In rhythm with the soul of your city

It is the 10th of November 2022 and my wife and I are boarding a flight from Lombok to Jakarta, the mega capital of Indonesia. We are excited because we are going to meet my son and his wife with our grandchildren. The last time we saw them was on 1 June when we left South Africa.

As the airplane circles over the capital, you are given a glimpse of the absolute scale of this metropolis. Jakarta lies on the northwest coast of Java, the world’s most populous island. With a population of more than 10 million people, it is the largest city in Southeast Asia.

The wait for our children and grandchildren to arrive seems to take forever but when they finally emerge from customs the unification is special. Lots of hugs and kisses and then to our taxi to take us to our hotel in the heart of Jakarta. On the way to the hotel, you see busy freeways, high-rise buildings and lots of construction. Through an engineering lens, I can see the strain on the infrastructure and the resulting sprawling urban expansion.

In the five days that we spend in Jakarta, I get to experience a small slice of the soul of the city. It is culturally diverse, boldly ambitious, and constantly swarming. It is home to a colossal variety of international cuisine from high-end rooftop restaurants to roadside warungs. Jakarta is a shopping paradise with mega malls taking on the personas of lifestyle centers.

The city is intense…

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After five days we take the flight back to our island. 

The airplane circles the small lush green island of Lombok.

A calmness overcomes me. 


We are excited to show our children and grandchildren our “new” home. 

We point out all the interesting things on the drive home from the airport. 

Beautiful expansive scenery, calming picturesque rice fields and lush greenery.

Normally when I go on holiday, I can’t wait to get home to sleep in my own bed. Coming home this time there was a different yearning. When I got home, I went to sit with my grandchild on the balcony overlooking the forest. We listened to the calming sounds coming from the animals, birds and insects. It was fascinating even for a two-year-old. 

This is what I missed.

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It made me realise that Lombok has its own unique soul. How do you describe this feeling to someone who has never visited a place?

I started thinking back to the last six months that we have been here. What are the things that make this place special for me?

The people are hospitable, kind and very welcoming. You also get the sense that family plays a very important role in the culture here. The family structure is supported by a community structure. Elders are respected and it is normal to see younger people lowering their heads when passing elders, especially at places of worship. When visiting people with small children they will greet you by taking your hand and placing it on their foreheads as a sign of respect. 

It’s a tropical island so you are caught between lush green forests and the warm turquoise blue ocean. Of the 3,7 million inhabitants only 450,000 live in Mataram city. This means that most of the inhabitants of the island are living in villages, close to nature. It is normal to find mangos, coconuts, papaya etc growing in yards in the village. I am always taking home some fresh fruit when visiting locals. You will also find chickens, goats and other livestock running around. The majority of people live a very simple basic life.

Fishing forms an important part of life in coastal villages. You will find groups of locals working together to pull in fishing nets from the bay. Fishermen who go out to sea can be seen sailing their boats onto the beach. As the boat hits the sand a group of locals will converge to help push the boat up onto the beach. Everyone who helps will get rewarded with a few fish from the catch of the day. If there is no catch, no reward. You don’t see anyone getting upset or raising their voice. They will move on and wait for the next boat to come in.

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People in Lombok live close to their food. No cold storage value chain or perfect-looking fruit. Fresh produce is in its raw state. Fresh fish if you are close to the ocean and rice fields as you move inland. People here live close to the source of their food. They have a different connection to their food. 

Traffic and congestion do not exist in Lombok. Most people move around on scooters with different road rules from what you are accustomed to in the west. The only time the roads are full is on Sunday evenings when people are heading home after a day on the beach or watching the sunset. I have learned patience through driving in Lombok. It is not uncommon to find vehicles and scooters driving at 40km/hr. No one hoots or gets upset. You just wait for your chance to overtake. Initially, this was quite irritating to my western mindset of getting everywhere as quickly as possible. Now I just go with the flow. Where am I rushing to?

Lombok is known as the island of a thousand mosques. That means everywhere you go you will hear the call to prayer(athaan) five times daily. From our house, we can hear numerous athaans echoing through the valley. It is the focal point of the village. Interestingly most mosques in the villages are funded and built by the local community. The mosque that I go to is currently under renovation and the locals will physically contribute building materials to the project. They will also volunteer their time to assist the few builders that are paid. Islam is deeply embedded and very visible across the island. 

Hindus make up 10 to 15% of the population and you will find numerous Hindu temples scattered across the island. Hindu religious ceremonies are celebrated in Lombok and many villages have a Hindu majority population. It is interesting to see how these two religions co-exist in harmony in this majority Muslim land.

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This is what gives Lombok its unique soul. A combination of its people, geography, religion food, culture and spirit all come together to deliver a beautiful environment anchored by Mount Rinjani, the second-largest volcano in Indonesia. This environment is not for everyone though. 

But if you are on a journey of reconnection focusing on serenity, spirituality and sustainability then the soul of Lombok will resonate. 

It’s a place you can call home.

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