I just recently came back from a a duty trip to Pulau Nyamuk, a tiny island inhabited by around 600 people in Karimunjawa archipelago, in the north of Java. This fishermen community have electricity only for 12 hours per day provided by 30kW diesel power plant and 25kWp solar power plant. With such limitation on energy source, the people live a humble and simple life, at least compared to the hectic Jakarta life. It’s the crew I went with also the people I met who really got me realized that all this time I was too busy thinking about “tomorrow”.
Hari is in his late twenty working as an electrical engineer while Andi is a technician who is a little older than Hari and me. Together we inspected the solar mini-grid installation in Pulau Nyamuk and trained the operators. They are really inspiring people. They have travelled a lot to remote islands of Indonesia, they live by the day, and they are happy. Yes, they are. It’s like nothing can make them upset.
The trip back from Pulau Nyamuk to Pulau Karimun was special. We were trapped in a storm on a small wooden boat of 12×1.6 m. It was seven of us with me the only female and the most inexperience one in the sea. The engine was dead at some point and the diesel leaked. Some guys shouted to the Captain, “Turn left! Turn left! You take the wrong direction!” I was quietly panicked and wished that the Captain could handle the situation.
“I don’t want to die now. I don’t want to die like this. Like… drowned in the sea where my body would never be found. Or is it better that way? Die quickly with a lung full of seawater? But no… not now, not like this. I have things I want to do. There are so many things I still need to do.”
Yes, that was my thought. Cliché :).
A couple of fishermen on board helped. Together they fixed the fuel pipe, pumped the leaked fuel out of the hull, turned on the backup engine, and tried to navigate the boat back to the right track. It was a very long one hour.
“I see the island!” Hari told me, “don’t worry.” I smiled a bit, I knew he was just trying to calm me down. I peeked, and yeah, vaguely I saw tiny grey bump in a far. That must be the island. Another two hours to go. But shortly, we survived. We were all wet from the storm and wave but relieved to finally reach the land. We smiled a conquer-kind-of-smile.
Back in the homestay, we relaxed at the terrace and rewound our experience, with laugh and thankfulness. I contemplated my past. How everything seems far away once we are in a potentially fatal experience. How every plan seems insignificant. And whatever you do, it’s a matter of how you do it that determines your happiness.
When in college, I was busy thinking of where I will work and how much I will make money. Now I’m still thinking the same (only with better financial situation). What an unwise way of spending time.
As a closure, although it’s slightly against my principle to always plan thing ahead, I’d like to tell you that sometimes you need to push the brake. Slow down and enjoy your ride.