In less than 24 hours I had to decided to spend the next 5 nights in Gili Meno. There was just such an incredible vibe here and I needed more time.
I also have to add that there are a TON of hot men that live on this island and they are all single. I messaged a few of my single girlfriends in New York and told them to get to Gili Meno because there was a plethora here, that is, if you like the dark skin, long haired surfer type with a missing tooth or two.
However, when traveling alone as a female you always have to be on your guard. Everyone is nice but you don’t know who is genuine and who may want something from you. There is a fine line when making friends especially when it’s the opposite sex. You have to show them that you don’t completely trust them and that you are street-smart, confident and strong enough to take care of yourself. And it helps if you mention a (fake) boyfriend back home that’s waiting for you. 🙂
Once all of that is established then you can really become friends. I’ve met a few locals here who are really sweet and totally harmless. Barone, the one that works at his family’s “warung” noticed that I was popping in and out of cafes one day to escape the heat. He said that I was welcome to sit on his hammock in the shade at his warung. It was a beautiful view and he even played some music on his guitar. He has a really nice voice and played the obligatory U2 and Bob Marley songs that all foreigners know. To think how big these artists really are that their music is played all over the world, even on a little island like Gili Meno. Barone knew the lyrics better than me.
Later that day I joined Barone and his friends to play some volleyball. I know that they were being nice when they invited me but they were shocked when they saw me, “bump, setting and spiking” just like the rest of them. Maybe I failed to mention that I played in high-school for a few years. Now I will say that my wrists are actually black and blue and tender to the touch from that day, since I hadn’t touched a volleyball in 10 years but it was good fun. They are really good though so now I just watch since they play everyday at 5pm when all the workers at the cafés get an hour break before the dinner shift starts.
One night I was invited to an old hotel on the island that technically isn’t open anymore except for the occasional tourists who have read about it and are dead-set on staying there. This hotel used to be the one and only hotel on Gili Meno and was THE place to stay back in its “hay-day”. But since tourism has slowed down, so has the hotel. This hotel is where all the locals hang out because there is a TV and they don’t have TVs in their homes. So they come here a few nights a week in the open-air patio to watch the news and to watch “Indonesian-idol” the equivalent to American Idol-ha! They also sell homemade rice wine under the table that is prepared daily. I went that night and the rice wine was served out of used water bottles. This stuff was legit, like their local moonshine. It’s very light tasting and not too strong. Throughout the evening other locals would stop to buy a bottle on their way home and take it to go. I’m convinced that this is the reason why this hotel is staying afloat because of the locals buying rice wine. An hour into the evening, the power for the entire island went out. Gili Meno didn’t have electricity full-time until 2003. Before that a few hotels had generators during the day and then it was shut off at night. From time to time the electricity does go out but only stays like that for about 15 minutes. That night, it went out for over an hour, but since everyone is used to living without electricity, candles were immediately brought out and we continued our night under the full moon.
The following night we took our rice wine to the beach and made a campfire. Barone played the guitar and everyone sang. They honestly have beautiful voices, each and everyone of them. I am so impressed that they know all these American songs and the words better than I do, even if they don’t understand them. If they don’t know the words they will use filler words such as “nasi gorang” the traditional rice dish here, or “gili meno” until they get back to verses they know- it was funny.
They also sang some beautiful Indonesian songs that evening which was the best part. It’s so interesting to see foreigners sing songs that only their country knows. I’ve seen it through my many years of travel and hanging out with friends from Germany, Turkey, France, Tunisia, Morocco and Mexico amongst a few. I don’t understand one word they are singing but the way they sing the verses with so much emotion and passion brings tears to my eyes.
I am never alone on this island. When I go to the beach the local fruit woman greet me by name and ask how I’m doing. I go to a cafe and the workers come and sit at my table to have a chat. I walk through the village and someone passes me on a bike saying, “hellooooooo Amanda”, I walk past a bungalow and the young girls ask me to take a seat and chat with them. I go to another cafe and more people I’ve met in the past few days join me and sit down. I am surrounded by more love and genuinely kind people than I ever was in a city of 8 million in New York. As I looked up at the sky, that night on the beach with the beautiful music, I thought about where I was a month ago when the full moon was brightly shining down on me. I was in the Great Outback camping under the stars. My what a drastic change from where I was now and still incredible all the same. I’m excited to see what the next month brings and who else I will meet along the way.
Momo and Maman worked at the cafe I went to multiple times a day. These two were probably some of favorites, always joking around and professing their love for me despite me telling them EVERYDAY that they were way too young for me!
A link to my favorite Indonesian song that they would sing every night at our camp fires.