Episode 15: Joyeux anniversaire!

Last time on Mobilis Divers: We brought you with us on our holiday to New Zealand. The rich aroma of creamy blue cheese still lingered in the air.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve been here six months already. Happy six month anniversary to me!

I’ve now witnessed one full rainy season, with its regular afternoon downpours, and am currently enjoying the cool evening breezes the dry season has to offer. I’ve seen many of the famously beautiful sunsets while sipping many gin & tonics on the beach. I’ve been swimming with many melon headed whales, listening to them chat and watching them play under the water. I’ve gone to many early morning tai chi sessions and have worked may days my new job (though I still don’t know what I’m doing).

It’s been quite a fabulous experience so far.

We have a pretty ordinary existence really (we get up, go to work, come home, make dinner) – except we don’t. We drive home on a road full of cows and pigs and dogs and children. We buy our electricity from an electricity store (if they have any on the shelves, that is), and we often don’t have electricity, even after stocking up at the shop. We regularly drink fresh coconuts we’ve bought on the side of the road. Every weekend we watch movies on the beach, surrounded by friends (and beach dogs chasing beach pigs). We can dive and snorkel in some of the richest oceans on earth within spitting distance of our house.

We’re a little bit in love with the place. It’s weird and quirky and unpredictable and fun and full of fabulously interesting and endlessly supportive people.

It has its problems, of course, and those get old sometimes, but all in all it’s a very charming place to live. Neither of us want to leave any time soon. But, as was the case with us coming here in the first place, we’re at the whim of the universe. Both of our jobs are not guaranteed after the end of the year. The project Chris works on is contracted until December and the floor has been opened for other bidders to come in and place their offers for the next contract period. My job falls within an awkward organizational structure that is being reconsidered by the powers that be this September. It is possible I could be out of a job as a result of their decision before January.

In some ways, we wonder if that is the perfect sign that we should change gears and jump into our real dream of opening a dive center here. I mean, if we’re both out of jobs but want to stay here, it makes perfect sense to start our own thing instead, right?

Well, there are some fairly big things to consider.

Firstly, this place is expensive. Living here without any income would be rough. And a dive resort isn’t the cheapest of pursuits to get off the ground in any location. Then there is the very real concern that we wouldn’t have any customers. The flight situation is *still* not sorted out. In fact, it keeps feeling more dire by the day. With one route cancelled and another cutting back its services (a flight that is also, per mile, the most expensive in the world), we are left with only one route serviced by three airlines, all of which are owned by the same company. When Chris first arrived last January, ticket prices were around $120 each way (under $250 for a return). Now they are nearly $800 roundtrip.

This is a huge problem for people living here, but an even bigger one when you think about the tourism that it stops. Flights to the other side of the same island (in a different country) are about $70 each way. Go that little bit farther (20 minutes more by air) and you’re paying $400 for almost the same flight. Why oh why would anyone come here then, when they can get a very similar experience, both on land and in the sea, by cutting their trip a few miles short?

That’s all to say: if we do start a business, we have to be able to sustain it with a customer base already living in the country instead of depending on tourists. One risk there is that the country is on the verge of losing a fair bit of aid funding in the next year or so. As a result, the staff that would be here to implement those projects will no longer be in the country.

Put all these risk factors together and it starts to feel like there is no way we would break even on our investment.

So, start or not start? We aren’t sure yet. We made a choice after I first arrived here that we won’t jump into anything just because we *want* it to be possible. We want to wait for a moment when it feels right, when it makes sense and we can see some kind of possibility for it. We want to start small, take it slowly and build it up rather than throw our whole life savings at it in a financial hail mary. Perhaps that timing will line up with our current job cycles and perhaps it won’t. All we can do is wait and see (and keep you updated as we go, of course)!

In the meantime, we’ve been enjoying the fact that, in addition to cool evening breezes, dry season provides us with a chance to explore the country a little more. Now that the roads aren’t being washed away every other week, it’s actually possible to get out of the city. Over a recent public holiday, we ventured south for the long weekend. Nearly every minute of every day we kept looking at each other and saying “well isn’t this just wonderful!??”

Ok so we weren’t looking *at* each other all the time.

Our adventures took us all the way across the country – along the rivers, over the mountains and down to the opposite coast. It was a weekend of contrasts. We swapped north for south. White sand for black. A busy, dirty city for clean, idyllic villages. Crunchy, dry plants for lush tropical ones. Dried out river beds for raging waterfalls. And our gravely backyard for the most wonderful swimming pool ever imagined.

This was a kid (and kid-at-heart)’s dream. Three pools with climbable rocks all around it, a water slide and water falls to hide under. Seriously. Whoever designed this had a hell of a lot of fun.
We only see rivers like this after major rains in the city. The southern mountains seemed to send down an endless supply here though!

Probably my favorite part of an already fabulous weekend was our stop at a simple roadside attraction. One village had the brilliant idea of walling in a mountain river to create a stunningly beautiful infinity pool just off the main drag. The water was cool, crisp and perfectly clear. We dangled our feet in the chilly water to cool off and, after my feet went numb, the rest of my body – hot from the tropical sun – was desperate for its turn. It took some convincing to get Chris to join me (he’s not a fan of cold), but we eventually jumped in and, much to our surprise, managed to stay for quite a while. Floating in the fresh water, surrounded by dragonflies, listening to the birds and the leaves, it is not an experience I will forget any time soon.

Chris’ dragonfly friend.

You may have noticed in that last photo that Chris is sporting a new piece of gear (one that I’m still getting used to seeing!). That’s right, folks. Since the last time we talked, we also managed to sneak in a quick trip to America where we officially tied the knot (more about that next time)!

Although we’ve been together for about seven years, this is the first time we’ve had a meaningful date to celebrate (as there isn’t really a day when that we officially “met” or started dating – it’s a long story). So this week, our one month anniversary was a perfect excuse to pop open some champagne, walk to the fancy restaurant on the beach by our house and gorge ourselves on delicious curries and even more incredible cheesecake (a homemade one with fresh passion fruit compote)!

It’s nights like that where we both get to pause and really appreciate how fortunate we are to be here. If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I’d be at this point, there is not a chance I would have said “living in an island paradise where things don’t always work as you’d want or expect but whose raw beauty and sincere humanity often blow you away in truly spectacular ways”. But that’s *is* where we live and where we are very much enjoying spending our days. Who knows how long we will be able to call it home, but for now we’ll keep soaking up every champagne-y drop.

A Warm Welcome

After a long journey home and some unexpected clean-up projects when we arrived (one shattered wine bottle in our suitcase and a fridge we had accidentally switched off before we left three weeks ago – with a freezer full of meat, of course), we weren’t sure we could muster the energy for beachside cinema, our favorite weekly tradition.

We’d purposefully avoided watching the movie on our long plane ride so we could enjoy it at the beach (a real challenge with so much time at our disposal!), but when it started to rain about the time we would need to leave the house for the show, we figured it stood good chance of being cancelled anyway. Without any food left in our fridge, however, we decided to at least head over for dinner and some fresh air before we called it a night. 

We were very pleasantly rewarded with not only a full screening of the fabulous Bohemian Rhapsody and an absolutely stunning sunset, but the warm welcome of too many friends to count. We soaked up all the hugs and congratulations along with our Bintangs and the soft sprinkle of warm rain that waxed and waned throughout the evening. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect homecoming.