This week, it has been one year since our last guests left the resort. What we all thought would be «a few months» until it would be «over» turned out to be a long year of waiting. First, we were waiting for the end of the pandemic all together, waiting for the Indonesian borders to reopen, and waiting for international tourists to be allowed to travel again. Then, it became waiting for infection numbers to go down, waiting for governments to decide on new restrictions or loosening them and then we started waiting for vaccines to be developed. Last March, we still hoped that our friends would be able to come in May. When this was cancelled, I hoped for my daughter to be able to visit me in July. After this was cancelled, I was hoping for September, as we had something very special planned for that month (more on this when it will hopefully happen next year…). But, of course, all of this didn’t happen. Last summer, as infection numbers were going down in many countries, we were hoping for Christmas and decided to remain open for the first time in many years to try and make up a bit for the lost year. But, we all know, this didn’t happen either. I could go on and on, but you were all also hoping for many things to happen last year, which didn’t, so I won’t bore you any longer.
When I wrote my blog post Keep on going in May last year, Maya asked me if I really wanted to talk about this after only a few weeks of lockdown. I told her that I thought it was a good moment, thinking it was already pretty hard to motivate myself and that it couldn’t possibly take much longer until we were able to have guests again. Now, I know better. But as much as we all long for the resort to reopen again, we also have become much better at dealing with the situation by now. Which is normal, I guess, as it was something we had to learn, like a new task. We had to get used to not have contact with anyone outside of Pulau Pef. This was our own decision as we wanted to keep our island virus-free by all means. But we also had to get used to not go to Sorong or see our families, as many of our employees were planning to do in May for Idul Fitri. Travelling wasn’t allowed by the government for all of Indonesia, and this was probably the hardest part for our Muslim employees.
But we also had to get used to having more free time. Our holidays were being deducted in the form of off afternoons, so as not to end up with everyone leaving towards the end of the year. What to do with so much time on a small island? Our staff may have had less problems than me, as I am just not the person to hang around and do nothing. But I learnt to deal with this additional time and developed a routine that I have gotten to rather like by now.
Many of our staff also had to get used to working different jobs on the island. Take our dive team, for example. After thoroughly cleaning all our dive gear, they have been renovating the walls of all our buildings since last spring. Almost every day, unless our boats had to be cleaned or something at the dive centre needed their attention. Sticking leaves of palm trees into walls and fixing them with ropes all day long, when you are used to spending at least half your waking hours under water, guiding guests through the most beautiful reefs on earth, is for sure not the most motivating task. I don’t blame them for getting a little annoyed by it. But it needs to be done when there are no guests, so there you are. But others are also constraint to repetitive work. Our housekeeping, for example. They have been cleaning the bungalows inside out for months. And once they finish at one end, they need to start at the beginning again, because the salty air has already annihilated their efforts again. Or our kitchen team, for another. When we have guests, they usually cook a big variety of exquisite meals every day, including their famous desserts in the evenings. Now, it is mostly rice, vegetables and fish or chicken. They really try their best with what they have and I’m not complaining at all. The variety is still incredible, but I imagine that they also miss the challenge to cater for our guests.
The daily routine for my colleagues in operations is also quite different from «normal» times. They are usually busy managing everything around resort life, checking here and there if things are running smoothly, tending to our guests’ requests and helping out in the kitchen or with housekeeping if need be. Now, they still have a few of their original tasks, such as coordinating supply orders with our logistics team in Sorong, but otherwise, they help out wherever an extra hand is needed.
We are all counting the days, weeks and months until we can have our normal jobs back. But until then, we are just happy to still have a job, which is more than many others have at the moment…
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…