There is a beautiful piece of music by The Smiths of the same name. No words, just a haunting piece that allows you to make up your own mind what happy Morrisey was on about. But I can only guess.
I am sitting in a hotel in Mataram, Lombok. After days of staying in whatever form of accommodation we can find this is a veritable 5 Star get up in comparison. Still only $40 a room but quiet gardens, a pool and frangipani trees scattered across manicured lawns. The Indonesian dream. So that’s what this musing is about – the oscillation. One night ago we were crammed into one room, cold water, Indonesian toilet (which is a hole in the floor with two foot pads on either side), pillows that were like rocks inside paper bags and skeletal stray cats rubbing against your legs at dinner.
To be honest Mel and I are passing through this strange “Why are we here phase?”. Well maybe it’s more “What do we DO here?”. I am used to surf travel where you go somewhere remote and DO something. Spending a week or two in a bamboo hut is fine when you spend 6 hours a day doing an intensely enjoyable activity. But travelling with a whole family is a little strange. There are so many variables and often conflicting interests. Mel and I could sit and watch a sunset happily for several hours but after the 10th comment of “I’m bored….” it wears thin. So you move on, look for the next thing to do.
Having said that though, the girls have been nothing short of truly amazing so not wanting to sit for 2 hours watching a sunset is completely forgivable. They have earned that right after travelling hard across the Indonesian Islands from Timor to Lombok. I caught myself in the middle of some of our nightmare travel days looking at them thinking “My God….they are taking this all in their stride!”. They are stoic beyond measure so what is a little childish impatience. I bet I did the same.
But its the oscillation of energy that is fascinating. I love the concept of energy. I have a layman’s interest in the basic universal principles of physics so I love the fact that this whole universe is just this big old ball of energy that is pulsing eternally in waves – for time past and all of time to come. Its all waves of energy. Everything is oscillating. Energy, light, atoms, solar systems, seasons, days, nights – and us. We go up, we go down. The good days, the bad, the focused, the scattered, the meaningful, the meaningless, the calm, the frustrated. Wave after wave after wave.
Then imagine five little souls all oscillating independently. All on a journey together, all trying to stay roughly in sync.
But just when we are starting to get frustrated by the merry go round – Mel and I realise that the merry go round IS the thing. The oscillation is the ride. So just look around, harden up, get over yourself and let go.
Oscillate wildly and smile.
Mind you there are harder times than others to remember that. Like the overnight “Executive” bus from Bima, Sumbawa to Mataram, Lombok. I know I talked about wimping out and flying but for some reason Mel and I decided to get back on the horse and harden up. So we booked the executive night bus with images of reclining seats, air con and sleeping soundly all the way. Leave at 7pm, nine hours across Sumbawa Island, two hour ferry to Lombok, three hours across Lombok to Mataram. Too easy.
But we turned up to the bus station and knew we were in trouble. The brand new Mercedes coach we saw the day before was replaced with an ageing, dented old girl with cracked windscreen and bad seats. Then there was nothing to do but sit back and grit your teeth. Cockroaches, hair raising speeds (you know you were lucky when even the bus driver shouts out in fear) and Indonesian ladies vomiting discreetly into plastic bags that ended up rolling around my feet. Watching the clock, ticking off towns, holding tight until we made the ferry so we can get out and breathe fresh air. Huddled on the deck of the ferry at 3am freezing cold. That sick tired feeling, lying on the steel deck, back to the wind to protect Zoe who was wrapped in all my clothes, then getting BACK on the bus for the final assault on Lombok. Arriving at 5:30am to a deserted bus station thanking the stars that we had booked a hotel in advance. Waiting in the open air foyer until midday so we could take our rooms.
Merely a day later we are in our own car, music blaring (the only request from the girls was that we played something Australian), roaming free across Lombok as I ease into the whole place and begin to enjoy driving like a madman. Hand on the horn, overtaking wherever works and no road rules beyond “the biggest vehicle has right of way”.
So the oscillation continues. Tomorrow we will find ourselves in Bali splashing out on a clean little private villa with its own pool. (I got a rush of pride when Tully walked into a musty, dank Indonesian bathroom and said “Nice bathroom!”). We will be surrounded by tourists and no longer a thing of fascination to the locals. No longer will women come screaming out of shop fronts to pinch the girls cheeks and rub their skin while cackling with laughter. No longer will hoards of young locals scamper over to us and request photo after photo after photo. Tomorrow we move from things of interest to nothing new. I am sure the girls won’t mind though. They are strong and stoic but after weeks of cheek pinching they are a little over it.
I love this. Despite the oscillation, despite the sleepless nights and buses with bags of vomit. I love it. It is real and raw and hard but so breathtakingly beautiful.
Enough. I’d better go…..