Every year, the Raja4Divers staff goes on a 2-day trip. They call it a picnic, but actually, it is nothing like a picnic! The kitchen crew brought half the kitchen with them, including stoves, pots and pans, so they could conjure up three hot meals a day, featuring rice, fish, eggs and vegetables! It’s incredible, but very necessary, as food and eating seem to be on everybody’s mind all day long.
This year, we were a big group of 45 people which meant we needed two of the big transfer boats and one of the dive boats in order to have enough space for people, food, kitchen accessories and some of us to sleep in (many of the locals slept on the floor outside).
We were told it was going to be ‘not much sleep’ and ‘very simple’. I was looking forward to the trip, but I have to admit I was a little worried about the ‘very simple’ part. What did this mean in terms of hygienic conditions? Although I have adapted to the island standards by now (no showers, but traditional mandis, shared bathroom, walking barefoot and constantly cleaning out the sand between my toes, etc.), using toilets and bathrooms in a local village still takes quite an effort.
By the time we got to the first stop, I was ready to use a bathroom, but didn’t dare go to the local village, hoping there would be a better opportunity later on. Using the ocean was no option, as there were people everywhere watching us. So I waited. Our next stop was the Kali Biru (blue river). We first took a little walk to get to a place where you can actually jump into the beautiful sweet water river. Which is what everybody did, in their full clothes and screaming ‘mandi’ (bathroom)! They actually meant it, as they all brought their soaps and shampoo with them and started washing themselves in the river. Still fully dressed! I did have my bikini with me, but didn’t feel comfortable to be half naked in front of everybody else, so I didn’t jump. And still needed a bathroom... Luckily, the intern and I managed to find a place a little further in the jungle where we were able to relieve ourselves.
The place we stopped for the night was the jetty of a village surrounded by mangroves. I had been dreading the bathroom situation for hours before we got there, but pulled myself together and followed the other women to the mandi in one of the villager’s houses. To me, it was worse than expected, but the locals thought it was ‘very clean’! Well, I guess I still have a lot of adapting to do…
The ‘not much sleep’ part also turned out to be true. The locals had already started singing and strumming their guitars during the earlier stops, but after dinner, there was no stopping them. And they literally continued all night! I think they only stopped between the songs to either smoke (although quite a few of them manage to smoke and play the guitar/bass/drum at the same time), drink more coffee or very briefly stretch their legs.
Their repertoire of local songs covering about an hour’s time, it did get a little repetitive, but I didn’t mind that. The songs are beautiful, and almost all of the staff are good singers/musicians. It was the joking and the laughing between the songs that kept me awake. While on the island, their cheerful nature is great to have around and their laughter very contagious. But that night, I would have preferred to get a least a few hours of sleep. But apart from our intern and myself, nobody seemed to mind. I guess, the locals don’t need the quiet to sleep well. They just wrapped themselves in a blanket, lied down on the floor of the jetty and dozed off.
Easy, if you think of it! It just takes a little getting used to…
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…