First, I’d like to apologize it took me so much time to compose another blog post. I know some of you have been looking forward it and others were impatiently waiting to criticize me and my grammar. Luckily for you, I’ll keep the same writing style – not checking for spelling and grammar mistakes, since I don’t have the patience to do it.
I left Indonesia in a rush- there were television stations, radios, newspapers and online news agencies together with government officials, organizations and so on asking me to be somewhere and do something 24/7. I’m definitely not cut out to be in a spotlight, because all this attention was really bothering me.
Two days before I left I met Mr. Ridwan Kamil at the ‘Grumpy Scientist Office’ where they had a group cleaning event. They asked me to give a speech, in which I screwed up and my husband took over. I don’t like talking to strangers and I can’t preach to PhDs.
I had a save trip to Jakarta, pleasant check in and then got a last farewell from Bandung Customs. Turns out if you have KITAS you need to get a special permission and a stamp on your passport to leave the country (sounds like you are a prisoner, doesn’t it?) and Bandung Immigration didn’t find necessary to tell me that in the three times I went to ask if I need to fix any kind of documentation before I leave. I don’t know if they are plain idiots or just mean. Thank God, that the Chief of customs on the airport was a good person and felt sorry for my 6 month old baby and let me pass, by canceling my visa. Otherwise I had to go back to Bandung, cancel my flight, get the darn stamp, come back to Jakarta, get another flight and then leave Indonesia. Lovely.
We chose to fly with Etihad , which was a very good choice. Not only we got special treatment, but an onboard nanny, who was a very polite and helpful. Queen Baby was a champ and slept through almost the entire flight, getting cranky only for 20min, in which no one complained. She slept through our one hour transit in Abu Dhabi. I really miss the UAE airports with all the people sleeping on them. In there we saw an Indonesian group going to umroh get caught by the security. Turned out that one family decided to go together to umroh from the youngest members to the oldest. Grandma though wasn’t feeling well, since she has a severe heart problem. Looks like she made it through Indonesian customs and the long flight before her condition got really bad. Yet, instead of looking for medical help, her family tried to smuggle her through the Abu Dhabi customs, pushing her to stand up, as she is just sleepy. Take on for the team, Grandma! Don’t you dare die and ruin the family trip for everyone! Last time I saw them before we boarded Grandma got rolled away on a wheel chair into a storage room while the airport officials were running around in panic and scolding her family.
In front of the gate I already started to feel the mixture of African and Seychellois culture. Everyone were wearing bright colors, talking loud (by Indonesian standards), laughing, listening to music, there was even a couple making out so passionately that the airport officials scolded them several times. I really missed seeing those little signs of affections and love that are not to be shown in the Muslim world like holding hands, kissing and snuggling with other people.
We had a four hour flight with Air Seychelles. They were really nice and polite, but unlike Etihad it didn’t feel as official. When Queen Baby woke up and started getting cranky and bored everyone, from the flight attendants to the passengers had a piece of advice how to help her or was willing to play peek-a-boo for hours.
Seychelles has a really small airport and not more than 10 pilots in the whole white world have permit to land on it. I honestly felt like we will just keep going until the other part of the island and go straight into the sea. Other than that I saw a huge momma whale with her baby just 15min away from the island (Cross that off my wish list)!!!!
I can’t describe my first impression from Mahe island. It’s just 40km long, yet breathtakingly beautiful. I knew I should expect a lot, since it’s a very high profile tourism place, even the the British Royal Couple came for their honeymoon in here (in a hotel located in a walking distance from our home), but this was just magical. There is no industry other than tuna canning, so the pollution levels are minimal and most of the island is high mountains and jungle. The ocean around it is Marine Conservation and is crystal clear. Literally living in a post card. We passed through customs really fast, since in here airport official DO remember the rule that families with infants should go first or in a different line.
I finally got to see my mom running, waving and screaming. I still can’t believe that I get to see my family members after 3 long years of short visits and Skype calls. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it and speaking my own language.
Here in Seychelles, there is a big mixture of cultures and religions so no one cares how you look, what your skin color or who your God is. I didn’t realize how overwhelming the constant staring in Indonesia was until I came here. It’s so refreshing to be just human, not the “white person”, or “bule” as they call us there.
People are very friendly, loud and love to have a good time. There is constantly music being played somewhere. On a Saturday night everyone, from infants to elderly gather on the beach, have a picnic, the adults have a couple of drinks and by the end of the night they light a huge campfire and start playing pure African music on drums. I’m really curious to dive in their music scene and learn more about their rhythms. On a daily basis they listen to more reggae, but in the night pure African sound dominates. It makes you feel like you went back in time. The metal scene is just starting and since news travel fast in here, my husband already had a few calls to try and help them start their community and give some advice for the recordings.
As for the infrastructure everything is clean, tidy and… mini. It’s like a dollhouse country. In here, the population of all the 150 islands is not more than 80,000 and their capital, Victoria, is the smallest capital in the world. Most people still use bicycles or the public transportation, buses, called “TATA”. I am still terrified to ride on them, since the drivers all seem to be bat shit crazy and drive very fast. Even the locals have a joke that they chose the most unsafe drivers for the public transportation. If someone has a car it’s either a smart car or a pick-up truck. My parents surprised us with a black pick-up Isuzu from the early 90’s, my dream car. Now I and my husband spend romantic time, riding on the back of it like dogs (we have a different perception of romance).
We were also surprised with a 70kg Rottweiler, called Aia. We are yet to try and walk her on the beach.
All the houses, including ours have huge verandas. Everything you do- eating, hanging out, etc is done on the veranda. No one closes the doors or windows and stays home in here.
On the other side of the island, where mostly foreigners live they got alarms, security cameras, dogs and burglar bars all around their homes, but here, in Anse Boileau, we don’t lock when we leave, close the windows or doors. We leave money, iPads, computers and other valuables on the veranda in the night and no one touches it (other than a few cats, looking for food). It’s such a relief for me, since I suffered greatly with all the heavy curtains and jail bars on the windows in Bandung. I don’t feel like I’m going to die from claustrophobia when I get home. All houses in here have a spectacular view. We have a small jungle right in front of our veranda and the ocean. We live just 5min by foot from the beach, which means we can hear the ocean at all times and feel the fresh breeze. The bad sides are since there are turtles nesting on the beach, we can’t have street lights and at night it’s pitch dark and you can’t even see your hand in front of your face if you don’t bring a torch. There is sand everywhere- the veranda, the bed, the wardrobe, the baby stroller and up our ass, no matter how much we clean it and due to the humidity everything starts molding really fast, even our clothes as we wear them.
People in here are party animals, yet on a normal day everything is closed by 7PM and on the weekends. If you forgot to buy bread in Friday…well… you will wait until Monday morning or jump on your bicycle and try your luck around the island where there maybe will be an open store. They don’t have supermarkets in here as we know them. Most stores are owned by Indian immigrants, who are not much into organizing and displaying their goods. Sometimes you have to dig into closed boxes to find what you are looking for. There isn’t a big store like Wallmart, Metro , Billa or Kaufland in here where you can find everything that you are looking for in one place. There are a few ships coming every 6 week bringing goods and the next couple of days people go crazy shopping, stocking up for a month or more, since as time passes the shelves just get empty and don’t fill up until the ship comes again. That of course means the variety of the goods is not big and some items can be quite pricy.
There is a big religious diversity, Christianity being the dominant religion. The locals say they are Catholics but every church is different in its ways. There are Hindu temples, mosques and many forms of Christian churches, even an Orthodox one, where my parents go. There aren’t people who don’t belong to a church, Hindu or Muslim community. They are very different both by religious views and skin color, but instead of discriminating each other they are proud of their diversity and how they get along. You can see a Muslim woman in a burka, riding on the bus next to a Christian woman in a short skirt and a tank top chatting with an Indian woman in traditional clothing and a red spot on her forehead as they send their children to the same school or the same class.
The cuisine is like mixing Indonesian and Indian food with a pinch of African. They eat mainly rice, although they have bread and prata. There is of course a ton of sea food (Surprised much?) but in the end of the day, no matter what you order in a restaurant you will end up getting a big, fat chicken with curry sauce. I do miss pecel lele though. A lot. If I could teleport to ‘’Joko Solo’’ near Hermina Arcamanik I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I also love the internet in here! It’s not fast by European standards, but compared to Bandung I feel like I’m flying free on the internet. I can even download movies for God’s sake!
I love how in here I can hold my husband’s hand, kiss him while wearing a tank top and short pants. No one is judging me by my skin color, religion and income.
So this is what I’ve been up to. Sitting, relaxing, exploring. Becoming a village person. While we wait for the job interviews we are trying to enjoy ourselves and our baby as much as we can. My daily life is to get up, go to the beach, do some choirs, play with the baby, go to the beach again, sleep. I listen to the locals and how they talk, about what they talk about, watch how they live and what are their lives like. It can be quite boring if you like big malls, a lot of people this is definitely not the place for you. The local government does everything to prevent backpackers and mass tourism so they don’t build any attractions and make sure that the hotel prices are unaffordable for the middle class because they are afraid from littering and trouble caused by drunk tourists.
I had a lot more I wanted to write about but I’ll wait . I just wrote down my first month in the Seychelles. There were down moments – I had a major allergic reaction for a first time in my life, the medication dried out my breast milk and now we are struggling to introduce Queen Baby to a bottle and formula feeding, she got thrush, Addy had a flu and so on but so far we are loving it here.
First month on a paradise island!