I write my daily updates in the early mornings and post them during the day whenever we had a good internet connection. Today is day 6 after the earthquake. I can’t believe it’s almost 1 week ago. My whole body is in pain and I feel extremely tired
Although we didn’t had an earthquake all day yesterday it was the most difficult day so far. I slowly start to realize what happened and wonder when can I let my nerves rest? When can I grieve? I lost my house and all our villas are extremely damaged. We will not welcoming any guest more in our little boutique hotel.
When you feel the ferocity of Mother Earth trying to bring you to your knees and having to run out of your house and away from trees fearing that your house is about to fall on you, there are so many, too many emotions to feel. Where do you run when the earth is what you are running from? One minute is all it took to change everything that we worked so incredible hard for in the last 3 years.
Together we stand, divided we fall
I can’t leave, I won’t leave because despite all this, Gili Air is still my home and my happy place. I want to stay strong and focus on the future. Hearts are broken and nerves are shattered like the buildings around us, but the feeling of love and connection from all around the world is stronger. In the end, that’s all that matters. Nothing else is as important as telling loved ones how you feel, leaving nothing unsaid. Letting go of grudges because they are a waste of precious time.
Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and love each other, without asking anything in return. Because when the earthquake happened, I didn’t want my phone, my laptop, my clothes, all I wanted was to be around people who love me. To tell them I was alright and let them hold me and tell me I was alright. I don’t know when this ends but I’m grateful for the lessons, the blessings and the love.
It’s the little things
It’s the little things, like hearing the mosque again for the first time, that make me feel that life will go back to normal again. Only 5 days after a massive disaster they managed to bring back the power. Was definitely not expecting that to happen so quickly.
We try to keep ourselves busy and helping our friends in Lombok where we can. We are waiting till the government declares the islands safe again and we can get a team of engineers in to assess the buildings and help us to make a plan.
What feels like the end is often the beginning
I’m so grateful that all of you help me to SHARE my story and please keep doing so. We need the help of our friends and strangers to get back on our feet. The target of our crowd funding campaign is not enough to build a new house but it will helps us to keep our staff and get through the first 6 months. We both still have huge debts behind our names and with no income it will be a struggle to keep paying our monthly reimbursements. Trust me when I say that every little bit helps.
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For me staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on the hard days you know that better days are coming. It’s 7 AM in the morning and we are about to start day number 5.
Your mind makes your world
Yesterday I woke up feeling quite rested. It was the first night where we didn’t had an earthquake and I slept more than 4 hours straight. We started to make plans for the day; out of the 10.000 things that needed to be done, where would we start?
Almost 3 years ago we started our beloved Gili Shark Conservation Project. Our mission is to promote shark conservation efforts through education and research. We collect abundance data from around the three Gili Islands to build a case strong enough to propose to the government to make the Gili Matra Marine Reserve the first recognized shark nursery ground in Indonesia
Besides spending a lot of time in the magical underwater world, we also love to be in the field and give back to the wonderful community of Gili Air by running a Plastic Free Paradise campaign to create awareness and reduce the use of single-use-plastic.
We decide that our focus will be (besides our crowdfunding campaign) the re-opening of the Gili Shark Conservation Project. For the first time since the earthquake I opened my email and to my great surprise I didn’t find one cancellation for our program. Instead I found the opposite; my email is full of people that want to help. I feel so overwhelmed and cry out of happiness.
Life is the most difficult exam
The feeling of not being alone and having a network of people that want to help you and support you is exactly what you need in a surreal situation like this. Together with my island sister Zara we started brainstorming; when could we be up and running again? Where could the volunteers of the project stay now Villa Nangka is destroyed? And what would be the best way for us to help our lovely community of our paradise island to get back on their feet?
Our good friend James from Begadang doesn’t have any damage from the earthquake and offered that our volunteers can stay in his beautiful place. A perfect solution! We checked in with our partner dive center Oceans5 and they hope to be up and running again by the start of September the latest.
The sound of home
And while we are sitting in the field trying to get at least one of our dreams back on her feet I hear: “one, two, test, one, two test followed by a prayer.” I can’t believe it, It’s the mosque! I’ve never been so happy in my life to hear the mosque.
When you live on a tiny Muslim island the sound of the mosque is a big part of your everyday life. Although I had to get used to in the beginning (as it be can quite loud) I started to love hearing the call for prayers. To hear the mosque for the first time in 4 days was for me a sign that we are on our way back to normal.
We are in a good mood feeling strong and positive till it starts again. After around 300 earthquakes (big and small) in 4 days we got pretty good in recognizing one. We know immediately that this is a big one and run as fast as we can. Zara and me make instantly the same decision to jump in the pool as it’s the furthest away from our buildings. The earthquake is intense but very short. We look at each other and start laughing. Here we are, in the pool with our clothes on hiding form an earthquake and we ask ourselves again: “is this all really happening?”
Stay close to the people that feel like sunshine
We didn’t had a big earthquake in 24 hours and I thought the worst was over. To feel another big earthquake was difficult for me to deal with. Would it ever stop? How much longer do we need to stay strong? I’m so incredible grateful that I have a man next to my side who is strong for the both of us one the moments that I break down. And that we are surrounded by our like-minded island brothers and sister. We got all together, opened a bottle of wine (a big luxury for us) and slowly slowly happiness came around the corner and pushed fear away.
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Was it all a bad dream? Did an earthquake of 7.0 hit us and destroyed everything? I wake up and slowly open my eyes and look around me. I’m lying on a mattress in the field next to Villa Nangka. It’s 5.45 AM, the sun is rising and at the same time I can still see the moon watching over me.
I can feel I’m about to cry and for the first time I decide to let a few of the tears out that I’ve been carrying inside me for the last days. From the moment the first earthquake hit us we’ve been looking after our guests, our volunteers, our staff and more than 100 complete strangers. So far we didn’t had much time to process what happened as we are in survival mode.
This is our home, our island
Almost everyone left the island by now. Although many people recommended us to leave we decided to stay here. Where would we go? Our home is here. The camps in Lombok are completely full and some of them already start to run out of food and drinks.
We have enough water, food and benzine to run the generator. We are camping in the field next to Villa as we had more than a 100 earthquakes in the last 3 days and none of us want to sleep inside a building at the moment. The last earthquake happened yesterday at 11 AM.
At the moment there is no power on the island but because we have a generator we can charge our phones and torches and have a still a connection to the outside world. This connection is incredible important for me. The number of messages I received is overwhelming. I don’t have the time to reply to all of them but know it’s really, really appreciated. I feel surrounded with love and support and it helps me to stay strong. So please keep sending good vibes!
Fear is a liar
Please don’t believe all the stories you read in the newspaper. I’m one of the few people that is still here and I can tell you from first hand that, besides the traumatic experience, we are doing good! Two nights ago, there was a rumor going around that people were coming to the island to start looting which made me incredible scared but in the end it was just a rumor.
There is no looting or violence here and there is a strong community of local and western people that are meeting daily, staying connected and helping each other out where they can. Supplies and medicine were shuttled yesterday morning via helicopters from Bali and there are some dive shops working to set up a supply line from the mainland in Lombok. Electricy workers arrived on the island yesterday and as it looks like now the power will be back soon.
We will be back!
The best thing you can do for us (besides supporting and sharing our crowdfunding campaign) is not to lose faith in us. Don’t get me wrong, some places got hit really hard by the earthquake (like Villa Nangka) but we are in the minority. There are many places that have hardly any damage. Unfortunate we had to cancel all our bookings but I still recommend all my guests that made a bookings from September onwards, to come and visit our paradise island.
What happened was a tragic anomaly and we will rebuild and come back better and stronger than ever. Soon, very soon, when things will normalize, it will be the best time to visit the Gili Islands. It’s still beautiful here and you will have the amazing opportunity to enjoy the island without the high season crowd. If any of you have contacts with Dutch journalist, please let me know. I’m happy to share my story. Gili Air will need the help of tourist to get back on her feet.
Little by Little, a little becomes a lot
Thank you so much to everyone who has been sharing and donating our crowdfunding campaign. To see and to feel that so many people are willing to help us, gives me the strength and the energy to get through the day.
We would like to invite everyone that donated to our campaign to come and visit us when we rebuild our little paradise and receive a special discounted rate. Please SHARE and let the world know we will be back!
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