On gratitude for creature comforts
I am writing this from my bed at the airport hotel in Surabaya, Indonesia. The sheets are crisp and spotless; the room is a soothing palette of white, lime green and wooden surfaces coloured a gentle cinnamon brown.
There is a shower with hot water, a sink, a state-of-the-art toilet with two modes for flushing, separate towels on the rack for wiping our hands and drying ourselves after a shower. We have air conditioning, and the Samsung flatscreen beams the latest news from Al Jazeera and programmes from TLC (the Travel and Living Channel) at the click of a button. The fragrance of this room jogs my memory – it is much like the cosy hotel in Germany where I stayed two years ago for my sister’s wedding.
I think of where I was this morning, at a very basic guesthouse in Baluran National Park (shown in the photo above), and I am grateful for all these little things that make our daily lives so comfortable. I am thankful that the electricity supply here is not restricted between 5:30 in the afternoon and 11:00 at night; that this hotel has a free and speedy WiFi connection, so I can reply to comments and read about what is going on in the world. I am grateful that there are several places to eat just outside the lobby, instead of having to ride a motorbike for three kilometres to the only canteen in the area. I am so glad that we have flying machines to whisk us halfway across the world in a matter of hours.
We do not realise how fortunate we are to have so many modern conveniences at our disposal. It is only when we spend a few days without them that we learn to appreciate the wonders they really are.
On our final night in Banyuwangi, I made a rash decision. We had booked tickets on the six-hour night train, but there was something about the whole plan that didn’t feel right. After leaving Baluran, we would have to wait for ten hours before boarding the train, which was scheduled to arrive back in Surabaya in the wee hours of the morning. Then it would be an eight- or nine-hour layover at the airport before leaving for Malaysia. So I did the illogical thing – I took a gamble and booked a domestic flight from an airport that had been closed for several days because of ash from a nearby volcano. Over Idul Fitri the ash cloud had even shut down the airports at Bali and Surabaya. But this morning the skies were clear and the tiny airport terminal at Banyuwangi was alive with passengers.
The flight from Surabaya did not arrive until 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time, but that was only because it had to take a detour to avoid the airspace around the restive volcano. I am so thankful that the journey took only 40 minutes by air and not six and a half hours on land. Most of all, I am supremely grateful that I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, instead of a cramped seat in an antiquated train. I know how fortunate I am that I can afford this last-minute splurge. ◊