, I intend to continue like that, but you just never know…
Almost two weeks ago, one of my work colleagues woke up at night because she was having problems breathing and some of her extremities felt numb. She got very worried and woke up her next-door neighbor and someone from management. They decided to bring her to the hospital in Sorong by transfer boat as quickly as possible. Once in the care of doctors and with the right medication, she quickly felt better and the tests they did on her showed nothing seriously wrong, except for low iron levels and fatigue. She was very relieved to hear this and will hopefully follow some of my nutrition advice that I’m planning on giving her, as I noted she was not eating properly lately. This may have caused some of her symptoms.
I’m glad this incident turned out well, but it still leaves me thinking about what would happen if one of us had an emergency. We have two transfer boats that could leave day or night, as one of them did for my colleague, but they still take 3 hours to get to the nearest doctor. On the other hand, if you live in the Swiss mountains in a remote cabin with no connection to the rest of the world, you’re just as far away from medical help as in Raja Ampat – and I never considered that to be too risky.
It’s probably just a matter of attitude. If you worry all the time and constantly imagine the worst possible scenarios, you’re bound to freak out and panic easily here. But if you try to be precautious and don’t take any unnecessary risks, you should be ok. Considering the risks I take back home by driving a car or taking a train every day and crossing the street in heavy city traffic, I’m probably a lot safer on the island with no streets nor traffic and only sand and jetties to walk on.
I wouldn’t choose Pulau Pef as my first destination if I had a condition or any type of health problems. But as long as I’m healthy and feel fit, I will not worry too much and try to keep a more or less healthy lifestyle. Which would be a good advice for anyone in any place on the planet, by the way...
This week, I got to play the priest! A couple staying with us wanted to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary here and renew their wedding vows. They asked us if we could organize a little celebration. We said yes, making sure that it was not going to be just a «little» celebration.
Our whole team was eagerly planning and organizing the event for weeks. It had to be perfect. The guests had sent us the vows they gave each other 20 years ago, as well as two wedding pictures to give us an idea. We were all asked to wear white clothes or at least a white t-shirt.
At some point, someone had to re-write the vows, and guess who had the honor to do this? Since I like writing in general, it was a pleasure for me to do this, although I had no idea what to write about in the beginning. It had to be solemn and meaningful, I thought. And something that would fit various lifestyles, as I didn’t really know them and what they may have experienced during their 20-year journey together. I managed to come up with something and was actually looking forward to holding my speech in front of the entire group of guests and employees that were all invited to the ceremony. I even got to ask the famous question and luckily, they both said «I do»!
After the ceremony, there was singing, dancing, food, cake and party time until the wee hours. All in all, it was a beautiful event and all the guests were very happy.
We celebrate many events here, but never before such a big one. Usually, it’s birthdays, a marriage proposal once in a while, or public holidays, and we always try to come up with a new idea to make it special for our guests. We also like it to be a surprise for them, so we don’t tell them before or have standard procedures. Even though there is always some planning or preparations involved, we try to make it look like a spontaneous event.
Our staff is very good at improvising as well. You have to be if you live on a remote island with no easy access to shops or other providers of supply. But it’s always done with a lot of joy. Our employees never give the impression that they are forced to make an extra effort. I think, they are enjoying these celebrations as well and most of the times, they keep on playing music and singing much longer than they have to. As there are not many distractions here, these are also fun times for them, one of the reasons probably being that they always get a special treat, such as free drinks, sweets or cigarettes.
But even though we enjoy celebrations, Pulau Pef will never become a «wedding island» or any other kind of party place. As much as we like to have fun, we also enjoy our peace and quiet times again, listening to the sound of the waves and the singing of the birds. And remind ourselves that this is exactly what our guests come here for.
I love languages and have always learned them rather easily, although most of the five that I speak at a young age. So it felt like a natural consequence for me to study translation at university. My goal was to become a simultaneous interpreter after passing my translator’s diploma, but then I started working in communications and marketing and drifted away from languages. I never actually worked as a translator, but every office I have worked at was very happy to have me translate short texts and letters or check translations for them. I didn’t mind that and enjoyed doing it.
When I applied for the job as Marketing Manager at Raja4Divers, Maya asked me if I was prepared to learn some Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) and I answered that this was one of the things I was really looking forward to. I was very eager to learn a new language and naïvely imagined it would be as easy as in my younger years. I guess you know where I’m heading – it turned out a lot more difficult than I thought!
Grammatically, Indonesian is not a difficult language. There are no tenses and no declinations and plural forms are often created by simply repeating the word twice. But even though the vocabulary has some Dutch and English influence, it has no common roots with any Latin or Anglo-Saxon languages that I speak. This makes it hard for me to remember the words, even after repeating them many times and trying to learn them by heart. At the beginning, everybody told me to be patient. «It’ll come in time, you don’t have to rush», they said. Well, I’m not a very patient person, so I wanted to speed up things and ordered a textbook to study in a more structured way. I was convinced, this was going to do the trick and started studying enthusiastically during my lunch breaks. At least for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, the words didn’t stick with me any better than before. The fact that I work at the office here, surrounded by Indonesian ladies who speak perfect English, as well as our German Facility Manger and Maya, with both of whom I speak German, doesn’t really help. I feel a little ashamed of not being able to communicate with our local staff who doesn’t speak English. And it doesn’t make me proud to sit at the staff meeting every morning listening to my colleagues speak a language that I only understand little bits and pieces of. Every day, I tell myself that something has got to change! And then I have a million excuses why I didn’t have time to study again…
A few months ago, I started teaching English to our dive guides. They need to improve their English in order to communicate better with our guests. When they sometimes struggle to pronounce and remember the words in English, I catch myself thinking «Come on guys, it’s not that difficult! Just try a little harder!». But for them, English is just as far away from Bahasa Indonesia as Indonesian is from English for me. Or even further. Who am I to judge them for struggling to learn a completely different language? I’m in no position to be judgmental as long as I don’t speak their language. So I better get down to it and study harder.
Wish me luck!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…