Passing Time on a Tropical Island



Somewhere on a remote island in the vicinity of Nias a crazy Belgian opened a bar and strung up a few hammocks to sleep in. Occasionally a few surfers would brave the swarms of malarial mosquitoes and stay in his camp, drink his beer and surf themselves silly on the incredible waves at Asu. This Belgian did not surf or dive or fish. Nobody knows why he ended up on his island in the middle of nowhere. Of course there are the stories about drug smuggling, running from Interpol and more, but we never found out who he really was and why he chose to stay on Asu. I can’t remember his name any more. Something like Vincent. He was gregarious and interesting to talk to, but he had strong opinions about most things and eventually he always fell out with whomever it was that he was talking to. He wasn’t very diplomatic. It must get lonely on this island during the off-season, especially if you piss off the few visitors who do come by. I wonder whether he is still there …

After our ship had been anchored off the island for a some days and we had ridden the lefthanders that wind their way along it’s razor-like reef, we started to settle into the laid back pattern of slow time on Asu. The swell had moved on again and normally we would have sailed for the next group of islands, but we decided to stay a while. Islands have a way of drawing you into their interiors, like spiders do with flies. To pass the time we lounged under the palms, snorkeled the reefs and drank the beer at Vincent’s. We had long since lost track of time. One afternoon a few of us were on the beach, tossing a Frisbee around, when someone asked what the time was. Francois squinted into the sun, thought for a while and as he carelessly flicked the Frisbee back he replied, “July …”

His laconic answer summed up our priorities pretty well. We knew that there were many people in grey suits around the world who were desperately watching the clock, working against deadlines and worrying about time and money, but it was a different world from ours. Where we were, money could buy you a beer or two, but little else. The ocean encompassed our world and waves were our currency. We avoided talking about work and of going back to our previous lives. The subject would have been distasteful; we just weren’t interested in the kind of places where things like shoes, underwear and shampoo were considered necessary. But we all knew that our eventual return to the real world was unavoidable. In the meantime, we drank a toast there on the beach, to all those people to whom it mattered that it was Monday.


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