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A Filipina on Vlieland

Laying on my back at the bottom of the bunk bed, I watched the upper bed through my slightly opened eyelids. I was slowly returning from a dream, awakened by a soothing, serene sound. Tiny droplets fell with the thousands onto the canvas of the tent-house causing a choir of acoustic plops throughout the entire place. Most shivered at the thought of a rainy day on their one week away, however, the peace had been a party for the two of us. On these days, we’d slam open a book, sip some delightful herb-bitter and warm our feet with the little heater. With a smile, granted by the absence of work, I rolled to my side and leaned over the sleeping beauty. As I moved, the blanket descended off my shoulder into my lap and along with it, the warmth absconded and in lieu the cold transported over the island by the fierce wind had taken over. A wind all the while brushing and sporadically banging with increased force against the sides of the hut. Despite the accommodation’s main build being a thick tarpaulin, which made the hits of the wind echo at high amplitude, it seldom struck us with fright. In a way, it brought comfort. I used one hand to move away some of the hair fallen into my lover’s face and with a freed ear, I whispered her awake and into the start of our day.

Manoeuvring myself out of bed, I placed my feet on the wooden floor and bent forward to avoid bumping my head as I got up. In my near birthday suit, I shuffled out of the bedroom and into the parlor well-lit by the sun some hours into its day of work. The planks underneath my feet were coarse as it had a texture of sprinkles of sand. However, it fit well with the setting and as all did on this island, it brought out another piece in a world of nostalgia. In this tent-house, though it grows bigger with the years, many memories of mine rest as the family would take off from home and remain a fortnight here. In illness and joy I have wasted away hours on this island. Surfing down the dune of marram grass, gaining speed with each slide as the flattened grass blades would become smoother, before taking a dive head first into a bunch resulting in one of the blades stinging into one’s eyes. Then bawl for a split second before jumping on the board again to redo the whole stunt. Making friends solely for the durations of the stay without knowing when the last time will be. Munching pizza’s at the nearby restaurant, getting sand in every hole and pocket at the windy beach, poking the pink, slimy jelly-fish and simply doing what kid’s do. Standing in front of the door leading to the porch, I viewed the path of sand leading downhill and reminisced the time I had dug a hole with as only purpose to make a trap by covering it with a lid of green. The innocence of the child had not taken into account the chances of major injury and was simply out for laughs and giggles.

Soon, my love would join me and we’d sit for a breakfast to start the day. From the camping’s store, we had bought a carton set of mini toppings. This included minuscule portions of jams, sprinkles, peanut butter and chocolate paste. To compromise for the healthier, along with it came sliced cheese and bits of ham. But in honesty, our life on the island was far from the healthiest. Before noon had hit, a can of cold beer was popped open and so was a lazy chair in the warming heat of the sun. Long, sauntering walks on the cold, windy beach would be enlightened by the warmth of the liquor herb-bitter as we splashed our bare feet in the absolute freezing water. Peculiarly on a hosing day such as today, one finds a quick excuse to seek the better end of a bottle as the body wishes to flee from the biting cold. Besides, who plays Yahtzee sober? As I pondered when it would be acceptable to suggest a drink, she poured me a cup of tea and looked stunning as ever while doing so. The advantage of a make-up-less girlfriend is the akin beauty in the morning being indistinguishable from her last night’s glow. It felt special to take her away to a place of peace and comfort that for the kid of me had always been a getaway.

And befittingly, a day before we had walked the footsteps of young me as we got onto the massive jeep racing us over the beach towards the Sahara of the North, accompanied by a jolly man singing his ballads on an accordion. With a bit of luck, the day had been dry and all that poured was the sand carried like clouds by the wind forced up as the grand vehicle pushed with speed over the sand. The insides got soon filled with sand and that included the pockets of my jacket, out of which I could fish grains of it even weeks after. Parents covered their children securely as the sand was cutting and whirled around into the eyes of some. Which was a pity, as the sights were pleasant to admire. Passing by a military base for target practise of jets, we headed towards the refuge of shipwreck victims turned into a beachcomber museum. Now, it bears all found on the long strip of sand, including bits of sunken containers’s cargo that flowed ashore years ago and all else that came with shipwrecks. Inside stood dozens of jars filled with water and sea creatures resembling the serial killer’s cabin in a horror movie. After the jester’s tour of the shed was finished, as group we traversed to the far end of the island from where people admired the neighbouring island and equipped with binoculars viewed the bathing seals.

Though not all we did was pertaining my childhood and past activities. Bringing my present and future to the past and guiding her through an island of memories, it made more than sense to create new ones and on rented bicycles we did. Traversing for surprisingly long as my child’s eyes had only remembered the island for as far as my trembling legs carried me, we peddled a distance with a map as guide to both far ends of the island. A haven of nature with plants, shrubs and flowers beaming with colour, whistling birds and gallantly galloping wild deer in a bunch. Seeing a side I hadn’t seen or recalled, I was cordially shocked. As treat for our inputs, we entered a homey restaurant and indulged in a lovely pie along with cups of tea. And though the day ended in a soaking splash as the sky tore open with buckets and buckets pouring down, it was a day of peaceful bliss.

It was hard for the travellers to not wander about and with the beauties of the island it is understandable. However the days we didn’t, beginning the day calm and loitering around the tarpaulin-cabin or ambling to the shop for fresh croissants, we embraced the lack of sound. The camping was shared with only few others due to our perfect timing and with a job draining me with the passing of days, we welcomed rainy days and listened to the singing. We welcomed days of reading books and playing games. To be honest, for short-term, the opposite of hauling heavy backpacks through humid Asian heat before embarking on the nth vehicle for a duration in the double digits to do it all over again and an off-day including an hours-long hike in the jungle, it was great. With the only downside being a beach demanding layers and layers of clothing to be worn.

Where do you catch your breath? What is a safe haven, a place of comfort and serenity for you? For me, it’s not always a place with literal quietness.