Saturday, 24 October 2009

"The less routine the more life" - Amos Bronson Alcott

Ah yes, too much routine really would not seem to become an issue in my life ;) For some bizarre reason, I have been told by several people that they find it difficult to keep track of where I live, who I work for and whether Jan and I are together or not.

So, basic information:

I live in Khao Lak, Thailand. I've been here before, I liked it and it felt rather like coming home, when I arrived 2 weeks ago after a quick (but not spontaneous) decision that the negative sides of Gangga would outweigh the positive ones, once the thrill of the novelty was wearing off.

I work for - an awesome live-aboard for divers and non-divers alike, and even kiddies are most welcome. It's a unique and great concept, the boat is super-duper and I thoroughly enjoy working together with the owners. There is a lot to be said about working with business-minded people who have an understanding of market powers and marketing. It's the first season we are running the boat directly with our own office etc, so there is a lot of preparation to be done. Oh yes, I mean A LOT ;)

Since I'm really the first employee, we knitted a job description for me, which should suit the needs of everyone - and which is still flexible. My title is operations manager and I guess that kinda says it all. The owners will be on the boat 95% of the time; I'll be doing just about everything there is to be done on land (selling, booking, agent contact, administration, marketing etc etc etc). Whenever I feel I'm going mad in the office, I'll go on the boat for a couple of days to recharge.

I'm very enthusiastic about this and am getting a lot of insight re setting up a live-aboard business. I have pretty much free hands and - like most other people - I thrive on the respect and confidence in my abilities of intelligent, professional people ;) I guess we all know how many work hours that will mean ;)

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere" - Frank A. Clark.

Does that answer your questions about Jan? We're still together and we're working to repair the damage. Professionally, it looks very promising for Jan and we've made a long term plan, which we are now working towards realising. He'll come to Thailand 3-4 weeks before starting his new job - hopefully we'll (ok, I'll) have time to do some fun stuff while he's here. Diving comes to mind ;)

So much update this time….at least my bad conscience is lifting now :D

Until we meet next time, I send you big hugs
Karin xxx

Friday, 28 August 2009

No Paradise without a burning dump

Apart from resizing, absolutely no Photoshop!!

One of my cheaky colleagues, Amang

Welcome to my office ;))

Chilling on the guitar for a change, but Ugung is great on waterbottle drums :D

No paradise without…….so far, Gangga has shown itself from the nicest side: beautiful weather, no mosquitoes and only 3 cockroaches in three weeks. We all know, though, that there must be a dent in it somewhere….

During one of my first (sleepless) nights on the island, I decided to grab my water bottle and sit outside on my porch in the moonlight. Only I couldn't see the moon. It looked rather foggy actually. And it smelled like…..well like….ehm……burning rubbish?!?!

Even at that time of night with a week of insomnia behind me, I quickly concluded that someone was actually burning waste/rubbish/garbage (depends where you're from) in the middle of the night.

And so it is. What do you do on a tiny little island? We obviously try to recycle as much as possible. Bottles, cans etc are smashed and brought to the mainland for recycling. Everything organic is being used for compost. And the rest……is burned at night, when the guests are asleep and will not get their precious holiday disturbed by the smoke and/or smell.

We have our own water purifying plant here and of course our own power station, since the solar panels don't generate enough power for the air condition units. We are as environment-friendly as possible - but alas the expectations of today's tourists (I will not call them travellers) are so high that we have to compromise at the cost of nature.

When I read some online reviews before going here, the main 3 complaints were:
- not enough pressure in the shower
- cockroaches on the porch of the bungalow
- have to re-programme the AC settings every time the generator is switched (3 times per day)

I mean, pppplllleeeeeaaaaassseee…….we're on a tiny little island in Indonesia, surrounded by trees, mangrove etc. What exactly do you expect? The NYC Ritz Carlton???

Luckily, not all guests are like that - and some of them actually come here for the spectacular diving.

On a different note, you may (or if you're not on Facebook, may not) have noticed that Jan and I are back together again. YES, I know, I know, I know.

We've talked (chatted, emails) for hours and hours (think I sleep 3-4 hours per night on average) and we've decided that our relationship deserves a second chance. Soooo many things were wrong in our relationship and the surroundings definitely played a major role in that! We're starting with a clean slate and then we'll take it step by step; Jan is planning to come to Indonesia asap - if not for work, then at least for a visit.

My new favourite picture for the situation is that leopards don't change their spots, whereas the ugly duckling did turn into a beautiful swan. I hope and believe that Jan is unfolding the beautiful swan within him.

Enough for now, must get back to life in Paradise ;)) Stay tuned for the exciting entry "First Underwater Impressions", which has been delayed, following the sad (but total) breakdown of my regulator….


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Around the world in 7 days

In preparation of the move, the first hurdle was to reduce all my belongings to two suitcases and one carry-on with a total weight of no more than 53 kg. We borrowed a very old scale, which indicated a total weight of somewhere between 40 and 70 kg. Hmmm, close enough.

Finally, it was time to leave the rock for good. Yeah, yeah, I said that last time as well. But this time….We worked really hard to get the house hurricane-proof and as much of the cosmetic work on the outside done as possible. That meant no farewell parties etc., but we did go to Eden for an absolutely outstanding last dinner on Saba.

We were very sad to leave the house. We put a lot of time, effort, work, blood, sweat and cursing into that place. As ironic as it may sound (since I have just broken up with Jan) we had our happiest time together after we moved into that house.

Saturday we cleaned and closed the house up - with lots of time to spare; we had 3 minutes to relax and enjoy the place, before Ernest picked us up to take us to Fort Bay, the harbour on Saba. Our close friends Nina & Norbert came with us (including baby in belly, which I still hope will be born on my birthday), and we all went for a last beer or two (ginger ale for Nina of course) at Pop's Place, appropriately enough.

An hour later I found myself on The Edge (ferry), once again leaving Saba for good. Unfortunately, the guys broke the wheel of my suitcase on the way - and silly me had just given Nina all my excess "stuff" including a perfectly fine suitcase….oh well. The usual remedies, cable ties and duct tape couldn't handle it, but epoxy did the trick ;)

Jan and I spent 3 lovely days on St. Maarten and I got all the last little bits and pieces that I needed for Indonesia. We had a wonderful room with a bourgonvilla-clad balcony in the Pasanggrahan Hotel in Philipsburg - highly recommendable. The imminent separation made the situation a bit sad, but we enjoyed our last days together.

Tuesday morning we went to the airport at stupid o'clock. Of course my bags were overweight, so I had to get rid of some clothes. I was prepared for it, so out went a pre-packed plastic bag with things I'd have liked to have, but don't necessarily need. An hour, 49 hugs & kisses and numerous tears later, Jan boarded his plane to go to Canada. I was devastated as I watched his plane take off, having an overwhelming sensation of emptiness.

A couple of hours later it was my turn. A 5-hour flight took me to JFK airport in New York, where I had plenty of time (6 hours) to catch the connecting flight. And of course, since I had so much time, I was through immigration, picked up my bags, went through customs and made it to the other terminal in less than half an hour. Probably a new record.

That was great, because it left me with 3 hours in a check-in area with all my luggage and no shops, no food, no water. Finally, they opened the counter and I managed to charm my way to an emergency exit seat on the following flights. Hallelujah. Curiously enough, my luggage had lost weight: instead of 46 kg check-in, I now only had 42 kg. Hmmm.

A couple of hours later I boarded, ready for 6 hours to Vancouver, followed by a one-hour stop and then 13 hours to Hong Kong. Uh, I love emergency exit seats :D

Hong Kong Airport is actually very nice, but by that time I was too tired to appreciate anything. I just wanted the trip to end and go to bed. Next flight wasn't too bad - 4 hours to Singapore. It was HOT in Singapore. I got my luggage and went straight to the hotel. My new employer had kindly booked me into a hotel in the middle of the shopping district; dangerous I can assure you ;)

First of all I called Mr. Milak, who came to the hotel and picked up my passport and an envelope of money. He was to take care of the embassy business and make sure I got the right visa. I do not. I mean I really do NOT like to give away my passport to a complete stranger, especially when I'm in a foreign country. Didn't have much of a choice though.

Very unusual for me, I skipped dinner and went to bed early. Friday morning it was time for me to locate a dive shop, more specifically a dive shop which also does repairs on Suunto dive computers. According to the internet, it wouldn't be difficult. Well, it was. See, the Monday after was a bank holiday, so many shops were closed Friday for an extra long weekend. I walked 8-9 km that day and saw a lot of dive shops, a lot of closed dive shops, as it were. Finally, as I was close to giving up, I found one - and even one that could change my battery that same day. Lucky me. Where did I find it? - In the Lucky shopping mall. I should have looked at the names and started there, obviously ;)

I was left with a bit of time, which I used wisely: a massage, a haircut and a little bit of shopping. When I checked with the hotel, they had received my passport back and it even had the right stamp. What a good day. After picking up my computer at 8pm, I was ready for - and felt that I deserved - a beer!! And then it was bedtime, since I had to be at the airport Saturday morning at 7.

A short 3-hour flight later I arrived in Manado, where I quite unexpectedly had absolutely no problems with immigration AND both my suitcases (which had gained weight to 49.5 kg in the meantime) arrived. One of the sweet girls from the resort, Shanti, picked me up and we had a lovely one-hour drive through the landscape of North Sulawesi. I was particularly intrigued by the gold-mining activities; there is absolutely no high-tech about that!

Our boat was waiting at the pier for the 15-minute boat ride to Gangga Island, where the manager, Hanne, was waiting with a big hug. I felt welcome right away. Everybody had seen my picture and heard about me - and everybody was apparently very happy to welcome me.

There are 30 rooms in the resort ( - and 120 employees excluding the day workers. I have met more than half of them and am proud to say that I remember at least 5 names ;) Hanne and I are the only foreigners permanently on Gangga and we're both Danish. Vikings out to conquer the world again?

The dive shop has about 20 male employees, who are all very happy to have a girl here now as well. They seem to have a contest, where the winner is the guy who is the sweetest and most helpful to me - whatever I start doing/lifting, there's someone who jumps in, pushes me away and says "I'll do that".

I have a beautiful bungalow here, it's very luxurious actually. Nice bathroom with lots of hot water (obviously important to me), a nice little porch, and housekeeping cleans and does my laundry. Not too bad ;)

Because I am a foreigner I don't live and eat with the other dive staff. I find that a bit awkward, but that's the way things are here. I get all my meals in the guest restaurant and let me assure you that the food is great and there's plenty of it :D This month there is another foreigner, Didier, here as well; so we generally eat together. When he leaves, I'll be eating alone most of the time, since we're not allowed to sit with the guests. Oh well.

My work days start at 7 at the moment. When I start guiding it's one hour earlier, but that'll be a while. The plan is that I do all the instructing for now and then get to know the dive sites. They take that very seriously and don't expect me to be ready to guide for another 5-6 months. In the meantime I'm taking over some of Hannes responsibilities, since she's super-busy as manager of both the dive op and the resort.

There are two villages on Gangga Island. They are called No. 1 and No. 2 ;) One is Muslim and one is Christian. In total there are about 3000 people in the villages (so they say); but that sounds like a ridiculous number for such a tiny island. I haven't had time to go there yet, but I am curious of course.

There's more to follow, but this'll do it for now. I'm hungry and it's almost dinner time ;))) So stay tuned for "No paradise without a burning dump" and "First underwater impressions"

Take care lovely people
Karin xxx

Monday, 10 August 2009

Not everything that shines is actually gold....

- that's what my mother used to say. And as is often the case with mothers, she was completely right, even though I didn't always see it that way when she was alive - that, I believe, is just as typical when it comes to mothers/daughters ;)

It seems to be just as true that no year goes by without some major changes happening in my life. Some of them are good, some great - and some really bad.

Why would 2009 be an exception, I ask?

It started out nicely on Saba, but unfortunately things went rapidly downhill. The details are quite dramatic and will take a while for me to process, but I'll live and I'll land on my feet once again.

I made the decision to finally accept the offer to come and work in a small resort in Indonesia. We have been emailing for 2 years, but the timing was never right. Do you believe in destiny? I don't know if I do, but on the 19th March 2009 things happened……it was 7 years ago that Martin died, so it was a difficult day to start with. It was also the day that turned my life upside down and I found out that I should have trusted my gut feeling. And it was the day that the Gangga Island Resort & Spa wrote me the most pleading email so far.

It took my head a couple of months to convince my heart, but it seemed like the only logical solution. I believe you all know how much I love Jan (enough to let him persuade me to return to Saba last year, even though I'd said I'd never ever never return!!!), so I am sure you can appreciate how difficult the decision to go to Indonesia was.

Jan supported me, though, and put a lot of effort into looking for work somewhere in this region, so that he could be closer to me. Unfortunately, our relationship couldn't be fixed; there was too much damage. Reality is the best possible cure for dreams - and this dream was no longer realistic.

Saba was a traumatic experience in several ways, but I also met some truly amazing people and made some friends for life.

"Always trust your compass"….That's what we teach divers. You may think you know better, but you don't - you should always trust your compass, it's always right. The lesson I learned on Saba was: "Always trust your gut feeling". If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck; guess what: it IS a duck - even if it tries to convince you that it's a swan. I'll make an effort to never ignore or even doubt my instinct again……

Stay tuned for the next two updates: "Around the world in 7 days" and "No paradise without a burning dump"

Lotsa xxx

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Yeah, I know ;)

Once again I'm being true to myself and not updating the blog for months.......sooooooorryyyyyyyy ;) There hasn't been much to write lately - and on the other hand, we've been really busy getting the new house ready. I've taken pictures, but who knows which box is hiding my USB cable........Stay tuned for some exciting news soon.....

Lotsa xxx

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Happy New Year Happy People :D

...and may 2009 be your best-est year ever. Ever.

Jan and I had a lovely New Years Eve with some of our friends on Saba. And the predicted bad hangover on 1st January ;)

For some bizarre reason, Jan decided a while ago that he wants to quit booze & cigarettes in 2009. Fair enough. We all know of my more angelic personality aspects and hence.....I said I'd do the same. I thought supporting him would be - if not the right then at least - the nice thing to do. Duuuuuuh.

Anyway, my strategy was to get really drunk and smoke lots on NYE, so that we'd have a horrible hangover and breathing problems on the 1st. That way we wouldn't have any problems with the transitions. That part of it worked just fine.

True enough. But then of course a couple of my friends asked me out yesterday and it dawned on me that there is NO way I can deal with the night life on Saba whilst being sober. Doesn't work that way. Meaning I didn't go.

And of course we all know that a really good meal isn't the same without a glass of wine. And a romantic evening isn't the same either when you say "here's to you Darling" with Gatorade in the champagne flute.

So here I am: the Queen of Whatever, dedicated to life enjoyment.......minus the romance, good dinners, fun nights out and the joy of feeling a bit more human than angelic. Hhhhmmmmm, once again it would seem I've taken the wrong turn somewhere.....

The most comforting thought these days is that I'm pretty sure it's not going to last too long ;))

Lotsa xxx t'y'all