Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kami Sudah Datang - we have arrived!

Sukadana Bay - the more crowded, 'public' beach
A speedboat dropped us off on the dock in 'downtown' Sukadana three days ago. It was a quite a journey to get here, regardless of where we mark the beginning. The boat trip itself, down the Sungai Punggur Kecil, through mangrove estuaries, past logging outposts and stilted river villages and then across Sukadana Bay, took a little over four hours.  We needed every bit of the past month to cross the ocean and equator and transition from the cool climate and glaciated peaks of the Pacific Northwest.  And after three months, I'm finally catching up on the sleep and reconnecting with pieces of my self that I neglected during the past three years of 80-hour work weeks and 30-hour inpatient shifts.

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.
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  1. Matt & I are looking forward to all of your adventures to come and will be living vicariously through your experiences -- thank you for sharing your journey with us here! So proud of you two & excited to see you flourishing wherever life takes you. XOXO!

  2. holy crap! I cannot wait to read about all your adventures. congrats on the big move - you sound so thrilled and excited. I am truly happy for you both! About time you got back to those public healthy roots.
    Cheers - Nilam

  3. This made my day! Thank you so much for sharing. The pictures and experiences are amazing! This will be my little excape from the DC winter that's on it's way. Sending lots of love to you both. xxx Kat

  4. I'm so happy for the two of you - you're going to have such an incredible experience. I can't wait to read all about it. Matt and I miss you guys!!

  5. Thanks for emailing your blog out Jimmy, it's so great to be able to follow you guys along and hear about your amazing travels!! I have some other friends in South Africa right now doing the same thing (not medical, but 'year around the world' - check them out at if you want sometime). Just looking at your first few posts shows this life experience is unforgettable and invaluable! Safe travels!