Villagers of Gili Meno; Lombok, Indonesia

The past two days I've had time to explore Gili Meno, not just its beaches but its villages.

The island is small, so it's easy to navigate from one side to the other, and it's almost impossible to get truly lost. Walk straight in any direction and you'll hit the beach before too long, then it's a simply a matter of turning right or left, and if I had to guess I'd say you could walk around the perimeter of the island in maybe an hour.

The villages of Gili Meno are full of chickens, beautiful stray tabby cats, some larger livestock (e.g. cows, maybe a goat or two), and of course villagers.

There are only about 200 villagers living on Gili Meno, and most of those with whom I've spoken are originally from the mainland of Lombok, which is itself an island. I've only met a small handful of people who were born on Gili Meno, although of course I haven't spoken with 200 people.

Everyone here is incredibly friendly, as was everyone I met in Bali.

Indonesian people are fantastic.

They are warm and welcoming, lazy at times and a bit forgetful but who can blame them considering their low wages. I met one worker, Naeteets, who commutes from Lombok and stays on the island for one month, earning only Rp 300,000 for 30 days of work. That's $35 USD for workdays that begin at six in the morning, and end around ten at night. Granted, a workday consists of smoking about 40 cigarettes, kicking the soccer ball around on the beach, taking food orders here and there and maybe forgetting a few here and there, but even if you're only working half the time, or even less, that's still basically one dollar per day.

But even with terrible wages, Indonesia people are some of the happiest people I've ever met. They remember your name, say hello to you when you pass, and not only when they're trying to sell you bracelets or coconuts or massages or sarongs, and so on. They're friendly always.

Men, women, children, Muslim or otherwise: all of Gili Meno has been fantastic.

All of the villagers I've met have been excited to have their photograph taken; the children want to say hello, and hello again; the older kids want to know where I bought my boardshorts, where I got my tattoo, where I got my plain black t-shirt, and where I'm from, at which point many of them sing the chorus to Hotel California; the older generation usually wants to just share a smile, often minus a few teeth but never minus sincerity.