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Reference Letters: Ambivalent Words

Reference Letters: Ambivalent Words

“Are you happy with it?” Captain asked me. I was not happy with one word on his reference letter. I had brooded over asking for a reference from him for weeks. I absolutely needed it because all the schools I applied to required the referrers to send the reference letters directly to them. Ronald Anthony,…
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Love of a Mother

Love of a Mother

My medical school tuition and cost of living in Yogyakarta were paid by my mother when she was alive; when she passed away, she still paid the same expenses of mine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. A few months before she died—she had had hunch about her incoming death because she had been sick…
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Quit

Quit

“I quit” and bang! The little bang of the phone handset hitting its cradle: the expression of my disappointment. The BIG BANG followed it in Jakarta, 3800 kilometer away: the slam of the door behind my boss, the Commanding Officer of the US NAMRU-2, leaving his office. His personal assistant told me a month later…
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The Dreamland of the Poor

The Dreamland of the Poor

The pain on one of my toes woke me up. I grabbed my flashlight by the camp bunk; everybody in the house was still asleep. I touched the hurt toe blindly—the wonder of our nerve system—it was wet: bleeding. I had only one suspect of the attacker. They had been around day and, especially, night:…
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Cows for Sexual Adventure

Cows for Sexual Adventure

“Woman case, isn’t it?” I said. My landlord nodded to confirm my guess but said, “But this time is different.” “How?” “Two women.” He then continued filling me in with more info on the ‘different case’ and managed to push me back to the community center I just had passed. There were more people than…
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Gene-Welfare Coevolution

Gene-Welfare Coevolution

I saw my dog Goi sitting in front of the Supreme Judge of Afterlife. Goi was rewarded for his good karma (guarding my house well and greeting me always when I was coming home): reincarnation as a top predator of the food pyramid in his next life. He could choose between a transmigrant (a human…
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A better Life in Urban?

A better Life in Urban?

“Where is he from?” I asked the doctor of the Abepura Hospital. She looked at the nurses. “We don’t know,” one of them answered. “Who brought him here?” “His friends, might be. But they are gone.” There was no way to get the answer now because the patient was unconscious. In America, he would have…
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A Shirt for the Doctor

A Shirt for the Doctor

For nine months, I was on-call in four hospitals. But the beeper system was only installed in the Dock 2 hospital; the other hospitals reached me by phone. They called me quite often but only 7 patients were enrolled at the end of the study. The false calls were costly in term of effort and…
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On-Call

On-Call

“You are on-call. The nurse, by phone, has reported a patient with the following information: . . . What will you tell her?” the professor asked us. Everyone answered with our best medical knowledge but none of us was correct. The correct answer is “I am coming.” I have never forgotten that answer, and that…
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My Office My Home

My Office My Home

Interesting (environment and people), meaningful (for others and myself), kind boss, and adequate compensation –in that order—are the criteria of the job I want. The first job in Asmat fulfilled the first two criteria, but periodic malaria infection was too much for me. The second job seemed fulfill all four criteria. Although exhausted from flying…
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Position for me only

Position for me only

“I am sorry that only one person has applied for the position you advertise,” the personnel staff of the US Embassy in Jakarta told Gary Pachovsky, the Admin Officer of the US NAMRU-2 (Naval Medical Research Unit), by phone. “It’s great!” Gary said. Of course, it perplexed the Embassy staff, but not for long. “That…
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Sick Doctor

Sick Doctor

“Are you feeling cold?” I asked the people sitting next to me in the living room of the Mission complex in Sentani, Papua. “No,” the same answers from them. Positive. I must have had stowaways from Bayun, Asmat, because I arrived here only three days ago. The next day other familiar symptoms followed the chills:…
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Devil’s Child

Devil’s Child

One afternoon, Sister Priscilla, the hospital nurse, reported that a patient was in labour.  The patient was admitted in the morning but the progress was slow, with no sign that the baby was ready to come out anytime soon.  Usually Sister Victoria, the senior nurse who was also a midwife, who evaluated women in labour,…
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Ating Junior

Ating Junior

“Who is it?” I was sure it was not the Ursulin Sister because they would have knocked the connecting door instead of the window. “I am,” a woman’s voice. “What do you need?” “My daughter wants to unload.” I jumped out of the bed and opened the front door of the presbytery. Three Asmat women…
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Flowing River, Flowing Life

Flowing River, Flowing Life

Flowing river is the best view on reflecting upon our life. I sat by the mouth of Kronkel River at the end of afternoon jogging almost every day. It would have been better without mosquito veil, but the mosquito bites were very disturbing. I covered my body from head to toe in any weather outside….
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Walking in the Sea

Walking in the Sea

The engine started ‘coughing’, the boat was moving forward haltingly. ‘Please, please, don’t break down here,’ I talked to the machine. We almost reached the mouth of Betz River, and the next would be the most turbulent water in the region. It was the spot where Betz met Siretz (two of the largest rivers—cruise-able by…
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Forest Bandits

Forest Bandits

According to the official statistics from the Indonesian Government, in 2010 Indonesia had 85 million hectares forest. When I came to Papua in 1989, it was 144 million. Within 22 years, almost a half of the forest disappeared. Assuming the deforestation rate constant, all the forests of Indonesia will be gone in 2035—like in Java…
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Hunting Boar

Hunting Boar

I sent him to Wamena, the center of Highland, for fixing his broken jaw a week ago. Dr. Vrinjs, a senior Dutch doctor, had fixed the bone so that he could eat with some support. But he was back now; too early, his bone operation wound still needed thorough care. If it returned to the…
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