In my time here on Gili T, I’ve learned quite a lot about the island – the cheap places to eat and live, where to buy water and reasonably priced snacks and coconuts. At first, I carved out my space teaching yoga and hiding from all the drugs and parties. But, I needed extra cash to be able to live sustainably on the island. My story is comical and certainly a great experience into a foreign lifestyle. And thus the party boat saga of Gili Trawangan begins.
Several weeks ago, I lost my debit card in an ATM. In Indonesia, the ATMs give you cash and your receipt but keep your card until you push “exit.” This creates problems for the distracted. It’s nice to know that I still have some mindfulness to work on. In any case, the card was gone and I’ve been left without a means to take out money for three weeks now. I had sent a new debit card to Singapore, but it hadn’t arrived despite FedEx declaring it signed for and delivered.
On my way back to Gili T, I had a dilemma: am I going to earn enough to live for the next three weeks? I could have my card sent here, but mail isn’t exactly easy to receive, and I didn’t want to run the risk of it arriving after I leave the country. So I decided to live off of my meager earnings alone and send my new debit card to Australia (my next destination).
I had a strong determination and kept repeating: “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but it will” – a philosophy I began adopting two months ago. And it did. My friend and colleague invited me to start working with one of the party boats on the island. They needed a new promoter to get people on the boat. If I worked hard, I could receive a sizable bonus (sizable for Indonesia) and would be more than fine for the remainder of my stay here.
The downside, I’d have to bother people all day and night, selling them party boat tickets. Sales is not something I entirely enjoy, but I tried to look on the positive. If I invited people I like to go on the boat, then I’ll have a good time as well. I could figure out how to hide from people who want to shovel drinks down my throat later.
And so I spent several days walking up and down the beaches on Gili T, asking people if they wanted to party. I laughed a lot, mostly at myself the yoga teacher selling two opposing principles: parties and inner peace. It was a tough experience, especially since the competition between the two party boats is quite fierce. The boat I was working for is Dragoon, a large yacht run by Italians.
The other boat on the island, Jiggy, which is run by Germans who evidently were the former promoters for Dragoon. Their boat is a catamaran that does basically the same thing. However, they charge men nearly two times more to stack the boat with females. Jiggy is advertised all over the island and all the little travel shops also sell their tickets. Dragoon has us, the blonde promoters from Europe and North America.
Here’s the promo video for Dragoon:
It was working those three days with Dragoon that I learned how crazy things can get on the island in both good and bad sense of the term. I learned that people who want to go on that boat will go on it. I didn’t have to really convince anyone, just answer questions about drinks and destinations. I also learned that people on holiday, even the heavy drinkers, are extremely friendly. So, approaching people in effort to sell them something I wouldn’t necessarily purchase was actually, at times, quite enjoyable. And a few of them who were not interested in the boat came to my yoga classes. All in all, a win win.
I even thought to myself that if everyone on the island were as approachable and friendly in their daily lives as they are on holiday would they feel happier or more open to different opportunities, more open to hearing from a stranger? Or perhaps it was my style and way of talking, or maybe as Tiago said, “you’re a cute blonde in a bikini.”
Either way, the only real convincing I had to do for some was to be adamant that our boat wasn’t at all like Jiggy. Apparently, the heavy advertising and sexist approach that Jiggy had was taking its toll on the tourists.
The internal politics and drama is exactly how one would imagine from a group of people who like to party. Everyone is super friendly and just trying to make things work, but they want you to party with them – all day, all night. They are, of course, Italians. They also know the best coffee and Italian food on the island. And with them, I finally had a good pizza, the best since I left the U.S.
When it was time to get on the boat. I spent the entire time dancing my face off. It was fun and the easiest way to avoid the alcohol. Anytime my coworkers tried to force it upon me, I simply pretended to drink from the straw. They’re happy I “drank,” and I was happy that I didn’t. I still wonder why people who drink must have everyone else drink with them. “No” is not really an acceptably answer for many. The worst of it is that I’m sure I was exactly like this when I was partying a lot.
All my new acquaintances on the boat were extremely grateful I invited them. Everyone was having an epic time dancing and doing backflips off of the boat. I even had two guys who I started calling my body guards. They were protecting me from the more lecherous drunks on the boat. It sometimes reminded me of late nights at Bootie in SF but with better music. (Thanks Randolph!)
At the end of the day, I earned enough money to keep me healthy on this island and even pay for part of my recent trip to Singapore. Now all I have to do is find a good exchange rate to change the cash into Australian dollars!