Our second day in Indonesia, JoAnn wanted to go to the Gili Islands. According to her research, they were beautiful and incredibly popular among the Aussie tourists, and everyone knows Australians are always right about everything. We packed up our suitcases bright and early and waited outside for the shuttle to pick us up. It arrived just on time, and the driver tossed our bags on the roof of the van (no straps, just tossed 'em up there) before taking off down the road. JoAnn had hopped in the front, but I totally didn't mind that she called shotgun when I looked at the two guys I'd be sharing the backseat with.
As soon as I got in the car, I could feel myself getting stupid giggly; the guy who was sitting by the other window had curly brown hair and a spattering of tattoos up and down both arms. When he opened his mouth, it was instantly obvious that he was Australian, which is hands-down the sexiest accent in the world. His friend, who was also Australian, sat between me and Mr. Handsome, and I talked to both of them a little while we drove to the dock. When we piled out of the car at a little restaurant near the beach, Jo and I headed to the back to grab a bite to eat and giggle about how cute the two Aussies were. We were planning to go to a lesser-known island instead of the main party hang-out where they were heading, so we assumed they'd float off into our memories as soon as we left the dock. When we stepped on the boat, however, we were delighted to find that the cute Australians would be sharing our transport for the next two hours. Unfortunately, they were both pansies and had taken the seasick pills, which meant they fell asleep the second their butts hit the seats. I popped my earbuds in and spent the duration of the trip listening to Ben Harper, staring out the window, and wondering how I could get my lips to bump into Mr. Handsome's and make it look like an accident.
The boat pulled up on shore at Gili Trawangan, but JoAnn and I didn't get off with everyone else. Although we had been told that the boat would take us over to Gili Meno, that apparently was a blatant lie. The boat drivers kicked us off and pointed us in the direction of another boat, but those drivers wanted $50 each to take us to the next island over. Having already paid $65 to get to where we were, I was not keen on forking out more money to go from one random tropical island to the next, particularly considering that the cute Australians were somewhere on my current island. We decided to stay, so we set off down the muddy path to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
The thing I hated most about Indonesia - and when I say I hated it, I mean people are lucky I didn't punch them - was that everyone shouts at white people. "You need transport?" "You have place to stay?" "I give you cheap rooms!" "You have dinner here! Good price!" "You want sarong? Necklace? Bag? Shoes? Dress? Herpes?" Since we were carrying suitcases down the path and it was pretty clear we had no intended destination, we got shouted at by every single person on the street. Sometimes people even stood directly in front of us, blocking our paths and reaching for our bags to take us into their hotel. At first, we were polite, saying, "No, thank you" or "We'll be right back," but within a few minutes, we were ignoring them altogether and pushing people out of our way. We stopped at a few different places, but none of them looked all that great, so we keep trudging through the mud. Finally, we found a place that had special "backpackers" rooms for nine dollars a night. We both thought we were pretty badass by that point, so we lugged our bags up to the reception desk and asked to see the cheapest rooms.
One of the employees walked us down a path past the "deluxe suites" to the "discount rooms." These rooms consisted of a set of bunk beds, a junky fan, and a delightfully fecal odor. The shared bathroom was down a dark alley and behind a huge building (where no one could hear you scream), and it was decorated with dead spiders. JoAnn gave me a look that said "hey, it's only nine bucks!", but I just shook my head. While I'm not high maintenance by most standards, a gas station-esque bathroom is too much for me to handle in paradise. We argued about it a while, and finally I talked her into staying in the deluxe suite.
After dropping our stuff and marveling in the glory that is air conditioning, we headed out to explore the island. We chose a direction and wandered off. I had assumed that when we dropped our bags, people would stop shouting at us, but clearly two twenty-something girls are just too easy a target. "Where you from?" "How long you stay?" "Beautiful. You get drink?" I suppose I shouldn't be complaining ("Oh how I wish men didn't find us so attractive!"), but it just gets old quickly when everyone is cat-calling at you. Yeah, there's no way to rephrase that to make it sound any less pretentious. But it's only flattering for about twelve seconds. Then it's maddening.
We stopped at a restaurant pretty far from the hustle and bustle of the main strip to order dinner. The restaurant was right out in the sand, and we ate our food in little huts overlooking the water. It's almost unfathomable how ridiculously beautiful this island was.
After dinner, we grabbed our bathing suits and rented snorkels along the beach. I'd never been snorkeling before, and you know how giddy I get when presented with magic like being able to breathe while my face is in water. I followed a giant turtle around for a good thirty minutes, and I "found Nemo" enough times to drive even a kindergartener crazy. I'm astounded and amazed at how beautiful the world is, even the parts we can't see. You were right, God. It is good.
We stopped at the room to shower before going out to the "authentic" Mexican restaurant connected to our hotel. We had intended to wander down to the main strip to see what kinds of exciting things were going on, but instead we sat in a little hut and talked about ethnocentricity and faith... because we're just that nerdy.
In the morning, we set off in the opposite direction from where we had explored the night before and ended up falling asleep on some random stretch of beach that was just as impossibly beautiful as the rest of the place.
After a while, I could feel my shoulders turning a fiery shade of pink (who doesn't take sunscreen to paradise? this idiot), so I asked Jo if we could walk back to the hotel and sit in the shade. After stopping briefly for ice cream (greatest. ice cream. ever.), we were smacked in the face by some generous fate; the Australian guys were walking right toward us.
The one I had already fallen in love with grinned like a little boy. "I thought you girls were going to another island!" I told him we had decided to stay and that we were heading down to find a hut and get some drinks. They asked if they could join us, which was, of course, the best thing that had happened all day. While we started walking, Nick (because his name would be the same as mine) asked me why I looked different that day. I laughed and told him I had taken a shower and didn't have to cover my hair with a bandana anymore. He frowned and said that he liked it when I looked like a pirate before launching into more lame pirate jokes than I've heard since third grade. He also pulled out a black chain and a silver ring and showed me some "magic tricks," which were actually kind of good - and I'm not just saying that because of his accent (yes I am).
While we walked, he told me that he had been so disappointed when he thought we were on another island because he had wanted to ask me to marry him when he fist met me. I told him that I would absolutely marry him - if he had a ring. He grabbed my hand and crammed all my fingers into the medal ring that was half of his magic trick; I told him that was close enough, and we were engaged. Just like I always dreamed it would happen.
Jo decided that she was too tired to socialize, so she stopped at the hotel and I continued on with my new fiance and his
buddy mate, Des (because the sexy Australian would have a friend named Des). We stopped in a hut along the edge of the water and the guys ordered drinks. Nick continued to woo me with bad magic tricks and even worse jokes, and he tried to "accidentally" brush against me with his foot - and ended up caressing Des instead. We talked about where we'd live after we got married and whether we should try to find a preacher on the island or hold off until we could plan something nicer. He asked what my plans were for the evening, and that's when it came out that Jo and I were heading back to Bali in about forty-five minutes (whoops). Nick offered to let me stay in his hotel room (what a gentleman, coughcough) and Des looked thoroughly amused at the fact that Nick had wasted so much time hitting on a girl who wouldn't even be around to keep him company that night.
After the guys paid for the drinks, they walked me back to my hotel to get Jo and our bags. Nick had his arm around me and kept talking about how disappointed he was that his fiancee was abandoning him. This proved to be absolutely phenomenal; with a man beside me, no one shouted or cat-called or anything in my direction. It was such a relief to be able to walk down the street like a normal human being again.
While we were walking, he suddenly looked down into my eyes and said, "We should do what married people do."
Excuse me? "Oh yeah? And what's that?"
"Hold hands and skip!"
We can absolutely do what married people do!
When we got back to my hotel, Nick hugged me. As soon as he had his arms around me, he whispered, "Do you know what we haven't done yet? Slow danced." I laughed and told him that there was no music. "There's music in my head when I'm with you." (Clearly he learned how to pick up American girls by watching chick flicks and reading Stephenie Meyer). Nevertheless, I slow-danced with a cute Australian guy on a beach in paradise.
Nick kissed me on the cheek and told me to meet him at such-and-such bar for New Years before disappearing with Des into the crowd. Jo and I rolled our suitcases out to where the boat would be picking us up, and I said goodbye to the most sincere relationship (and most hilarious story) I've ever been a part of.