|Our less-forested front yard, and Gunung Palung National Park rising across the street. (note the lawn service, in the foreground)|
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
As most Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, Jimmy and I are taking part in our first Indonesian holiday. Today is Idul Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, in Indonesia. Yesterday marked the beginning of this Muslim holiday with offices closing early, fireworks sounding across the evening sky, and a general sense of excitement in the air. As Jimmy and I biked around town yesterday afternoon, we were met with a greater than usual number of “Hello misters!” from kids running around. People were excited. This morning, lengthy prayers emanating from mosque loudspeakers marked the beginning of the holiday. Fireworks soon followed. At 6 am. Early morning takes on a whole new meaning here.
We were graciously invited to share a mid-morning meal at the home of our “ibu,” named Ma’ngal. Ma’ngal is basically our lifeline. She buys our food, cooks, cleans, washes our clothes, and is teaching me many Indonesian words. On top of all that, she is one of the most kind, generous, and open hearted people I have ever met. When you look into her eyes, all you see is kindness and generosity shining back. She’s truly a gem.
True to form, Ma’ngal invited us to share a holiday meal with family and friends at her house this morning. Ma’ngal is an excellent cook, so we were delighted to share in quite a spread. Because part of Idul Adha involves animal sacrifice and sharing meat, there is quite a bit of meat to be eaten around town right now, which for many people only happens once a year. Ma’ngal treated us to delicious and savory meat and chicken dishes, stewed jackfruit, fried pisang (bananas), sticky rice with a rich coconut sauce, and many other cakes and treats.
Much like in America, the meal ended with women and babies chatting over remaining food and empty dishes, while the men retreated to the living room (and eventually to a more interesting activity—cruising on motorbikes). For the rest of the day, people here will visit friends and relatives, share food, and rumor has it that a local band may play at the pantai (beach). Indonesia is a unique and lovely country; I feel fortunate to be participating in its traditions.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
|Sukadana Bay - the more crowded, 'public' beach|
I'm most excited to have arrived at the end of a seven-year journey through medical education, which was a roller-coaster ride with many joys, but that often distanced me from my roots in community organizing and public health. It was a struggle for me to focus narrowly on biomedical maladies when so much of my patients' diseases resulted from social, economic, and political environments. I'm thankful for excellent training in family medicine, that will enable me to care for all ages and genders of patients, and that also prepared me to make clinic systems work better for underserved patients. But now, I have an amazing opportunity to apply these skills in a community setting, with direction from the local community, and with inclusion of environmental and social interventions. I've disembarked from this seven year journey into a place where I can bring it all together.
Here in Sukadana, on the west coast of Indonesian Borneo, we have found a community health program that answers local people's requests for medical care and disease prevention AND supports projects to decrease illegal logging, promote rainforest conservation, to ultimately preserve one of the few remaining natural habitats for orang-utan (people of the forest). Once we settle, I'll begin working alongside Indonesian doctors in the health center and mobile clinics, and begin exploring their public health programs that range from DOTS therapy for tuberculosis to delivery of goats to villages' widows. Jacquelyn has already started work in the organic garden and this week will accompany the environmental education coordinator to stakeholder meetings to address land use around the nearby national park.
Right now, I'm enjoying a cool midday breeze coming off the bay, truly relishing a breakfast of powdered milk, corn flakes and perfectly ripe local bananas, devouring a Nestle-crunch ice cream bar that a new best friend just bought me off the back of a motorbike that plays music just like the trucks in the states, and looking forward to diving into all the action tomorrow morning.