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 (www.ganggaisland.com) - 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

1 comment:

Tom Judson said...

What an extraordinary trip! That shot of the boat approaching the island is magical. Your heart must have been soaring. And your bungalow looks heavenly! I can't use enough superlatives to describe how it all looks. Congratulations, karin. It appears you're in for a wonderful time.