We flew out of Medan and have arrived on Palau Weh, a tiny island off the western coast of Sumatra.
We stayed in a bare bones Airbnb (the toilet doesn’t even automatically flush) There wass a bed and some plastic chairs. It was a traditionally raised home and was surrounded by a small village. The larger town was used to tourists and backpackers but here we are it. They aren’t used to foreigners so it was important to be as respectful as possible of local culture. Since I basically have to cover every piece of skin because of the sun it wasn’t an inconvenience.
We rented a scooter. It seemed like the thing to do and a way to stay independent. Neither of us had ever driven one before and it had been about a year and a half since Carsten had driven at all and six months for me (after ten years). The island was hilly and the roads are quite windy and steep. I rode on the back and was overly aware of of every bend and twist. The hardest part was forcing myself not to overcorrect the balance by shifting my weight. It is something that you do automatically but it makes steering about ten times more difficult for the driver because they then have to steer against you.
The big thing about going uphill and around hairpin turns (at the same time, mind you) is momentum. Or so we found out. Ten minutes into our first ride, Carsten carefully tried to maneuver us up a hill. Unfortunately, scooters seems to be a bit like boats. The slower you are going the less steering you have. Add to that that my leaning the exact wrong way on the turn and the fact that the road basically bent back on itself and went straight up and it is easy to understand how it happened. It was practically predictable.
We crashed. Or more accurately tipped over since the slope slowed up down even further before we fell. We hit this foot-high wall and took the tumble. I only hit the soft ground. Carsten skinned a knee and his shoulder and I managed to skin the knuckle of my big toe directly where my flip flop sat. On the side we had not fallen on somehow. I also lost the other flip flip.
Carsten’s first reaction was to find out if I was okay. My first reaction was to lie there and stupidly try to figure out what just happened and why was I missing a shoe. I am useful in a crisis like that.
We weren’t hurt. The bike wasn’t hurt. No one else was around so we weren’t even weirdly embarrassed. We had to search for my shoe for awhile, though. I have no idea how it got under the underbrush.
I might have freaked out if I was driving. Or at least made Carsten driven from then on. But Carsten is a trooper and just drove up on to dinner. Which was in a beautiful location but was sadly the food was not worth the effort of getting to. The rest of the drives were uneventful but I don’t imagine that a scooter in Beijing is in our future.
Things have been kind of stressful the last few months. The last two school breaks have been a pretty intense sort of travel and you don’t need to me to tell you the state of the world and my country in particular.
The top of the wall were open. It was a simple wooden house. Give me the wood and I could have built my own (OMG hubris. I in fact could not and would cry in challenged to. Because I have no practical skills which is why I know that I will die in the first wave of a zombie apocalypse)
We needed a break. Which is how we ended up in a tiny house on the Andaman Sea on a small tropical Indonesian island. I could hear the waves on the rocks, insects, and frogs. After the sun went down we lay under a mosquito net which until we turned the light off was an invitation to spec sized ants and the room filled with dozens of moths from tiny little ones to one that I estimate to be the size of my hand. Ew. There were also a number of geckos hunting on the walls and ceiling. Is it me or are geckos 70% cuter than other kids of lizards?
The world has so many distractions. My phone is chief among them. I banned myself from twitter and Facebook while in Sumatra. Facebook was easy. Getting decent access to is is so dicey in Beijing that I am used to not checking it. Since the US election going on it has been painful because of all the nonsense that people post. It hurts and makes me angry. I just can’t.
Twitter on the other hand needs a much less stable connection so I can use it easier in China. It has been a harder nit to crack. I think that I follow precisely two people that I know in real life. Mostly, it is authors, bloggers, and people related to Hamilton. It has helped keep me up to date , figure out how and when to call my representative and Senators (Plug celeste and Emily) But my God, is causing me anxiety. Well, not twitter itself as the situations that twitter is reporting. Remember that I live in Chana. I can’t go outside to check that my country isn’t on fire. Pretty much everything that I have read in the last three months has indicated that it is. It is literally keeping me awake at night.
So no twitter. Except that I kept cheating. Shit was going down. The data connection in my Indonesian sim card wasn’t strong enough to support skype (I tried a lot). Being unable to call I constantly updated twitter to at least feel as was I was doing something.
But I needed to pull back. I was on vacation on a goddamn tropical island. And I was missing it because I was not staying present. I was missing the sun shining on the sea, the sound of the waves and children playing, the smell of salt in the air and the moments when I could hear the call to prayer. If I listened I could hear frogs singing their nightly love songs. If I looked I could peer out from the mosquito net and see 30 different kinds of bugs on the walls. The room was lit by a single bare electric bulb that geckos used as hunting grounds. It was time to pay attention to where I was.
We went four days without seeing another foreigner. There is a backpacking community someone on the island but we weren’t clamoring to find it. The village was sweet. There was much staring and nobody there was able to speak with us. #storyofmylife #liguisticallychallenged
Things there were slow. We went to the local convenience store (stand) and survived on cup noodles and eggs. I read 13 books. We had all the time in the world. We were on the edge of a cliff that overlooks the sea. No beach to distract us. We just relaxed and pretended that for those days that the rest of the world didn’t exist. Reality doesn’t need my help.