the end of a honeymoon – the beginning of a marriage
The cherry trees are blossoming in London. Pink buds bursting everywhere. And though it should be cause for celebration, it’s confusing because the temperature on the thermometer most certainly says winter – the kind of cold that leaves eyes red-rimmed and shoulders huntched up to ears. I feel so betrayed but I suppose expecting spring in February is a bit greedy. You’d think my thick Canadian skin would thrive in this weather but the truth is, 37 years of Canadian winters have taught me that winter comes with snow and lots of it. So this strange, grey, spitting sky is neither winter nor spring and I don’t know what it is. All I know is there’s a chill in my bones and a blue on my lips that is funereal. So I’m bringing out the big guns, people: bouquets of bright yellow daffodils for my home, a hot bath (the kind that steams up the entire bathroom) and tropical photos of Indonesia to help us all escape winter’s icy grip for a few minutes. Don’t you feel warmer just looking at them?
It is 7pm on the eve of 2013. We are sat at the bar, sipping rum & coke on a small secluded island 1.5 hours away from Jakarta. A bunch of people have gathered on the nearby couches, with guitars and tambourines, singing everything from Oasis to Radiohead to Coldplay. It’s a bit weird but hey, it’s jolly as hell and jolly is exactly what one wants on new year’s eve.
An Indo-American buffet of turkey and noodles, tempeh and sweet potatoes with marshmallows, beef floss and rice, cranberry sauce and salad is served at the long table looking over the ocean. We chat with George, a retiree from Minnesota and a cool couple from Holland and two sisters from Australia and many Jarkartians and when the plates are licked clean and mojitos drained, the tables are moved to the side to make room for a dance floor and the DJ plays that funky music for hours and at midnight champagne is served and fireworks are fired from the floating dock in the sea and everyone, all these strangers from various parts of the world gathered on this tiny island in the middle of nowhere shout happy new year and we all say good bye to a crazy 2012 and welcome 2013 with hope in our hearts. And it’s the best new year’s eve I’ve had in years.
On the 1st day of 2013, we wake at 9am and join the other post-revelry zombies for breakfast. The good mornings are a little more quiet than the previous evening’s good nights as everyone reaches for the post binge cure – bacon.
We then watch the staff build a coral nursery. It looks just like an forest but this one is going to be planted beneath the sea – purple, green and yellow coral of all shapes and sizes housing crabs and little fish are planted in a substrate of concrete and salt and crushed coral then lowered in the sea where they will, hopefully, grow for the next 6 months before being transplanted to a barren area. And so we start 2013 – with a good deed.
In the afternoon, the boat leaves and takes 14 guests with it and the island suddenly becomes very quiet. We snorkel to the deserted island – a cemetery of flip flops and light bulbs and various bits of plastic mixed with sea shells and coconuts looking for prime real estate – and I feel for the first time, the sting of the jelly fish. Not one jelly fish but hundreds. It’s like falling into a massive patch of nettles WITH MY FACE! Repeatedly! What is meant to be a leisurely, pleasurable experience soon turns into a frantic swim and snorkel echoed grunts. There is some respite when the sun comes out and suddenly all the fish turn from matte and muted to iridescent green and electric blue and the reef comes to life in the light and it’s all so beautiful and then the sun goes behind the clouds and BAM! Jellyfish attack. Again.
The sun is setting on the horizon and phosphorescent green plankton dots the sea like fluorescent rain drops falling from the sky and the breeze picks up and it feels like when you have a mint in your mouth except that it is all over my skin.
The sky is alit with flashing orange lightning. We hear the rain and smell its ionic scent way before we see it. And then it falls in sheets. We watch this magnificent spectacle from the comfort of our bed, tucked under the sheets. And I don’t think it gets better than this moment. This one right here.
It is early, 6am early and I am lying down on a deck in a polka dot bikini and yellow Thai fisherman’s pants, waves gently lapping against the shore. The sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds. The sea is so still this morning that I needn’t a mask and snorkel to see the vibrant fish swimming in schools. Between the cracks of the deck, I spot a blue sting ray flapping its wings and occasionally burying itself in a puff of sand dust. Dozens of jellyfish swim around, ghostly dancers in gossamer dresses floating amongst strings of eggs.
Another day is about to begin at Pulau Macan Eco Resort. Soon a lovely Indonesian man will walk from hut to hut to announce that breakfast is served and slowly, people will emerge for a communal breakfast. Everyone will say good morning. Everyone will be barefoot and sun kissed and salty hair tussled in a way that only a night’s sleep can style. As one of the guests said to Joe upon seeing his dishevelled head “It must have taken you all night to make hair like that.”
After breakfast, people will split up and lounge on hammocks and couches and long chairs and decks to read or snooze or surf the net before going for a swim or paddle. This is our own private paradise. Sandy paths and solar panels and aloe vera gardens and outdoor showers and organic food and coffee and ginger tea on hand all day. Bliss lives and breathes and breeds here, exponentially with each passing day as you let go, slowly, of the city’s pace.
Someone plays Debussy’s Claire de Lune and it is the perfect soundtrack to this moment. I feel like I’ve finally reached that level of relaxation and peace I came searching for. I haven’t worn shoes in days and my walk has slowed to the island swagger and all that matters, all I need to do right now is sit on the dock and watch this village of thousands of colourful fish going about their morning business.
Now. I could tell you about our return to Jakarta and how we got caught in a storm so violent that the crew frantically distributed life jackets and the waves were like giants and I vomited off the side of the boat (twice), waves crashing into my head and there was a moment when I thought, is this how it’s going to end?
But I won’t dwell on that because the whole purpose of this post was to bring out the sun. And I do hope you feel warmer and I do hope you enjoyed our honeymoon adventures. We sure as hell did (if the past dozen posts are any indication). Now I can go back to our regularly scheduled programming. What the hell am I going to talk about, I wonder, now that Joe and I are just a regular married couple? Will the Stewarts buy a house? Or start a family? Or will I step away from the us and into the me? And what will my voice sound like now that it’s not all wrapped up in trans-atlantic love affairs and weddings and honeymoons?
Time will tell.