First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written any new posts in so very long. As most of you know, I’ve been recuperating from a fractured kneecap and, while you would think all that time spent doing pretty much nothing else would have made it an ideal time to write, I just haven’t been able to muster the will to do so. I’ve been pretty down, actually. Not being able to walk around and explore the few places I’ve managed to get myself to has really been a drag. But I am on the mend, and am now walking—still with a bit of a limp, but not hobbling like before—without my half-cast-thingy (called a backslap), which I wore for over six weeks after the original cast was taken off (about a week after my fall).
Now I’m in Bali and still doing pretty much nothing, but I’ve seen some pretty amazing things and have finally gotten around to editing photos and posting the albums online.
I’ve also been doing a very small volunteer project for a great organization called Bumi Sehat, which is a birthing clinic that also provides general medical services to poor folks here in Bali. They run completely on donations from individuals (and fees from those who can afford to pay), so if you’re feeling generous, do check out their website, where you can donate via Paypal. What I’ve been working on for them is a proposal to raise money to send four young women to midwifery school, a project that has its own website where, if you prefer, you can donate so that the funds go directly toward these scholarships.
The need for a pay-as-you-can clinic in a poor country is, of course, quite obvious, but what I also learned in talking to the clinic’s director, an American named Robin Lim who’s lived in Bali for decades, is that the hospitals here, as well as many village midwives, will actually keep the baby until the family comes back with the money to pay for the birth. She told me of one horrific case where twins were born and the parents couldn’t pay the full fee so the midwife kept one of the twins and then sold it. (Robin got human rights lawyers involved in that one and they eventually got their baby back, but in most cases like this the families would probably have ended up with someone else’s baby. Because this was an identical twin they were able to know it was truly their child.)
I know, too awful to even wrap your head around. I’ve been to the clinic when births were happening and it is truly a wonderful, comforting place where the women are getting very good—and compassionate—care. I of course am hesitant to ask anyone I know to donate (as I told the clinic’s volunteer coordinator from the outset, I hate fundraising), but, since a very small amount of money goes a very long way in a place like Bali, I’m just putting the information here in case you feel so moved.
On a lighter note, I’ve had some very funny experiences here thus far, so I thought I’d share a few anecdotes with you. (And don’t forget to catch up on the photos of the day, as there are some good laughs there as well.)
My friend Rob and I met an American guy who studied here back in college and comes back to visit every few years. He invited us to a dinner the family he stays with was giving in his honor. After dinner, some of the kids were playing and one boy said to another, ‘You’re fat and you have no teeth.’
The other boy didn’t react at all. Apparently, here things that we would take as insults are just really statements of fact that no one gets too fussed about. Like when Brad (the American) arrived at his family’s house this year. They greeted him and said, ‘You got fatter.’
Rob and I were at a bar seeing some live music when two street dogs came in. (This itself is not so unusual. Street dogs are everywhere in Bali and are mostly ignored.) They were playing, biting each other’s faces and rolling around, and ended up right between our table and the next. Suddenly, one of them started mounting the other, which caused a big laugh among the patrons, one of whom was a young English guy who said, ‘I didn’t think this was that kind of bar!’
I was hobbling home one night (wearing my backslap, which kept my knee from bending) and passed some men sitting on the sidewalk. (There are always men sitting on the sidewalk. Sometimes they are there to call out ‘Transport?’ to you. Sometimes they are just sitting and chatting.). As I walked past, one of them said, ‘I think you are a little bit sick.’ (Sick seems to be a catch-all word here, since most people’s English is limited, so I guess it covers being hurt, injured, etc. That or he had some other kind of insight without even talking to me…)
This one is actually hearsay only: My friend Rob went to another island, Flores, where he met a really interesting man who took him on a tour of some local villages. The people in this area are Catholic but also retain a lot of their animistic traditions and rituals, including animal sacrifice (you can see Rob’s photos here). They got to talking and this man told Rob that he’d seen God several times, and started describing what he looked like: a sandal, a foot. The foot, he said, was white. And had hair on it. “Like a tourist,” he said. Which was followed by: ‘Jesus was white, right? Like the old Jews.’
I’ll leave you with that—and the photo albums, which you can check out on the photos page or use the links below where, to make things a bit easier, I’ve listed which ones are newly-posted (some of them are actually, chronologically, quite old). In the Ubud album there are a number of videos as well. And, as always, the stories are told in the captions to make up for all I’ve not been writing. Hope you enjoy!
June and July 2009
April and May 2009
Last Phnom Penh Snapshots