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Mobile Clinic

Mobile Clinic

One week on water, one week off water: my initial life schedule in Pari. The schedule had never been met because I was down with malaria every two months. Thus, my bi-monthly schedule was 3 weeks on water, 3 weeks off water, and 2 weeks on bed. Pari has three major rivers and hundreds tributaries….
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Jumping Delivery

Jumping Delivery

For normal delivery, the Sisters never asked me to help them. Thus, for two years, I only handled abnormal delivery, while during the internship I had never been allowed to manage complicated deliveries. The one in front of me now was obviously abnormal. On palpable, I knew the fetus was in transverse position; Cesarean Section…
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Money, money, money

Money, money, money

“Doctor, there is a sick woman at the beach?” one of the boys at the yard told me. “Why did not she come to the hospital?” I said from inside the house. I did want to be bitten unnecessarily by mosquitoes outside. “She cannot, Doctor. She is not able to walk.” I took my stethoscope…
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Chin Tunnel

Chin Tunnel

“Come quickly, Doctor,” Sister Priscilla called me through the window. I got up from the desk and walked out. She was still out of breath from hurrying up; she needed that exercise to reduce her weight, about 20 kilogram heavier than me. “Looked at his chin, Doctor.” Pris pointed at the child on the lap…
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Illiterate Graduates

Illiterate Graduates

“Read this line,” I pointed at the first line of the page. She looked at it. One minute passed but no word came out of her mouth. I waited another minute before saying “It is OK,” and called the next woman. The result was a little better. She could read the first paragraph of the…
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Refugees

Refugees

It sounded like knocks at the door, but I doubted. I did not think any sensible people would leave their house under the ongoing rainstorm and thunder that crashed one after another. They had begun since the Sisters brought me dinner. The crackling and flapping tin roofs were eerie; the shaking house kept me awake…
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Cloning Child

Cloning Child

She must have been at least 3, but her weight was only 5.5 kilogram—3 kg more than her birth weight. Both international and national standards would classify her as severe malnourished. Bones wrapped by skin. I asked her mother to bring her to the hospital every day for feeding; they lived just 5-minute walk. They…
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Between saving soul and saving life

Between saving soul and saving life

“Do you have a poison, Doctor?” asked Sister Pai. “What for?” I imagined rat. “To poison Swinging Chair.” That was the parochial priest of Bayun. I did not like him either, but I had never thought of killing him. Well, giving him a lesson might be justified. “I have, Suster.” I fetched a tin of…
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Biodiversity in Our Body

Biodiversity in Our Body

Casuarinen Coast is a dream laboratory for tropical diseases researcher. They can find almost all tropical diseases mentioned in textbooks plus undiagnosed ones. Sampling size—the most common and difficult problem of medical research—will not be an issue here; they can get the patients as many as they want, with one condition: they do not mind…
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Married to Sisters

Married to Sisters

Through the window of the examination room, I saw a group of people carrying a stretcher. They put it on the floor of the hospital veranda. “Where are you from?” I asked them. “Simsagar.” Four-hour rowing decreasing tide, 6-hour the opposite. The stretcher was made from rough sticks tied with rattans. The woman—around 20 maximum—was…
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The World without Sound

The World without Sound

“Percis, percis, an . . ., bii,” were the only words I could grasp from what he said. As he waved his flashlight while talking to me, I understood what Dasih wanted. Percis was light bulb—since it is a technological term and not Indonesian word, it could be a Dutch word—and bii means ‘no’. The…
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Being a ‘Fisherman’

Being a ‘Fisherman’

Doing well with farming, I wanted to try with fishing. The Asmat used various methods to catch fish. The most common was spreading a net (stake net?) between two sticks across the river at the end of increasing tide and coming back at the end of decreasing tide. This net would catch medium and big…
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Dugouting

Dugouting

In order to survive in the interior of Papua, we have to have a special motivation. Money did not work for me; my salary was very little and I had come not for it. Helping people, honestly, was not an adequate drive when I had malaria and I was disappointed with the attitude of these…
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Maturity Indicator

Maturity Indicator

An Asmat woman who could read was extremely rare, probably 1 per 1000. We can trace the source of this problem to the maturity indicators of female across cultures. The ratio girl to boy in grade 1 in Bayun school 1:4; grade 2, 1:5; grade 3, 1:7; and grade 4, no girl. The Principal Simon—unlike…
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Papaya Leaves for Malaria Treatment

Papaya Leaves for Malaria Treatment

In addition to loneliness, malaria was the most difficult thing to live with. The plasmodia invaded my blood in the second month of my arrival in Pari. Having fever, chill, headache, muscle ache, nausea, vomiting, and general weakness for more than a week was tormenting. Not being able to eat, sleep, walk, and, especially, read…
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Arithmetic in the Clinic

Arithmetic in the Clinic

“What is the name of your first child?” “Yosef.” “Is he alive?” “Dead.” “Number two?” “Markus.” “Alive?” “He is outside.” “Who is next?” “No name yet.” “Where is it?” “Outside.” That is the typical process to get the answer to the question ‘how many children do you have?’ from a pregnant Asmat woman. If we…
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Snail Mails

Snail Mails

Anytime packages from Basiem or Agats arrived in Bayun, the mail bundle was always the first I checked. Most of the time, I was disappointed. Sometimes I called Basiem, Agats, or even Ewer—the Ursulin Sisters—by radio and asked the people to check their mail boxes for my letters and to make sure the letters for…
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Pet or Food?

Pet or Food?

Scientists show that pets, especially dogs, help control blood hypertension and stress. But that was not my reason to have pets whenever feasible. That feasibility covers two ends of my lifetime: the dawn and the dusk. I had two dogs when I was a young boy in Jakarta. They were my best friends at home….
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Bi-weekly Newspaper

Bi-weekly Newspaper

Breaking news or headline news is always attracting to us, although most of the news are not directly relevant to our life. We are just curious because they happen in our town, country, and world. What if we lived in an entirely different world—like in the hunter-gatherers’ one–for years? In the second month in Bayun,…
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Greenhorn Doctor

Greenhorn Doctor

That unforgettable, and nightmarish, case was started with a SOS radio message from Pirimapun. I had just arrived in Bayun a week before. Pater Bob, the caller, could not describe the condition of the patient beyond “she has a problem in delivering her baby.” I asked Ambo, the motorist, to prepare the slup; myself the…
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