Written by: Myrthe Visser-Wind
Patience is a virtue – a lesson anyone who has ever lived on an island learns in no time.
Everything (and everyone) is slower here than I was used to. I use the past tense because this is what I’m used to now. We have lived here for almost eight months and I’m already worried for the time when we have to move back to Holland or to pretty much any other place in the world where life moves at a much faster pace than it does around here. When we moved here, we tried to adjust as soon as possible, taking every opportunity we could to minimize stress and frustration. Well, it worked – the island motto is poko poko (meaning relax, take it easy) and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
To illustrate this lifestyle, let me take you back to the first time we took our car to the carwash. While we could have done it ourselves, we live on the second floor of an apartment building and the mere visual of me trying to get down two flights of stairs with full buckets of water and then right back up again for refills in this heat was not appealing, to say the least.
When the wind gets blowing (which is just about every day here on this rock), the whole island gets covered in a thin layer of sand and brown dust. We drive a white car, which we now know was probably not the best color choice for this island, but it came with my husband’s job and it’s practically free, so I’m not complaining. I’m sure you can already imagine what our car looks like after a few days in this environment, especially in the rainy season.
When we arrived at the carwash, it was relatively quiet. There was one car waiting ahead of us and one being washed as we drove in. We were planning on getting the car washed quickly and then going to one of the supermarkets that’s along the same road. It shouldn’t take that long right?
We started getting a little suspicious when we didn’t see the drivers of the first two cars anywhere. The people who were coming up behind us also left their cars (with the keys in them) and walked away. Where were all these people going and what could they possibly be doing in the short time it would take for their cars to be washed?
We quickly realized that these people knew more than we did. Getting a quick car wash, as it turns out, is not so quick on this island. All these people were probably just going home, taking a nap, cleaning their house, walking their dog, taking a shower, watching an episode (or two or three) of their favorite TV show before coming back to check on their car. The carwash here is not automated/mechanical. It probably used to be, a long long time ago, but it broke down and no one ever fixed it. As a result, the guys who work there have to do everything by hand and they do everything together, or I should say, rather, they’re taking turns…
The first guy picked up a pressure washer and cleaned the right side of the car, then he went outside to smoke a cigarette and check his Facebook. The second guy came in, cleaned the left side of the car and then took the place of the first guy on a row of plastic chairs outside the carwash. If you’re like me, you’d probably be expecting the first guy to come back… think again. He must have had some urgent calls to make, to his mother, his girlfriend, his dentist, I don’t know. A third guy showed up and reluctantly started spraying our tires and hubcaps with water, after which he engaged in a very animated conversation with second guy. That was the moment we resigned ourselves to the fact that this was going to take some serious time. The half empty bottle of Pisang Ambon that appeared on a shelf next to the entrance of the carwash only confirmed this insight.
The only thing left to do at times like these is take a deep breath, find your inner Zen, and join the guys on one of the plastic chairs to check your Facebook, call your mother, your dentist, anybody. In the meantime, I walked over to the nearest supermarket to buy some food and a bottle of water, noting to myself that next time, I needed to remember to bring supplies when going to the carwash. Think: picnic.
To be fair, when they were done the car looked amazing! I had never before (and have never since) seen it so clean. Every spot, inside and out, was dusted, washed, cleaned, and polished. As you’d hope for after two and a half hours (yes… two and a half). In all honesty, I can say I’m a pretty patient girl now, but this was pushing it, even for me.
Maybe next time, carrying buckets of water down the stairs will be worth it. Or maybe I’ll just bring more magazines…