This is it – my last blog post from Pulau Pef! When I arrived here on the 25th of July 2019, I had no idea what to expect and where this adventure would take me. I was full of excitement and hope that I was going to enjoy it here. And I did! Despite the pandemic and the resort being closed for 14 months, I had the time of my life here. Some of it was exactly as I expected, some was completely different and surprising. They called me «Ibu Guru» (Mrs. Teacher) because I taught English to our dive team and for the last few months also to our housekeeping and kitchen staff. But actually, I think I learnt just as much from my colleagues as they learnt from me.
Being patient, for example. «Sabar» in Indonesian. It’s a quality you cannot survive without here and it was probably the hardest for me to learn. I was (and still am) a rather impatient person, but life is just so much slower here and I had to accept this new rhythm, whether I wanted to or not. I still often want to «quickly» do this or that, only to realize that «quickly» will not work here. Be it something requiring a fast internet connection or a task involving the help of one of my local colleagues – everything takes longer on the island. I wouldn’t say I fully managed to patiently wait for things to happen at their own pace, but I certainly have improved and hope that this will also help me back home. Due to the pandemic many aspects of our life have been slowed down, so things might take longer than usual too.
I also appreciated living with less material possessions. This may sound really clichéd (she went to a deserted island to live a simple life…) but I just didn’t need many things here. It's actually a fact I enjoyed a lot, as it felt liberating. Back home, there were so many incentives to own things, to buy new clothes, to get more furniture, to have the latest gadget or to spend money on leisure activities. While I did miss cultural activities, which I know I will enjoy again when I’m home, I didn’t miss any of the other things. I even felt ridiculous for bringing way too many things when I came, such as toiletries (5 bottles of eye make-up remover that I didn’t use because I stopped putting on eye make-up!). My colleagues actually started teasing me whether I intended to open up a shop with beauty products on the island...
Another quality I acquired here is to accept things as they are. «Begitu sudah», as I wrote in last week’s blog post. There are certain things or behaviors that I just don’t question anymore because I know it’s useless. This too is liberating because you can let go of a certain responsibility. If you accept that you can’t change it then it’s also not your responsibility to do something about it. People here are very good at this and I realized it often makes life easier.
There is one quality that we sometimes lack in western countries, especially now during the pandemic: it's the joy of life. People here have it in abundance. They may have nothing else and struggle to survive, but they never lose their joy of life. It’s very contagious and helped me get through difficult moments while the resort was closed, and we didn’t know whether the company would survive. My colleagues just take one day at a time and try to enjoy it to the max. It’s definitely something I will try to take with me when I go back as there are bound to be more difficult moments ahead.
We recently celebrated the Muslim holiday «Idul Fitri» on the island. Among other things, you ask for forgiveness for all the things you did that may have hurt others. You may think this is just an easy absolution for doing wrong, but it’s much more than that. People here forgive each other on a regular basis and really mean it. They may feel like almost killing you at one moment and forgive you soon after. You shake hands, continue as if nothing had happened and there seem to be no hard feelings after this. It’s a concept that is rather foreign to us as we sometimes have a hard time letting go of resentments and be friendly again with someone we had a big argument with. But it makes life – especially on a small island – a lot easier because there is no way you can avoid someone here. You simply have to make it work and they seem to manage quite well with their system of forgiveness.
One of the things that never ceases to fascinate me is the way my colleagues prepare any type of celebration. There is always a beautiful decoration made of palm leaves, shells, mangrove flowers or whatever else the jungle will offer for decoration purposes. And it’s always clear that they all help each other, whether it’s an off day or not. And don’t think this is quickly done! They sometimes work on it for hours or days even if it’s for an occasion that «only» involves the staff, e.g. staff birthdays now during the pandemic or my goodbye party last night. It doesn’t take money or a lot of material, but the decoration makes everything look more festive and gives us a good feeling. It shows that we value what we have here and appreciate everyone’s contribution to making us feel at home on the island.
I have often felt I wanted to stay connected to a company or more precisely to my work colleagues when I left a job. And quite often, I did. There were also many friendships that developed from work and that are still ongoing. And Raja4Divers will be no different. Living together so closely for two years was intense and even though I will not be able to stay close with everyone, I will always feel part of the Pef family and hope to come back and visit them as soon as possible. Especially Maya has become a close friend and I hope we will stay in touch. I’m aware that the contact will fade a little with time, as it always does. But the bond will always remain.
Thank you for reading this blog, for giving me feedback, suggesting topics I could cover and even sending me tips for books to read. It was a pleasure to share my experience with you all and meet some of you on the island when the resort was still open.
Take care, stay healthy and come (back) to Pulau Pef if you can! It’s still the paradise you remember and will hopefully remain like that for a long time to come.
All the best and a big hug from the island!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…