CHASING BEAUTY IN REMOTE KEI KECIL
Periodically, I will post content from my old blog with two purposes; to give my content new life, and to capture my growth as a traveller and creator.
Written July 11/2013 in the port authority building of Tual, Kei Kecil.
I have been a lazy writer in Kei Kecil. Well, I’ve been lazy in general. At first I thought that I just wasn’t feeling inspired. But in being honest with myself, I realized that it has taken me awhile to adjust to traveling life. As a result, I may have taken this beautiful place for granted, if only for a couple of days. Not an easy thing to admit.
I don’t know the cause of this. Perhaps the long journey from Toronto and the jet lag, perhaps a little culture shock. We are in a remote part of Indonesia, where tourism has seen a steep decline in recent years. There is not much to do except enjoy the beautiful scenery. Life for locals here is traditional, simple. Most are either fisherman or farmers. It’s not like we landed in Thailand where you can eat pizza and drink Budweiser if that’s what you’re in to. Despite this, once I opened my mind a little and settled in to the simplicity of life in Kei, I grew to love it.
We stayed at Coaster Cottages, a charming, albeit run down guest house situated on the beachside. Days were spent doing whatever came to mind; a walk down the beach, a boat trip to do some snorkelling, swimming with the locals on their day of rest. Meals were communal and we chatted with other guests over fresh caught BBQ fish, heaps of rice and tasty vegetable dishes. We experienced some pretty special moments, too. The highlight for me was the pod of dolphins that swam by on our boat ride back from the snorkelling trip. After a while, my boredom turned to relaxation. I was able to slow down and enjoy the moment, a cliche that has little meaning at home in the fast paced world.
I became aware of my shift in mindset just hours before writing this. We were walking around the Muslim side of Kei Kecil’s twin towns at night, waiting for our extremely late boat to Banda. All of the attention from the locals wasn’t bothering me anymore. Just days ago in the same place, I felt shy and embarrassed by their stares. Keep in mind, we were two of a very small handful of tourists on the island. Now I had accepted it, exchanged smiles with them and attempted broken conversation. It was a fun way to kill time while we waited.
Days ago I was stressing. Stressing over delayed flights, marathon layovers and lack of sleep. Feeling isolated, stared at and extremely foreign. Missing my family. Now, I am sitting in a port authority building into which we were warmly welcomed by locals to wait for the boat. We have been sitting here for 6 hours. We are feeling the atmosphere and happily passing the time. We met a local family whose small son became intrigued with my drawings. We befriended them when I taught him how to draw a whale and let him colour it in. After this, we exchanged simple conversation, took pictures together and even shared their Ramadhan snacks with them once the sun went down. It was the kind of experience I always hope for as a traveler; to meet the locals and establish some sort of understanding between us and them. Had I remained so closed off, would I have had this experience? Not a chance. I am thanking myself now for taking a deep breath and reminding myself of my purpose here.
Kei was a necessary stop, both logistically and mentally. We had to come here to catch a slow boat across the Banda sea to a place that is otherwise nearly impossible to reach. But I also needed to come here to slow down and open my mind to let Indonesia in. Indonesia and all its pungent smells, curious locals and exotic customs. All of it. With this leg of the trip over, I am already forgetting about the relentless mosquitoes, moments of mind numbing boredom and intense language barriers. I am ready to focus in on the good and move deeper into Maluku province.
Banda, here we come.
P.S. We waited a total of 12 hours for the boat, which left at 2:00 am. We slept through nearly the entire 12 hours trip to Banda Naira.