I sense a lazy insolence in the way the locals move about their tasks. I can’t tell if it is disinterest or measured conservation of energy. Perhaps the young men leisurely dragging scuba tanks through the waves are simply wishing that they too were out playing in the ocean like the nearby children. Their bodies don’t speak of an easy life.
Nusa Lembongan is the first place I’ve felt at all at ease. It’s still full of tourists but at least they are my age and friendly, unlike the crowds of dour Australians in Kuta and the smiling but reticent retirees in Sanur.
Down the beach from where I’m drinking coffee and watching the morning unravel, three kids are playing in the waves on a broken surfboard. Taking turns skimming headlong into an oncoming wave to catapult head over heels into the water. Each wave brings shrieks of laughter from their friends and I regret leaving my camera back in my room a little more. More then anything I think it’s the happiness of the children that puts me at ease. I’m glad that we’re staying here for a few days.
Across from me, two men have been sitting in a boat named Chilli for the last hour. They are waiting for something, but I’m not clear what. Perhaps a diving tour? A couple of boats down a young European woman is being given a scuba lesson by her boyfriend. Periodically they disappear only to resurface a few minutes later behind a different boat.
I’m fascinated by the little differences. We haven’t been slumming it, every guesthouse has had the full range of modern conveniences, but with caveats. At one the shower points at my navel and water sprays wildly from the tap. We think the next doesn’t have hot water until we realise it simply takes the duration of a shower for it to warm up. Many are just a combined “wet room” in which the shower, toilet and sink all cohabit in a tangle of pipes and levers. Some provide soap, some towels, none have bathmats and most are slowly disintegrating. I like the differences, each reflecting the biases of the owner and towns we’re staying in.
This is the morning of the eighth day of my trip and while I’m settling into the pace and realities, already the doubt is creeping in. Why I’m doing this? Am I running away? I feel just as out of place amongst the hard-bodied locals and touring surfers as I always have. What do I want from this trip? Am I chasing a childhood dream?