Waiting is not something Swiss people are very good at. We are often stressed and in a rush to get from A to B. I make no exception. At home, one of my most used sentences was “Let me just quickly do/go…”. Some of my friends would laugh at me as it was so typical for me to “just quickly” do or finish something.
Coming to live and work on a remote island in West Papua was going to be a challenge in many ways, I was well aware of that. And I knew that life would be a lot slower and less stressful. But I couldn’t fully imagine how slow it was really going to be! Soon after arriving, I felt the constant sound of the waves calming me down and putting me in a sort of permanent relax mode. I adjusted my speed, slowing down my usually rather determined style of walking. I learned to take things easier, trying not to get upset so quickly. And I learned to WAIT!
For one, I learned (and am still learning…) to wait for our slow internet to process my commands or even work at all. I admit, I haven’t managed to master this skill very well yet and still want to despair occasionally when our unbelievably slow connection simply won’t allow me to proceed with my work. We sometimes even have to endure entire days without internet at all. At moments like this, I begin to worry about my family back home, wondering if they are just at this very moment trying to reach me for any kind of emergency, even though normally I don’t hear from them or write for days without worrying at all! It is mostly then that I realize how far away from everybody and everything I am here.
For another, I have learned to wait for people to come or an event to start. If there is a delay, I don’t ask for a reason anymore, I just wait. I may get bored or still think about all the things I could have done during the time that I’ve been waiting. But I don’t get upset about “lost time”, because it is usually filled with chatting, joking, laughing and sometimes even singing. Activities that don’t seem useless anymore.
Every time we go to a local village, I am amazed at how many people are just standing around waiting. Waiting for nothing in particular, it seems. They are just waiting and chatting. And their children seem to master this skill already quite well. They don’t seem to get cranky, asking to be entertained or taken somewhere, they just wait or play for themselves.
Time has another meaning in West Papua. People here don’t have much, but they do have a lot of time. Their day also has 24 hours, but they don’t fill it with as many activities as we do, because there isn’t as much happening here. I must admit, it feels good to free myself of the need to constantly do something with my time. I even allow myself to lie in my hammock for a while, listen to the sound of the waves and do nothing. I don’t always manage to banish the to-do list from my mind yet, but I’m working on it…
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…