Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gili Trawangan--Ramadan Romp

I think it's more interesting to tell a few anecdotes rather than list what we did or saw. Here's a little bit about our time on Gili Trawangan.

The Gili Islands are located off of Lombok (a mostly Muslim island east of Hindu Bali). There are no motorized vehicles on the island, which is really saying something. Finally a break from motorbikes. Most of the accommodations are right across the street from the beach and at most restaurants you can eat with your feet in the sand. It's really laid back and the beaches are beautiful--white sand, nice coral reefs. Tons of people come here for scuba diving. It was high season so hotels were expensive (not to mention booked up). We headed inland to look for a homestay and found a suitably dank and cheap room at Lucky's Homestay. The dad made us pretty darn good jaffles and pancakes for breakfast while his kids watched Sponge Bob Square Pants. A 2 year old light-skinned neighbor boy was often around and we were told that his dad was Austrian (and back in Austria but knew his son). This was reminiscent of a stunningly blue-eyed Balinese baby we saw in the Ubud market.

Anyways, to get to our homestay we had to walk right past the mosque every day. Most tourists stay on the outskirts of the island near the beach and probably only vaguely hear the call to prayer but I was always throwing sarongs over myself as I walked past. Moreover, we were there for the beginning of Ramadan so the iman was broadcasting whole sermons on the loudspeaker. Every night the mosque was full of praying people on their prayer rugs, the women head to toe in white. Pretty intense. Some French people were taking pictures. Pretty inappropriate. We'd walk past the praying fasting pious Muslims and then go get a happy hour drink. Pretty incongruous. But that's Gili T, as they call it.

One night around sunset we were walking around waiting for the movie to start (one bar plays a free movie every night if you just order something to eat or drink--surprisingly enough, they had the best popcorn). It was on the fancier, more resorty side of the island. People kept wandering into bars or restaurants only to have the staff yell--we're on break! We want to eat! They couldn't eat, drink or smoke all day until sunset, of course, because of Ramadan. Everyone's English was so good and rapport reached so easily that you were always talking and laughing with the locals. It was these types of instances that reminded you they had their own cultural/religious commitments to navigate.

Around the perimeter there were hotels boasting fresh water showers and air conditioning and serving Mexican food and imported booze. In the middle of the island there were palm trees and a few goats and cows. No crops could grow. An elderly neighbor woman was constantly keeping a fire going to boil water and cook over (outside). They shut off the electricity and water in our room in the middle of the day. Basically everyone worked in tourism somehow because that was the only source of income. Islands are interesting. Everything must be brought there. As we waited for the ferry to take us back to Bali we watched them unload crates of beer and food for the restaurants. They loaded them in this horse drawn wagon and brought them around the island.

There's just something weird about eating corn tortilla black bean enchiladas and sipping sangria on a tiny Muslim Indonesian island.

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