At 3am last Monday morning we awoke to the alarm clock we set 2 hours earlier, one kid was already awake and grumpy with a 104 degree fever and the other woke 20 minutes later wondering why we were all being so noisy.
We crammed ourselves into a taxi-van with 4 adults, 2 kids, 4 pieces of luggage to be checked, 2 carry-on cases, 4 pieces of hand luggage and 2 backpack carriers (and a partridge in a pear tree…). At 4am the driver managed to find every car on the road and swerve so hard our heads hit the windows or crowd so close he’d have to smash the breaks to avoid a collision.
As we stepped into Kuala Lumpur LCC (Low Cost Carrier) Terminal all I could think was, ‘Welcome to steerage.’ Even at 4am the terminal was PACKED with people. No services (restaurants, shops, check in counters), no organization, minimal staff for checking baggage…etc., dirty bathrooms. I was in a foul mood. There was NO leg room on the plane. Boy (who’s fever was down but he still felt awful) had finally fallen fitfully asleep only to be roused screaming by turbulence.
The 2 hour van ride from the airport to the jetty was so rough and bumpy that I had to hold onto Boy with all my might to keep his face from slamming into my chest as he slept sweating in my lap in the non-air conditioned van; It reminded me of old wooden roller coasters and I fought the urge to throw my hands in the air for a bigger thrill.
Girl lost her pacifier in the water at the Jetty as we boarded the boat for our final transport leg to the island (this time Mama was prepared with a spare, haha!). The water was littered with trash and debris, the smell was…unpleasant and my foul mood continued to stew in my olfactory displeasure.
45 minutes later we arrived at the island of Mabul, its only inhabitants are the resort and a small fishing village. The waters were occupied by dozens of dugout boats with families going about their lives on the sea, some cooking, some fishing, children jumping over the sides into the cool water to play. I forgot all my bitching. Yes, I was fatigued and hungry and in dire need of a shower but as we stepped into the sand and removed our shoes that we didn’t wear again for the entire week I thought of the many ways we are privileged in this life and how rare it is that we recognize the beauty of our surroundings until we have left them behind.
The SCUBA divers at the resort would probably consider our week boring, a whole lot of sleeping late, playing in the sand and the sea and the pool, napping, lounging, drinking in the evenings…but I call it bliss. Sure, Boy took 4 days to fully recover and Girl caught the nasty flu too and took another couple of days. Sure, I returned to Kuala Lumpur COVERED in mosquito bites and fearing dengue fever again (we’re all still healthy, thank goodness). Sure, the food lacked variety but I didn’t have to cook it and the fish couldn’t have been fresher as two workers carried in 2 huge local caught tuna that we enjoyed as sashimi, salad, in sauces and finally as fish and chips the night before we left.
The wildlife was astounding, we spent our afternoons after the sun cooled
watching fruit bats feasting on the flowers in the coconut palms amongst which our little bungalow was nestled. Monitor lizards meandering across our paths as we wander the island and enjoying a dip in the pool now and again. Sea birds standing over a foot tall resting on rinse tanks and daring the children closer. Monkeys snatching rolls from the buffet when no one was looking.
The kids were sick but they got well again, the transport was rough but it didn’t last long, the bug bites were plentiful but they’ve healed.
Really, can one really complain about a holiday in paradise? I suppose we can all use a lesson in looking for the beauty in our days; it certainly is all around us. Enjoy a sunset, touch the dirt with your toes, take a day to eat what you want and stay in your bathing suit all day. Tell your family you love them and share your days with those who make you happy.
And…always pack extra Tylenol for toddlers. 🙂