After the hectic life during the world trip, packing our backpacks every other day and continuing the travels, we were looking forward to our almost 4 weeks permanent stay on tiny Indonesian island Nusa Lembongan (south east of Bali).
What had lead us here in the first place was my decision in Ecuador to go for a yoga teacher training – and we then looked for a place that would also offer enough to do for Bertram. In this regard, Nusa Lembongan and its Santosha Yoga School was the perfect choice: yoga every day for me, surfing for Bertram, and enough fun activities together in my days off 🙂
The following represents a brief summary of our chill-out month in wonderful Indonesia.
Doing my research in Ecuador, I tried to figure out which one yoga teacher training out of the dozens if not hundreds on offer would suit me and us best. Finally, I settled on Santosha Yoga Institute due to its prime surfing beach location and its well-rounded program. It is well-rounded in the sense that it does not limit the training to the asana postures – how to perform them yourself and how to teach them to others. Instead, the schedule featured mediation and breathing practices, anatomy, yoga philosophy, glimpses into Ayurveda and yoga’s other Indian “sister philosophies”, kirtan singing, … The contents were taught mostly in interactive sessions but also sometimes features slides and we often used our extensive manual when learning to perform and teach asana postures – sample below. We were always accompanied by the “wise elephant” who was watching us from the wall 🙂
The training started with a surprise as there were 33 other students in the yoga shala – many more than I had expected! It was great to see a very diverse group with People coming from Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Israel, South Africa, Germany, the UK, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan. The only non-diverse measure: 30 females vs. 4 brave males 🙂
The group was fantastic and I still find it incredible how many wonderful people I was able to meet and make friends with during this short but intensive period of time. Everyone brought some unique part into the bigger puzzle of what was our YTT 200 hour group. Is was simply fantastic to see everyone using their strong suits in teaching yoga and in a way the assessment period was the best as one could experience a short 10-minute sequence being taught by each and everyone. (It meant, however, 6 hours of yoga asana practice on that last Sunday :-).)
The graduation ceremony was very moving and I still feel grateful for our fantastic teachers that made the learning fun and enjoyable – even being in the yoga shala on our mats nearly every day at 05:00 am 🙂 Equal thanks go to all the new friends who had interesting stories to share, participated in joint activities outside of our yoga schedule, and made every day a bit brighter and lighter. Thanks so much!
Nusa Lembongan in low season turned out to be a pretty good spot for surfing, too. Mostly the waves were not crowded at all and we only had rain and thunderstorms twice during our stay – call that rainy season 🙂
Bertram got out into the water with Monkey Surf and his surf buddies Fabio and Peter nearly every day for 2-3 hours. The reef was a bit intimidating at first but Bertram got more and more into it – until he got “kissed” by the reef on one occasion. Anna also went out a couple of times and highly enjoyed it: the water is transparent-blue, nice and warm, no sharks or stingy jelly fish 🙂 In one occasion, we even took Marie and Lara, two of Anna’s favourite yogis, with us.
Going surfing for three weeks in a row really allows for quite some improvement. After the first week the muscles stop aching so bad after every outing and Bertram also started moving down to smaller surf boards. The waves (and the reef that they threatened to smash you into) remained daunting, but on many days it was a nice and easy surf 🙂
My yoga program was very well balanced and had a total of 4 days off – 1 after week 1, 2 after week 2, and 2 after week 3. The first day off was the first one with all day rain and thunderstorms. In the end this must have been a divine plan as 5 days of waking up at 04:30 and spending each day until ~20:00 with new people can be quite exhausting 🙂
As of the second day off, we were quite adventurous though. Apart from going surfing together we went snorkeling and slacklining, rented a scooter to travel around the island and to the neighboring island of Nusa Cenigan, and we also relaxed 🙂
Other notes on island life in the South East
Being part of the island for our month helped us get a deeper understanding of what it’s like to live here. A couple of observations follow below 🙂
Hinduism and spirits
Living in Bali/Nusa Lembongan allows one to gain a deeper insight into the very religious Hindu practices that 99% of islanders follow. Every morning and evening, women prepare small offerings made from banana or palm leaves and arrange flowers, cookies, and incense in it. These packages are then laid into the main doorways and onto the streets to bless everyone passing by. Of course, the shrines that can be found every couple of of 100 meters get an offering, too. A really beautiful ritual to watch! The incense is used as people believe it allows to connect with the gods and spirits – they do not like human small 🙂 When I observed a bit cynically that oftentimes dogs or children would eat the cookies or sweets from the offerings, my Indian-Singaporean friend and co-student Rani wisely commented: “You know, Anna, it’s the action of offering and not the outcome that counts.” Nice change of mindset for an outcome-oriented person like me…
Waste and the environment
Living on the island one cannot help but notice that there are loads of plastic and other types of waste lying around: on the beach coming in with the tide, in the streets, in the forest, … While our friends Fabio and Peter who have been here for a couple of years now insist that is has gotten better already it is arguably still a big problem. Some people blame it on the tourists and they certainly are part of the problem. Somehow the ferry boats seem to have the impression that people will not survive a 30-minute boat ride without drinking a pre-packed cup of water with a straw. And somehow, a lot of people simply throw their cups on the beach as soon as they land. Inconceivable for us!
But the locals bear also part of the blame. Someone explained that plastic was still a relatively new wrapping material and a lot of Indonesians still treated it like their former wrapping material of choice: banana leaves. These ones one can raher easily discard as they will rot away quickly…
Now, one sees piles of trash burning every other day and the stench of burning plastic is really annoying (especially against the nice background ;-))
But it’s definitely not only a problem on the island. During our snorkeling trip we went to a bay where the manta rays live. In this bay, we were almost reluctant to go into the water: toothpaste tubes, yoghurt cups, plastic bags, micro particles were making the water murky. And once in the water, one could see how the different types of wastes “layer” in the see – bottles and tubes swim on top, plastic bags “hang in the air” and move with the ebb and flow of the water currents, and the sea floor is littered with shoes, cans, and other heavy stuff it is truly sad!
“Paradise every day”
Living on a little island near Bali for about a month may sound like waking up in paradise every day. And yes, Nusa Lembongan was great, the people friendly and the scenery great. Hearing the waves roll on the beach every night, sipping smoothies in the cafes and observing great sunsets over Bali is amazing.
But while life on a paradise island is simple and relaxed, it is also a very simple life with not a lot of variety in the days. Want to experience a bit of culture and go see a theatre or music performance? Not really going to happen. Want to see the latest movies when they come out? Have to wait for a couple of months until the one back-garden cinema obtains a copy of them. Want to eat anything other than what the local Warungs offer? Well, not so easy. And while the slow WiFi might be a good reason to “disconnect” for a while from the global news alerts and messages from home or work, it may also mean that one can feel really cut off from the rest of the world. It’s okay if you’re a tourist and have the liberty to leave whenever you want to. But if you’re a local (or expat) who actually spends their life on the island, the simplicity of island life may well translate into restrictions and monotony.
Don’t get us wrong, we greatly enjoyed our time on the island. But we are also conscious of our privilege to be able to leave simplicity and “paradise” behind and see more than just the 4km x 4km large island every day of the year 🙂
(Still, you have to admit that the sunset are stunning and paradise-like mostly every single day :-))
And sometimes the moon is stunning and paradise-like, too 🙂