The other day, we were talking about how as kids, we used to imagine being stranded on a deserted island and the things we would have liked to have with us on this island. Well, now I am «stranded» on a remote island and thinking about what I wish I had with me now.
First – more dark chocolate! I’m a chocolate addict, so even though our stock of delicious chocolate was very big when we still had guests, because many of them bring us some when they visit, I managed to pretty much finish all of the ones that I liked by now. So next time I come back from Switzerland, I must remember to bring more chocolate!
Second – a better e-reader and recommendations for good books to read. With the three additional afternoons off and the electricity being switched off at 10.30pm now, I have a lot of time for reading and I am devouring one book after the other. Before I came here, I subscribed to a big library in Zurich to borrow e-books. While this was basically a very good idea, there are two problems that I keep encountering: my – in my opinion – very un-user-friendly e-reader that takes forever to download a book even with a fast internet connection. On the island, it’s a nerve-rackingly long process and every other time, I get an error message that doesn’t allow me to download the book even after trying again and again. The second problem is not knowing which books to choose. The choice is simply too big. I’ll have to bring a list of recommendations to avoid spending hours downloading a book that I get bored of after the first few pages.
So, if you have any recommendations (I like biographies and novels based on historical facts), send them my way please!
Third – less sun cream. When I left Switzerland last summer, I threw a little goodbye party. Many of my friends tried to find a useful goodbye present, so they gave me a sun cream or body lotion. I know it was meant well and a good thought really, but I hardly ever use sun cream here, because I simply try to stay out of the sun. And even though my office features the most beautiful view on the ocean, there's no direct sunshine either. Which means I am still left with tons of sun cream. Please don’t give me any if you happen to meet me in Switzerland...
Fourth – less make-up remover. Back home, I would hardly ever leave the house without a little eye make-up and some lipstick, but over here, I rarely use it. Which means I brought way too much make up remover – I think I could survive for another 5 years if it were only for this!
Hang on! Why am I already writing about things I brought but am not using instead of things that I wish I had? It seems I don’t miss that much on the island. And the things that I wish I had here are not something that I could have taken with me – the people, cinemas, unsweetened plain yoghurt, a crispy slice of whole-wheat bread with some delicious French cheese, etc. But I realized that I can live without them, except for the people that I miss.
Before plunging (quite literally...) into this new adventure, I had no idea what I would need on this island. So, I took as little as possible and still brought way too much. When I went to Switzerland for Christmas, I took back a lot of things, such as shoes I never used and jackets and sweaters I brought because – you know it – I am always cold. But not here. Now, I have one sweater and one jacket and that’s perfectly enough. The few times that I need a jacket, I don’t mind wearing the same one again.
I like the fact that I was only able to bring two suitcases full of things for my new life. It felt liberating not to need to many «things» anymore. I’m generally not someone who buys a lot of clothes or knick-knacks and my flat is rather scarcely furnished. But coming here, I was able to reduce my life even more and I liked that a lot. This is probably why I can’t even think of ten things I would have wanted to bring to the island. It’s fine as it is and I don’t need more.
Except – maybe more dark chocolate!
I have mentioned before that, even without guests, I’m still busy, but I’m pretty sure you secretly wondered what it was that I am so busy doing… How much to do can there be without the hustling and bustling of resort life? Well, of course I wouldn’t call myself stressed at the moment. Especially, since we currently only work half days on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in order to use up some of our holiday time that we are not able to take anywhere else right now. So, this leaves plenty of time for work outs, snorkelling and reading in my hammock on the terrace. It’s fantastic!
But there are still things to do, and my tasks have evolved lately. Apart from the regular social media, newsletter and PR activities, we decided to keep our guests and friends of the resort updated on what is happening on the island with little homemade videos. These days, it’s all about video content anywhere in the digital world and we did have some beautiful and professionally made films about the resort and marine life before. But these short videos are meant to be different: they aim at giving people a little insight of what we do and make them dream about coming back to Pulau Pef. That’s why we use the claim «Dream Now – Travel Later» to brand them. I admit, we didn’t invent this one ourselves, but I think this only shows how great the claim is, and by using it we pay tribute to the inventors.
Making videos is all very nice, but we don’t have a professional film team on the island. So, our facility manager, Marcel, and I took over the task of producing and editing these videos. We both had never done this before but were eager to learn and asked Google how to do it. Marcel is a good photographer and it was clear he was going to do the filming. Which left me with the editing part – well, great! And you know what? It was quite tricky in the beginning and I’m still worlds away from any kind of semi-professional level, but I have come to really like it. It’s a creative job since we’re in charge of the entire process: gather ideas, come up with a storyboard, chose the actors, film it, edit it, set it to music, write the subtitles and distribute and promote it via all our channels.
You can check out the videos on our YouTube channel.
You may think that producing a one- to two-minute video can’t be such a big deal. Well, let me tell you: it takes forever! I know I’m still slow and have to google many things again and again when editing (and always stumble onto video tutorials that take forever to watch with our slow internet - does anybody still publish good old written tips online?). But the fact is, it takes days to finish one of these short films. Starting with the tons of material we filmed and having to choose the right clips. The videos up to one minute are the hardest. They force me to cut down all the beautiful material to the very essence of the message we want to convey. To leave out certain parts that I really like but that are not relevant to the core message.
This process feels symbolic for life in general at the moment. There are so many things that we would normally be able to do but have to leave out for now as we are not allowed to do them or they are not possible: travel, meet friends and go to the cinema (in that order for me, but I’m starting to repeat myself…). I agree with those who say it’s OK to do this once in a while, free yourself of unnecessary ballast and find out what’s really important and essential to you. Well, the three things I mentioned above ARE essential to me, so I am really ready to take in the ballast again. I am ready for a longer movie! Bring on all the details, the long shots, the dramatic music, the nail-biting suspense, the romantic love story, the complicated storyline – I’ll have it all!
Did I hear you say I should consider giving up my job on the island and go back to working in the movie industry? No, I’m not ready for that yet! Not as long as there are still so many stories to tell from my life on this beautiful little island in Raja Ampat…
I have some good news and some bad news today. The good news is that in many countries all over the world, the restrictions imposed during the Corona crisis are being lifted and people can go back to a «new normal» - whatever this means… The bad news is that I’m jealous! Indonesia lags a few steps behind western countries in its development of Covid-19. This means, that we are still in deep lockdown and the end of it seems a while away.
Personally, this is bad news for me in two ways. On the one hand, my daughter was supposed to come and visit us a in July. We were both very much looking forward to this, but as it looks now, we’ll have to postpone. On the other hand, as much as I am never homesick when we have guests and times are busy, I now feel like going home for a few weeks and seeing my family and friends. I miss them more now than during other times, because I have more time to think about them. For now, I am still hoping to be able to travel at the beginning of August and go to Switzerland for a vacation. But who knows…?
To be honest, I feel left out. Why is everybody else allowed to go out again, meet people, in Switzerland even go to the cinema (I MISS the cinema!)? In Jakarta, shopping centers are opening again, and we are still not even allowed to go to Sorong? Especially us here on Pulau Pef, who have been in a perfect quarantine for almost 3 months with absolutely no personal contact whatsoever with the outside world? I’m aware that the number of new infections is still rising in Indonesia and that the situation varies tremendously from region to region. That’s what makes it so difficult for the government to decide how to proceed. The country being so huge and many areas so remote, it is probably very hard for the authorities to make sure measures such as keeping your distance and wearing a mask are still respected, once restrictions are being lifted. Hence the reluctance to open up.
On the other hand, the lockdown has very dramatic consequences for many people here. Losing your job means no more income and, consequently, no more food. There is no unemployment money and government support is limited to some rice, sugar, tea and soap, which is by far not enough to feed a family. How are people going to survive if they cannot go back to work for many more months? They will die from hunger, not from Corona. Is this better? With the knowledge that we have now about this virus, I think it should be possible to lift the lockdown and open up slowly, while still making sure that the necessary precautions are applied. This is going to cost some money. But still less, I believe, than having the economy crash completely and many more people losing their jobs and their basis of life.
I am obviously neither a health expert nor a politician (thank God!). But I watch and listen to what’s happening around me and I draw my conclusions. They may be wrong, but nobody can predict the future. As much as it was probably necessary to take radical measures during the last weeks and months, it is now time to ease them up and start trying to fix what has been destroyed. As long as this is still possible.
And in the meantime, I shall continue to watch movies on the small screen…
Management styles are something that affect everyone with a job anywhere in the world. During my MBA programme, we talked about styles defined by colours: red (top-down info and orders), green (discuss previously drafted projects with the team in a structured way) or blue (co-creating a project with the team from scratch). Each of these styles has its advantages and disadvantages. And there are big differences depending on cultures and backgrounds. The way you are brought up influences the way you lead or the way you work as a team.
As in many Asian societies, it is very important for Indonesians not to «lose their face» in front of others. This means, that e.g. admitting a mistake is very difficult for them, which is very contrary to the way Swiss people behave. Back home, we expect everybody to be direct and say what they did and what they think. This sometimes leads to difficult situations over here because either side expects the other to react in the way they are used to, which of course the other side doesn’t know. As a western manager working in Indonesia, it takes a lot of diplomatic expertise to explain to your employees that certain rules need to be respected, even though they may appear strange to them, because they were brought up differently.
Every morning at 8am, there is a staff meeting with everybody working here. On the one hand, it’s a moment for everybody to be together as one team and the possibility for management to inform the staff about news and decisions, as well as talk about the daily tasks for every team. On the other hand, all departments are also invited to share their info and issues with the others. The meeting is meant to be a platform for inputs and discussions from everybody. As anywhere in the world, there are people who talk more and some who never say a word. I am still one of the latter because of my lack of Indonesian, even though I usually don’t hold back with my opinion. It’s bound to change, as my Indonesian is finally (but very slowly) improving…
It always strikes me how Maya manages to keep the balance between respecting various inputs - and thus sometimes long discussions - and communicating clearly what she wants and what she doesn’t approve of. Many of our employees are not used to being given the opportunity to speak up because they didn’t learn this at school or at home. You can see that they feel uncomfortable about having to give feedback. They would rather just receive an order and execute it, like they are used to.
But Maya regularly invites everybody to comment and make suggestions and she will always take into consideration any suggestion suited to improve a workflow or solve a problem. I’d say, she applies a mixture between a green and a blue management style, involving the team as much as possible. But sometimes, as in all businesses, it just takes a clear decision by the boss, and that’s when she does just that and reacts very «red».
Today, I witnessed something interesting. We’ve been having rather heated discussions about an important issue that is still unresolved. Taking advantage of the fact that without guests, we don’t have to stick to our normal daily schedule, our staff meetings currently have a tendency to take longer and discussions are more intense. As we were not going to find a solution to our problem right away and the discussion was turning around the same people and topics, resulting in some of us getting fed up, Ibu Maya decided to put an end to it and call the issue closed, yet unresolved for now. At the end of the meeting, everybody shook hands or hugged (yes, we still hug over here!), apologizing for the things they had said and asking for forgiveness. And with that, the issue was closed, but not forgotten, so we can all take a fresh start at working as one team again. It felt strange for me to simply say «sorry» to everyone even though they may have said things during the past few days that I completely disagree with and the issue as such is still unresolved. But for them, it’s over now and forgiven, by the simple gesture of shaking hand or hugging and apologizing.
I was told that this is very common practice here in order to go on with daily business and not linger on over something that you’re stuck with. Quite handy, actually – just say «sorry» and continue. It still feels a little superficial to me, but for them, I think, it’s genuine and they really mean it. Why not. Sometimes a symbolic gesture helps to overcome a problem. The aim is to focus on the future and the positive side of things, to take away learnings in order to avoid repeating mistakes and to find our motivation and team spirit again.
Mission hopefully accomplished!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…