10 Days in Singapore

One week ago I crossed back over to the northern hemisphere- albeit just barely. Singapore is a mere 1.5 degrees north of the equator. I had a 730 am flight from Yogyakarta to Singapore, meaning my alarm went off at the amazing time of 505 am. I have never been, and never will be, someone who enjoys waking up that far before 9 am. My eyes barely cooperated, and I had to hit the snooze button once. There are few feelings that are more pleasurable to me than the ability to instantly fall back asleep, so I enjoyed that feeling once before peeling myself out of bed. Turns out those airplanes don’t just wait for you to show up. Every time I head to the airport I also enjoy some extra anxiety about missing a flight. It doesn’t matter how early I leave for the airport (within reason- I don’t depart for the airport 5 hours early)- there is a sense that I will get caught in traffic or the car will break down or something else. These are irrational thoughts, but I get them almost without fail. Not a highlight of taking a double digit number of flights within several months. 

Very informative museum case in Yogyakarta. Notice the display case with one item in the background. 

Upon arrival at the airport, I was greeted once again by third world infrastructure. The airport in Jogja is tiny with only two sides to the check in area- left is international and right is domestic. There must have been a decent amount of international flights the morning I was flying out because the international half of the check in area was completely packed. Every line, broken down by carrier, was 20-30 people deep. Thankfully it moved fast, and I made it to the front within about 20 minutes. In classic Indonesian fashion, the local guy next in line desperately wanted to cut in front of me. He kept inching closer and closer, pushing the luggage cart directly into my heels. The dude had a porter pushing his baggage cart, and any time I moved even a single inch forward he would aggressively motion for the porter to move right away, as if someone might (gasp) cut in front of HIM. When I made it to very front of the line, he was standing directly NEXT to me- not behind me- so had to keep moving forward until I was basically hugging the traveler at the counter to ensure Mr Wants-to-cut doesn’t get his wish. Ah, Indonesian lines. 

I spent the last 10 days wandering around and exploring the city/ island/ country of Singapore. It has been the only stop so far where nearly everyone was shocked I was staying so “long.” I had 10 days before I could return to Indonesia for my second 30 day adventure, so the options were either Singapore those 10 days or take a trip to Borneo. The Malaysian part of Borneo seemed great, but at this point of my trip I was feeling a bit of travel fatigue- moving every few days, packing up my stuff, getting to the airport, getting from the airport to my hotel, inevitably getting lost a few times in between has gotten a bit old. The choice was made to stay and relax in Singapore the entire 10 days. The reaction of “10 DAYS in Singapore?? Why??” was nearly universal from everyone I talked to- locals especially. I guess when you live your entire life on a relatively small and crowded island with a desire to go somewhere else, they expect everyone ELSE to want to leave as well. 

View from the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Despite the shocked responses when it was learned I would be in their small nation for 10 days, I really enjoyed Singapore. Being in a truly modern, developed, first world country was a great change of pace from Thailand/ Malaysia and especially Indonesia. One aspect that I ALWAYS appreciate is a great public transit system. Singapore’s MRT (subway line) isn’t good- it is excellent. Lines run all over the city, and you can get pretty much anywhere within a transfer or two. The weather is scorchingly hot all of the time, so spending even a few minutes on the air conditioned subway is a welcome relief from the heat. 

The famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. 

Besides the wonderful subway system, what Singapore has in abundance is food and shopping. One street- Orchard- is lined with one gigantic mall after another, some brand new while others an ancient decade old. There are more restaurants/ eateries per capita than perhaps anywhere else on earth, ranging in price from “extremely affordable” to “astronomically expensive.” Singapore is definitely not a cheap city, but there are plenty of bargains to be had if you are willing to be a bit patient and search around a bit. Within the aforementioned malls exists a massive number of food stands that offer much higher food quality than your average food court in the States. A $4-6 meal can easily be found within a block or two of wherever you are. The food is all very tasty. Most of it is Chinese influenced, as the majority of Singapore’s citizens have Chinese ancestry (even if that goes back a long way). Besides Chinese/ Singaporean food, there are plenty of Indonesian, Malaysian, Japanese, Indian and western options- among pretty much anything else you can think of. There were even a few Mexican food places, which were tempting. At this point, after not having a burrito or taco for over 2 months, they sounded delicious but I decided to pass and simply wait until I return stateside for a proper Mexican meal. 

Spending time in a modern city afforded me some modern luxuries. One day’s highlights centered on the consumption of a real salad and a actual IPA- my first of either in over 2 months. Both were beyond delicious. It turns out salads and craft beers are not popular or widely available most places in Asia. Fried food or cigarettes can be had by the truckload, but real salads or IPAs not so much. I cherished each respective bite or sip of the salad/ beer with the knowledge that I will likely not have either for another month or so. 

Most delicious beer I have had in over 2 months. 

There are a few items that are NOT cheap within Singapore, and unfortunately they are two of my favorite beverage choices: coffee and beer. Word on the street is that the beer is so expensive because of local taxes, but I did not confirm this with the local government. Whatever the reason, getting a bottle of beer at a bar will set you back at least $8, while a pint can be $12 or more. And I am not talking about a fancy pants 10% Belgian ale- this is for a Carlsberg or Heineken. Crazy prices. Coffees are at least $5, and go up from there. Because of the astronomical prices for both coffee and beer, I didn’t have a ton of either. 

Another bonus of being in a modern and more diverse city was not sticking out like a sore thumb as MR TOURIST MAN. Singapore’s status as a modern nation means they regularly see people of various races, colors, and nationalities. The population is overwhelmingly Asian, with a decent amount of Indians as well, but there are enough white folks wandering around that I don’t stand out nearly to the same extend as I do in more remote areas of the earth. 

One of the negatives of being in a First World city also means First World prices. As mentioned, bargains on food can definitely be found. However, deals on hotels don’t exist. The price for my hotel room was very reasonable- $40- but the room and overall accommodations were far from great. I was sharing a bathroom with the rest of the hotel, and my bed was a single bunk bed. I made sure that I had my own room, but the single size bottom of a bunk bed was still where I laid my weary head at night. I switched hotels in the middle of my stay (to a different place across the street) because I had a bigger room- with 3 bunk beds/ 6 beds. It was a bit silly to have 6 single beds all to myself, but it was a better option than my first room which was beyond small. Comically small I would call it. When my bag was on the floor I couldn’t even fully open the door. 

The rooftop pool at the Marina Bay Sands. 

An added bonus of my stay in Singapore was the time I spent with some locals. I was shown all sorts of areas, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars that I would never have found or seen on my own. I also got a much better feel for what it is like to actually live in Singapore, and the unique country that it is. The island-nation is filled with a dozens of diverse areas, thousands of restaurants, hundreds of shopping malls, and roughly 5 million humans. There is no real sense of Singaporean national pride either. Being from the good ol U S of A, I am more accustomed to an overwhelming level of pride in one’s home country as opposed to the opposite. I got a sense that there was a bit of claustrophobia associated with living in Singapore for your entire life, as the physical size of the country is tiny. Imagine living in one massive city that is also your entire country, where there are no mountains, no real beaches, no open spaces, and one never-ending concrete landscape. I can understand the desire to want to leave that. A big thank you to my Singaporean tour guides. Hopefully I can repay the favor if you ever come to America. 

Singapore is also a much more affluent nation than its’ neighbors, which shouldn’t come as much of a shock. The amount of luxury cars I saw in one day alone (Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars) dwarfs what I have seen in Vietnam/ Malaysia/ Indonesia/ Thailand combined. Everyone has a smartphone (that they stare at 99% of the time), the clothing is mostly new and brand name, and there are plenty of other more expensive items on the locals. Another surprise was that English is the main language of the country, so it is very widely spoken, although everyone has an odd accent. It sounds like they actually learned English as a second language as opposed to having all of their classes in English. 

My stay in Singapore was a nice change from the developing world. A reminder of the things I appreciate (and often take for granted) from the land known as the First World. Despite everyones protestations, 10 days in Singapore was not too long, and I enjoyed my time in the city/ country/ island immensely. It is a city I would both recommend and could see myself returning to someday. Now I return to Indonesia- this time to Bali and Lombok. Back to cheap food, booze and beaches. I could use one of those $3 haircuts, too. 

Halfway

This past week I crossed the halfway point of the Ring of Fire World Tour. It is pretty crazy to think I have been gone for 2 months, and have roughly 2 months more. If someone asked me how long I had been gone, my first thought would be around 6 months. That isn’t a bad thing- feeling like I have been away from the homeland much longer than reality- just what it feels like. I think of it as a good think- 2 months away from regular “home life” feels much longer. Considering time is the most valuable thing on earth (and the only non-replaceable commodity), it stands to reason (at least to me) that making that time feel like it is stretching out is a great thing. Although going through 3 months of chemotherapy felt like 10 years, so maybe time stretching it isn’t ALWAYS a good thing. 

So far, the trip has so far included 3 countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia), 12 locations, 13 beds, 9 flights, and a larger number of ferries/ boats/ scooters/ cars/ taxis. It has also been exactly what I needed- a long break from my beloved homeland of the States. Getting so far away from my daily comfort of home lets me appreciate so many things. 

There are also things I definitely miss by being away from the States for so long. Topping off the list of things I miss is spending time with my friends and family. I would love to enjoy a cold beer with a friendly face or 10. A cold IPA would be incredible right now. As would a burrito. And a big turkey sandwich with all the fixings. I also miss going to the gym, watching sports in real HD, being able to speak the local language, and knowing what is going on around me. Those are all short term inconveniences though. And they will all be so much sweeter when I return home in a few months. 

Being so far away from my comfort zone provides far more benefits than negatives. It reminds me how to adapt to all sorts of different people and environments, as well as be resourceful- often without being able to speak the local language. It reminds me what it takes to be happy, and focus on doing that everyday. It shows me that I don’t need ALL the creature comforts of home ALL the time (even though a lot of those creature comforts ARE pretty awesome). I can go weeks without a hot shower. There are days I hardly talk to anyone beyond a “Hello” or “I am from America.” Exploring this big planet of ours constantly provides new, fun, exciting adventures. One of my favorite parts is not knowing (or caring) what day it is. Every day isn’t a Monday or Wednesday- it’s just a day. (Except for Mondays over here- that was when Game of Thrones was available for streaming!). There are times when I forget the rest of the homeland is often at work while I am wandering around the streets of some random Asian city. 

Since I last checked in, I have left the friendly confines with my relatives house in Bandung and flew to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta, or just Jogja). The generosity and hospitality from my family in Bandung was amazing, and will never be forgotten. Hopefully I can return the favor someday if any of them venture to America. 

The main reason I came to Jogja was to visit a huge temple in the area- Borobudur. It is one of the largest buddhist temples on earth, thought to have been built around 800 AD. 

Borobodur, est 800 AD. 

For the trip to Borobudur (about an hour drive), I hired a private car. One of the not so awesome parts of traveling alone means a lot of excursions cost several times more. Because I had no fellow travelers with me, I had the whole car to myself, which was pretty cool. Having a private car with no one felt pretty baller, but it also meant I paid the $35 myself too. $35 is hardly a bank breaking amount of cash for a 6 house private car, but the price would have been the same had it just been me or if there were 5 other people in the car. Oh well- that is the price of venturing around the world solo. I was also shocked by the entrance fee, which is different for foreigners or Indonesians. The “TOURIST TAX” price is $20, which seemed astronomical for this part of the world. My guess is people are going to visit anyway so the locals might as well charge MR TOURIST MAN $20 to walk around. I let the employees wrap a sarong around my waist and headed toward the temple. 

While planning each location, I look at pictures of various landmarks and highlights to visit, so finally seeing in person whatever I have looked at dozens of times in photos online is always an experience. Borobudur was no exception to this. The signs pointed to “Temple,” with many various people selling things along the way- umbrellas (Asians to NOT like sun on their skin), photos, and other trinkets. Eventually, I turned the corner, and there it was- one hell of a temple. The first look at any famous monument is always memorable. There it stood- a huge temple built about 1200 years ago. 

Hello there. 

Wandering around the temple’s big stone steps and thousands of stone carvings was amazing. To think about the history behind the place- building this enormous monument without one second of either electricity or gas powered vehicle- is incredible. Standing where thousands of builders had carved intricate detail into the stones and then manually moved all the big rocks into place was really cool. Borobudur is definitely a place where you can “feel” its’ history. It has stood for over a thousand years, a monument to Buddha (and whatever else it meant all those many moons ago). It was in relatively good condition, although the main thing to have been affected are the buddha heads. The majority of the heads on the statues were gone- either taken out by earthquakes, vandals, or thieves over the years. 

The trip to Borobudur also featured the largest amount of PICTURES WITH MR TOURIST MAN of anywhere I have been on this trip so far. I am still a bit perplexed by the local’s extreme desire to have a picture with me, but I continued to go along with it. I took at least 30 pictures with all sorts of students and other Indonesians. One guy even wanted me in a picture with his mom. Most of them seemed to be teenagers, so there was a lot of giggling along with the photos. They would usually say “thank you” in English, and I would respond with “sama sama” (“you’re welcome” in Indonesian) which would result in a chorus of giggles. It is still pretty weird to be a local celebrity for no other reason but way that I look. The locals would often trade being from being photographer to being IN the photo, so there were times I had to wait for 6 or 7 photos with a variety of cameras. MR TOURIST MAN IS HERE! PHOTO TIME! I am very curious what happens to all these photos. I can only hope I at least make it into some sort of Facebook or Instagram post. This time i made sure to get a few of my own MR TOURIST MAN photos. 

MR TOURIST MAN! 

The irony of thousands of visitors a day running around, eating Oreos, taking countless numbers of selfies, and getting group pictures with MR TOURIST MAN is not lost on me. Here is a massive temple that has stood for over a thousand years, and today it is a place where people come and visit for an hour, snap a few selfies (and hopefully a few shots with a westerner) before running off.

After wandering around Borobudur and appreciating it for a few hours, I began my walk back to the car. Before I could get to the exit I had to pass through what seemed like a thousand of tourist stalls. It was staggering how many tourist booths selling T-shirts, food, snacks, statues, and other trinkets. At first I went through an open area with vendors on both sides, but that was only the beginning. Closer to the exit were what definitely hundreds of not a thousand more vendor stalls. It made no sense to me how so many vendor stalls can exist. I would be shocked if more than 5% had daily sales, meaning 95%+ don’t make a single dollar most days. I don’t have any proof of this, but based on the number of tourists and number of stalls there have to be a huge majority that almost never make any sales. 

I spent 2 hours at Borobudur, meaning I had 3 more hours of my hired car. This meant I could go to one more location, so we set off for the other big temple in Jogja- Prambanan. I paid another Tourist Tax of $20, got another sarong wrapped around my waist, and walked to the temple. The Prambanan temple is Hindu (as opposed to Buddhist), built at a similar time as Borobudur. Instead of one giant structure, it was a series of large towers. It was still all built and carved out of stone, with the towers reaching over a hundred feet into the air. The interiors were hollow, which was another incredible engineering feat without any electricity or gas powered machines. I wasn’t able to spend too much time marveling at these giant structures, as I had to get back to the car. Even being there for less than an hour was well worth the visit. 

That ended my double temple day, by far my most active while I have been in Jogja. The rest of the time has been spent doing lots of reading, relaxing, and watching late night World Cup games. I even woke up at 530 am this morning to watch the USA-Ghana game. My alarm was too late to see the first goal (who would have guessed a first minute goal?!), but I saw the rest of the action. 5 am kickoff is definitely not an ideal time for a game, but it was cool to stay connected with my beloved sports world even from the far side of the planet. I have two more nights reading, walking, relaxing and eating in Jogja before making my way to Singapore. Returning to the first world will be interesting. A land with real public transportation and first world prices to match. More adventures to come. 

Sumatra to Java

The final portion of my stay in Nias continued to be relaxing and laid back. It feels like a land stuck in time- somewhere that will only incrementally change by tiny steps over the years. It was similar to Samosir Island (in Lake Toba) in that it hasn’t caught up with most of the first world. People had TVs and phones and motorbikes/ cars, but beyond that it felt very dated- like they were 10-20 years behind the modern world. 

During my entire time in Nias, the kids continued to beg for money. It wouldn’t shock me if there was a class in school that focused on teaching the kids how to properly plead for money. They would all put on a super sad face, and say “Please… pleaaaase mister… pleeeaaase,” over and over. I would laugh, seeing through their ploy, and do the same back to them. I told a few of them that if they produced a real, honest to goodness tear out of their eye, I would give them some money. Not shockingly, none of them were able to actually cry. The begging continued up until the moment I left my home stay with two kids standing by the car asking for money over and over and over until the car finally departed to the airport. Even when I did buy one of the local kids a coke, the FIRST thing he did was ask for one more. Before I had even completed the transaction and payed for one coke, he was asking for number two. I barely got a thank you, and that was the end of my generosity to the Nias kids. 

I made my return to the airport in Gunung Sitoli airport, which is extremely small. There was one check in counter and one large room with everyone waiting for any flights that day. As soon as they announce they will be boarding, a very standard SE Asian phenomenon occurs- EVERYONE rushes to the front simultaneously. No one is rude and there is no pushing or shoving, but there is also nothing resembling a line. What exists is a massive bunch of humans at the front, all jockeying to be next through the gate. If something like this was happening in the States, there would be arguments and likely a fist fight. Here, no lines is the way of life. 

Gunung Sitoli Internatiol Airport

On the flight back, I got another view of the erupting volcano- Mount Cinabung. It was super cool to see all the steam and smoke billowing out of the top. I stayed one last night in Medan before getting a flight to Bandung the next day. My return to Medan allowed me to experience my least favorite thing in the city- EVERY taxi driver asking me if I want a ride. There are dozens of taxi cars and dozens more of the motorcycle becaks, and at least 90% of them ask me if I want a ride. “Hello, Friend! Taxi??” Uh, I said no the first 1,000 drivers that asked me, but you know what, YES, I will have a taxi! The walk from the train station to my hotel was about 200 yards, and I was asked what felt like 10,000 times about at taxi ride. 

The multi-days of travel to multiple locations allowed me to reflect on my several weeks living in Indonesia so far. 

- On a scale of 1-10 (1 being “overly cautious” and 10 being “don’t give a fuck”), motor vehicle safety is somewhere around 200. Helmets are rarely if ever worn while on motorbikes/ scooters/ motorcycles. Sometimes the driver has the helmet on their arm instead of the head region, which would do a hell of a job saving their elbow from destruction but wouldn’t help the head much. In the car, seat belts are almost never worn. I often get laughed at when I put a seatbelt on. With the way they drive (lanes lines are a suggestion, tailgating is mandatory, and passing cars at high speed is necessary) it is surprising there aren’t a nearly infinite amount of car accidents. 

- Almost no one wears shorts, except on the beach. It is pretty much pants at all times, despite the extreme heat. 

- When Indonesians take a trip, they TAKE A TRIP. Nearly every passenger checking in at the airport has a minimum of 3 checked bags, sometimes double that. They have a few main bags, a few carry ons, then several boxes of food. People also seem to travel in packs of 10+, all attempting to check in at the same time. 

- As mentioned previously, lines do not exist. If you aren’t paying attention, someone will 100% cut in front of you. At one of the airline check-in counters, I was standing about a few feet back from the person in front of me, waiting for them to finish with their check in. One guy came and stood right in front of me. I moved my way back in front of them, but if you aren’t aggressive you will quite literally be in line forever as more and more people cut in front of you. 

- There do not appear to be any humans over the age of 65. It is unclear if no one lives to the age of 70, if they aren’t allowed to leave their house once they get over 60, or if the younger people just ship them away. I don’t remember seeing more than one person who seemed over 70. The one I DID see in Nias will probably give me nightmares for a long time. After waking up from a nap one day, I came out of my room onto the large balcony. Before I knew what was going on, there was a super old guy wandering up the stairs. He could have been 60, but he looked more like 125. Barely any locals came up to our balcony (probably an unwritten rule in the area) so seeing anyone was a shock, let alone a super creepy old dude. He pulls out a laminated surf magazine cover with a small picture of himself that had clearly been folded and refolded back into his pocket thousands of times. He didn’t speak any English, so he mumbled things in Indonesian out of a mouth that only had 3 completely black teeth left. I smile and nod, wishing I had slept another 30 minutes. Then, he grabs my arm to give me an “arm massage.” I am not a big fan of creepy old dudes rubbing my arm, so I was not pleased. After what felt like a few hours (and was probably a minute), he thankfully stopped massaging my arm and asked for my other arm. I respectfully declined. He asked for money, so I gave him about $0.50. Then I went wash my arm off. So the one old dude I DID see gave me a creepy arm massage, will give me a lifetime of nightmares, and cost me $0.50. Good times. Maybe that is why the old people get hidden in caves somewhere. Hawaii Bob let me know that was “Mr. Massage” and he has been creeping people out and giving massages in Nias since before time existed. 

After my week in Nias and one night in Medan I flew across the equator to Bandung on the island of Java to meet some of my cousins. My Uncle (Dad’s brother) married an Indonesian woman and most of her family lives in Bandung. If I am in Indonesia, I of course need to stop by and hang out with my international fam for awhile. Spending time with actual locals is one of my favorite things to do while in foreign countries. Before actually meeting them, I had to make it through the Bandung airport. For a major city, the airport is very out of place. We exited the plane directly onto the tarmac and had to wait for a plane to drive by before we could cross to the terminal. Yes- there was an airplane crosswalk. I had never seen anything like it. What came next I had never seen either. 

The baggage claim consisted of one tiny room with a SINGLE FILE conveyor belt. If you think that a single file conveyor belt of about 20 yards is an inefficient way to get bags back to passengers, you would be 100% correct. Added to the fact that the conveyor belt was a tiny straight line was the previously mentioned cultural aspect of everyone swarming around instantly. There was nothing I had ever witnessed quite like it- a huge crowd of people around a tiny, single file conveyor belt. I couldn’t do anything but laugh at the silliness of the entire situation. Only in SE Asia. 

Thankfully I was able to retrieve my bag without having my ankles taken out by a baggage cart and made my way to the exit. My cousins were nice enough to come pick me up, and I was a little worried I wouldn’t recognize them. I had met one of them about 13 years ago, and another I had never met. The saving grace was I knew they would DEFINITELY recognize/ notice me since I would be the only white dude wandering aimlessly around the airport. Andrew and Devina were waiting by the front of the exit, and I think they gave me a second to see if I recognized them. Thankfully they didn’t wait TOO long, as I may have continued walking. We had a nice, happy reunion and made our way to their house in Bandung. 

The entire family has been extremely nice to me, far beyond what they need to do. They are letting me stay in their house, won’t let me pay for anything, wash my clothes, take me around town to various sights, and feed me constantly. Staying in a house has been a very welcome change from tiny hotel rooms as well. The house seems massive with its’ many rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, living rooms after being confined to my own hotel room for two months. The family’s hospitality and generosity has been incredible. 

They took me on several day trips outside the city of Bandung- one day to a villa on top of a mountain and the other day to a volcanic crater. Both days were really fun, and made even more unique because there is no way I would have done this if I was on my own. It was cool going to places with locals. I was also shown a by product of driving around Bandung- the insanity that is the traffic. The streets are constantly gridlocked, meaning it takes over an hour to go pretty much anywhere. If I lived here I would require a jet pack or helicopter to get around. There is also a noticeable lack of street signs. If someone gave me an address to locate, I would be lost in under a minute with no clue how to get back home. 

I will be staying at the family’s home for another 4 nights or so before heading off to Yogyakarta in the middle of Java. Getting a taste of local Indonesian life, as well as incredible hospitality, has already been a great change from traveling on my own. I will definitely enjoy it for the rest of the week. 

Enjoying Nias

Tonight will be my 6th night in Nias, and it has proved to be an incredibly relaxing stop on my journey. There are barely any tourists here, and the few that are here have made the trip for the surf. I am one of the very rare tourists to visit without spending the majority of my time surfing. 

I have settled into a nice routine, as has happened anywhere I have stayed for longer than a few nights. The bed at my home stay is miles away from comfortable, so I unfortunately don’t sleep great. Only having my bed liner (basically a super thin sleeping bag) to work as my sheet AND blanket doesn’t help. Thankfully I don’t need to get up and work, so a nap during the day is always available. After I wake up, usually around 9 am, the family at my home stay brings me a breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast or a large banana pancake with some coffee. I enjoy the view from the balcony for a few hours, maybe edit some photos from the previous day, or do some writing. Sometimes I zone out, listen to music and watch the waves crash a few hundred yards away.

Anytime I poke my head over the top of the balcony, one of a variety of locals chats me up- all trying to sell something. “Hey, BEN!” is a common occurrence around here. The kids are selling fruit, donuts, T-shirts or surf gear. The adults are selling books, local statues or bracelets, or rides to other parts of the island on their scooter. Almost all of the time, my answer is no thank you. Once I say that I don’t want to buy something, the next question is usually if I have extra board shorts to give them. Uh, no thanks to that either. 

A guy from Hawaii, Bob, moved into the home stay a few days ago, and he filled me in on a lot of info about Nias. He has visited Nias 10 or so times, so he knows the area well. Bob said that the local island people of Nias have a different attitude than the rest of Indonesia, and that the various surfers coming through the island have jaded the locals even more. Many visitors come to the island for 5-10 days, and act like “week long millionaires,” throwing their Indonesia Rupiah around like nothing. 

Having another native English speaker has been a welcome change from my broken or barely English conversations with the locals. It is nice to actually TALK to someone instead of just saying I don’t want to buy something, or how much something costs. Most of the time, the solitude on this trip has been exactly what I needed, but there are times when having a full conversation with someone is a welcome change from the alone time. 

In the early afternoon, I have either been going to the internet cafe for a bit or taking a long walk down the beach. It is definitely weird having NO internet after having it 24/7 for a long time. In some ways it is nice untethering and not obsessively checking Twitter/ Facebook for no good reason. However, the power of the internet does make life a lot easier and more efficient. Even to book my flights from Nias to Medan and then Medan to Bandung I needed the internet cafe. To share this post with the world, I need the internet cafe. At the same time, the “internet” at the cafe it is far from first world speeds. I didn’t prepare well for a week with no internet, so while at the cafe I tried to download a few books from iTunes. Unfortunately, the slow internet tubes here meant that even a 10 mb book file was going to take hours. Ugh. My face may melt off when I am back in the States and I can instantly stream any TV show in HD. I WAS able to stream this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so I can’t complain TOO much about the speed of the internet tubes. 

Walks out into the huge volcanic tide pools to photograph the massive waves has become one of my favorite things to do here. The tide pools go several hundred yards into the ocean, and never get deep enough to even go up to my knees. There was a big earthquake in the area around 10 years ago which raised the floor of the beach several feet. Once I get closer to the breaking waves, there are large canyons in the volcanic rock that could swallow me up, or at least do some serious bodily damage, if I’m not careful. 

Selfie

I have spent hours watching the huge waves breaking at the end of the volcanic rock shelf, and taken hundreds of photos of those same waves. It is pretty mesmerizing watching these gigantic waves continue to roll towards the rock, slamming down one after another. I definitely don’t have enough courage to go super close, since I never know how far the water from the breaking waves will roll toward the shore. The last thing I need is to get washed out to sea or get knocked on my ass. Taking photos of the waves is a bit addicting, as I am trying to capture the “perfect” wave picture- whatever that means. Because each wave is completely different, it offers an opportunity for a new and unique photo. Being out on the volcanic rocks totally by myself is also pretty amazing. Every once in awhile a fisherman with a net comes fairly close. Besides that, I am completely alone out there close to the breaking waves. 

Lunchtime is around 2 pm, and afterwards is probably a nap unless I have found some sort of second wind. Later in the day is a combination of more writing (like what I am doing right now), editing photos, or chatting with Hawaii Bob. Dinner time is 7:30ish, and after that is probably a short walk to a local shop for some large Bintang beers. As is fairly normal around these parts, the shop is also someones house, so there are people laying on a mattress watching TV right next to the fridge with some cold beers. All of the meals are included in the $35/ night home stay cost, so my only other expenses have been a few beers at $2.50 each. A week in Nias will be amazing- however being anywhere for much longer without any internet access would be hard. Even as a means to check in with friends and family, and make sure that the US hasn’t gotten attacked, is something that I miss. For better or worse, a big part of my life is reliant on the internet these days so completely turning it off is hard. 

Staying in fairly shitty accommodations does make me appreciate all the things I have grown accustomed to. A flushing toilet, instead of dumping water into said toilet, would be pretty nice. Regular internet, watching my favorite sports/ TV shows, and staying in touch with friends/ family are the first things that come to mind. A washer/ dryer would be great as well, but that would be like expecting the keys to a flying car in this part of the world. I am not sure that a washer/ dryer even exists on Nias. Hand washed clothes is the name of the game out here. 

I have one more full day in Nias before flying back to Medan. After spending one night in Medan, I will fly about 2 1/2 hours to Bandung, which is on the island of Java. I will be visiting some cousins of mine in Bandung, which I am really looking forward to. It will be the first time in over 6 weeks that I will see someone I have ever met before. Spending time with some Indonesian locals will be a great experience as well. I also have a feeling I will be missing the island life before long.