This past holiday weekend of Diwali, I went to Bintan, Indonesia, a mere one hour ferry ride away. Being from the Bahamas, I have very high expectations for beaches. It has taken me a long time to be willing to go to Bintan because of my perception of it not meeting my criteria of the perfect sandy paradise. This perception was confirmed (in my view) when my husband stayed at Club Med for a business retreat. He reported back of tar on the beach, the type that clumps on your feet and takes forever to get off. Three years later, we decided to have a family fun weekend getaway for the first time since living in Singapore for seven years. Where to? Club Med!
Club Med has always been a figment of my life. In Singapore, I am often asked by locals where I'm from. However, 98% of the time when I say I'm from the Bahamas, I get blank looks. People have either not heard of it or don't know where my tiny archipelago exists. It's often thought to be part of the USA. This is ironic because many North Americans think Singapore is part of China. It's a strange phenomenon to observe, this comparison of where the Bahamas and Singapore are perceived to exist, especially as I know that the islands have similar histories, being now part of the British Commonwealth.
The GOs (Gentil Organisateurs) who work at Club Med, whenever they met us would ask where we were from. It was refreshing to not have to explain where the Bahamas was to these people. How did they know? Because there used to be three Club Meds in the Bahamas, of which only one remains. With their recognition of my tiny island, I felt I wasn't so "unheard of", so "anonymous". These people, who knew the beauty of the Bahamas, somehow made me feel appreciated. With this sentiment comes the understanding that I will always carry a part of these islands within me, the land itself will always be my home, even though I left there 32 years ago.
I knew all about Club Med from my youth. It was a beautiful sanctuary on Paradise Island in New Providence where I grew up. Sadly, it's no longer there, pulled down and taken over by the huge resort, Atlantis. I remember feeling like part of my youth had been wiped out when they closed down, replaced by over the top amenities, villas and hotels. One remains in San Salvador, a small island in the southern Bahamas, recently badly hit by Hurricane Joaquin.
The beach of Club Med at Bintan was not the perceived tar pit I was expecting it to be. In fact, it's one of the most beautiful beaches I've been on outside of the Bahamas. A view of blue clear waters with unblocked views out to the horizon (no cargo ships like in Singapore) and a wide stretch of soft fine white sand, against a stunning backdrop of palm trees and forest. I had not been swimming in the ocean since June 2013 in the Bahamas. To swim in water where I could see my feet was a joy. I kept thanking the ocean over and over, letting it heal whatever needed to be healed within me, singing and speaking in Sacred Languages of the Self to help heal whatever needed to be healed in it.
This place filled me with nostalgia and a different perception of my youth. Nostalgia of my youth, spent on the beach every day possible, hanging out with friends at the hotel where a friend's father was the manager. I was reminded of forgotten summers filled with laughter, youthful falling in and out of love and times of knowing no worries in life other than how I would get to the beach the next day. I remembered parts of my life that had been long hidden, happy bits and funny bits.
I'm grateful for the easy ambiance of Club Med, of the employees with their incredibly silly, funny shows every night, for their hard work to keep guests happy. This is the part I didn't recognise as a youth, that I now appreciate and respect.
My time there, reminded me of my brief three month stint I did when I was turning nineteen, aboard a cruise ship that sailed between Cape Canaveral and the Bahamas. It helped me remember how when I first moved to France and had a difficult time finding a job, that I once considered applying to Club Med for a position, but for some reason never went through with it. All of those pleasant memories came flooding back against the backdrop of peaceful beauty and laughter filled days in Bintan.
My nostalgia left me sad to leave there, to leave behind memories of my youth in the Bahamas and those carefree times on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Many people actually strive to leave that paradise in the Bahamas for education, to travel, to explore and to find good jobs. Despite my time there, I always wanted to leave and to discover the rest of the world that I had only seen glimpses of through the eyes and words of my foreign teachers and tourists. It wasn't until almost twenty years after leaving that I understood and appreciated the treasure of these islands on the Earth. Some in the Bahamas look at me and think I'm the interesting one, seeing how I've travelled and where I live. And I look at them and think they are the lucky ones, still in that peaceful paradise of vast skies and endless jewell coloured waters, a masterpiece of the Creator. You have to laugh to see that it's all each individual's unique perception, isn't it?
Yes, life is what we make of it. My perception kept me missing out on all the enjoyment of Bintan. But I am well aware this was also a question of timing, of being ready to be exposed to reminders of the home to which I may never return again, having no remaining family to draw me back across the globe. A time of being willing to accept that other island treasures exist and that part of my perception of the perfection of the beaches of the Bahamas is because of the carefree time I had while living there. This time spent in Bintan also feels synonymous with what I am now preparing to do with Songs of the Sacred Self. I am ready to be "known" and "appreciated" and to no longer be "anonymous."