*A story written by Janneke Hauser, eco-traveler and conservationist*
It’s one of those days where so many little things bring a big smile on my face. It’s what the islands do to you. Some call it paradise, others idyllic. I call it home.
Being a nomad, traveller or wanderer it’s a blessing to be able to feel home anywhere. At the moment my home is on a small island in the North of Malaysia, called Pulau Perhentian. It’s actually two islands which are famous amongst many tourists. Deep blue waters in the front, lush forests in the back and white beaches in the middle make this into a place which takes your breath away. The views are spectacular and sea turtles something very special, but for me it’s something else that keeps pulling me back. It’s the one and only village and its warm-hearted people.
It’s hard to describe what life on Perhentians looks like, but I’ll give it a try. I can imagine how growing up as a child in this village is growing up in a world that is small, simple and safe. It has everything you need, and nothing more than that. Everything is ‘around’ the corner, everyone is somehow related to each other and everywhere is space for everyone. The rest of the world doesn’t matter, almost doesn’t exist. Being part of this village is something so special. Getting to know all the kids, seeing how they fall to get back up again, watching them grow from little babies into real human beings: it’s amazing. One by one they have stolen my heart. Of course they can be a real pain when they won’t listen if you ask them to clean up after they have made the biggest mess ever. But there will always be that one who will come up to you to hand you another drawing saying “Qalesya love you”. That’s when I melt and a big smile appears…
Then there is the ladies, so many lovely ladies. In Malay they are called Kak Da, Kak, Na, Kak Za, Kak Ma and to make it more confusing: there are at least three of each. So every lady will then be called after the type of food they sell or after their husband’s name (oh yes, the women’s name comes first!). Anything to make life easier… Those ladies which whatever name they have, are like walking newspapers. As in any village on this planet they know all the gossips, who is getting married to who, which girl is pregnant, which boy dropped out of school and which guys are driving new boats. Of course they also know who of us are getting married and more important who are not. On every corner of the street at least one Kak will make sure to double check every time you walk by if you are still single. Because if so, they will miracly come up with at least five potentials cousins of cousins who are still looking for a future wife. Great. By the way, them being part of the street furniture makes a 2-minute walk into a 15-minute walk home. Simply passing by is a no-go: a conversation about food, marriage, babies and the weather is a must. Love it.
With all those beautiful villagers around me, a simple house to live in, kids running around, cats in the house and good food it’s easy to feel home. But again it’s all about the people, because there is more. Passionate about community and conservation work, my teammates come from all over the world to put their time and effort in the projects we run. Living and working 24/7 with them, makes them feel like your brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbours and best friends at the same time. Without any privacy “su casa es mi casa” and “your mood is my mood”. Is it always easy and beautiful like that? Of course not, but nothing in life is.
So as long as you have people around you which make you feel happy, make you feel comfortable and make you feel at home, you ARE home. It’s like some wise woman once said “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness off loving and knowing people in more than one place”.