My first trip to Indonesia turned out to be a pleasant experience, and one with few complications. Indeed, everything was so uncomplicated that I was beginning to miss Singapore right from the beginning. The Telunas Beach Resort employs an excellent staff. If they dislike their jobs, they do a fair show of faking it. From the boat navigators all the way to the group hosts, everyone seems to relish their duties, performing them well and with a smile. Smiles where I come from are strictly optional and usually cost extra. I’ve been told that’s because the coat hangers they’ve stuffed in their mouths are rented.
I felt right at home in my chalet. It made for a comfortable lounge if I felt like an afternoon nap (and frequently I did), and the bathroom, far less rustic than the rest of the accommodations, proved up to the task of cleansing me of sweat and any refuse that might have clung to me during my occasional swims. Except, that is, of a determined tick that had dug itself into my back. I only discovered it upon arriving back in Singapore. I truly hope I won’t have a reason to blog about this experience again in the future.
And yes, my room apparently channeled the breeze more efficiently than Yang’s. What Yang didn’t mention is that I needed not an additional oscillating fan but a goshdamned shovel each time that bountiful breeze deposited sand onto me through my bed-side window. Each morning upon waking up I considered myself lucky if the residing children weren’t building sandcastles on my belly. At first I suspected shenanigans at play. It wasn’t until I camped out in my bed late one night, laptop on my left, serrated knife coated with fresh sambal chili dipping sauce on my right (hey, it’s all I could find), that I noticed the movie playing on my laptop featured a sandstorm in it every 5 minutes, perfectly synchronized with the incoming buffets of wind. I guess that was why I had to force that particular window open every morning and prop it outward (and also why housekeeping closed it each and every day). The joke’s on me after all.
As Yang mentioned, eating lunch in a local’s home on Jang Island was the highlight of my trip. Not so much because of being exposed to new experiences, but because of the deception I deployed: When our gracious host wasn’t looking, I used a cucumber slice as an improvised spoon with which to shovel food into my mouth. (Yang later admitted to having done the same.) You’d think as messy as I am around the dinner table that using my hands to eat would be second-nature to me, but you’d be wrong. If I’m going to die at the dinner table (or dinner mat, in this case), it’s going to be from choking on the delicious sambal prawns or homemade fishballs, not my right thumb. But seriously, I really enjoyed dining with respect to local and religious customs. I only wish I could get those last few rice grains out from underneath my fingernails.
The jungle hike ranks as a near second. Our guides Nick and Amin were conscientious and top-notch. I was also mightily impressed by the fortitude Yang and Ling exhibited by carrying Hannah nearly the entire way through. The jungle itself presented itself as an awe-inspiring environment demanding of respect. After a while, however, the thrill of telling myself, Hey me, I’m in the jungle! wore off and another realization began to rise to the fore: This reminds me of hiking through Missouri. The illusion of exoticism was shattered forever when an obstinate cow obstructed our slender path. It seems no amount of tropical fruits and vegetation is going to ever be enough to prevent one-thousand pounds of cow ass bringing you back to earth.
I can relate to Yang and Ling’s disappointment about the state of the beach and the waters, but as someone who has lived all his life in a land-locked state in the center of the USA, my expectations are decidedly of lower standing. I also happen to live near a gargantuan man-made lake that is assuredly filled to the brim with sewage of some sort, and that doesn’t stop half the population of the Midwest from vacationing there every summer. As long as floating dead bodies are removed in a timely manner, we’ll swim in just about anything.
Another disappointment is that I never found myself in a situation that required me to bribe someone. It occurs to me that locals are under the impression that Caucasians want nothing more than to avoid corruption. Speaking as an American, I can say nothing is further from the truth. We prefer corruption when we’re abroad because it’s much cheaper than the corruption at home. Sure, bribes abroad require instant cash, whereas corruption at home is most often deposited directly from one’s bank account during tax time; however, we tend to find cash exchanges much more personal and satisfying. So, for future reference: As long as the US dollar retains at least some semblance of strength, we Americans welcome any corruption you can manage to confront us with. You guys really lost out this time.
To those who asked me my impressions of the scorching hot Indonesian weather: Try walking 10km under direct sunlight every day in Singapore with a 6kg messenger bag sticking to the sweaty small of your back. I’m pretty sure you’ll find hiking through the Indonesian jungle or sprinting across the jetty to the beach a pleasant experience by comparison. (And yes, yes, I’m a total idiot for walking so much in Singapore, but never mind that that’s a stupid thing to do given the wonderfully efficient and relatively inexpensive public transportation. I never said I was smart, just used to the heat—the Singaporean heat.)
So, all in all, I had a great time, reinforced by great company. I don’t think I would have enjoyed myself nearly as much on my own, so I’m eternally grateful to Yang and Ling for allowing me to tag along on this wonderful adventure. But after 6 days and 5 nights at Telunas Beach Resort, the barnacle had begun to form on my ankles. That’s a sure sign you’ve got to get back to civilization.