I want to share this writing in my blog because otherwise it will be hidden somewhere in the corner of my messy desk. I attempted submitting it for travel writing competition but I am still far from the short list. At the very least, I would like to hear something from my blogger mates.
I did my first work as a fresh graduate physician in Papua. It was an incredible experience and I always love writing about it. One day I wish to write a full version on Papua, its people and other issues. Wish me luck on this, guys!
Oh, I haven't got any title for this. I'm opened for suggestions.
I couldn’t help myself from feeling heroic. I’m in a twin-otter aircraft gliding amidst mountains in Baliem Valley, Papua, Indonesia. As a medical trainee, I am to provide health service to the native Yali tribe in a village called Ninia.
I poke my head out the window to look. The undulating landscape below is idyllic: lush green pyramids with a few bald patches like heads shaved with broken electric razors. Decorating cliff walls are minuscule terraced waterfalls, hazy with fleecy clouds. The aeroplane rounds sharply and its machines roar beneath my strapped seat, the propellers whirling tenaciously. We are about to land.
My modest expectation is to be greeted warmly by the people, although some folk-dancing by half-naked women in jute skirt and nude men with noses pierced by pig’s bones and penises wrapped in gourds wouldn’t do any harm. Instead, everybody is busy taking squealing pigs out of the plane’s hold. I‘m Indonesian, yet foreign. Other passengers are being hugged and kissed; I’m left alone. It’s significantly disappointing to see everyone wearing clothes with pictures of grinning politicians.
The mantri, someone responsible for the small clinic I am working at, takes me to my so-called house. It isn’t old, just badly made. The handle disconnects when turned; the door has to be lifted to open it. Cracks are gaping here and there, and mice are running through them as a biting wind repeatedly enters the house. Lying on creaky bedframe is a filthy mattress with a centimetre-thick layer of dust. It will be hard to spend the night here.
I’m saved by a heaven-sent honai (hut), which also serves as a kitchen. Made and covered mostly by hay, this incredible two-floored traditional house is warm enough to sleep in. It has four pillars in the middle surrounding a fireplace with a rack above for drying the firewood.
Olince is asked to guide and assist me. She is one of a few schoolgirls who understands Indonesian. She brings her little brother along. The day’s spent on endless patients who aren’t actually ill, just coming merely out of curiosity. At noon, Olince shows me how to get water. We walk over stiles and walls made of stones. Pigs are wandering around. She teaches me how to make fire and pick edible roots. After sunset, we lay down to rest. It’s raining. The small sweet potato field outside is wet and muddy. Nobody wants to go out although the smoke from fire hangs thickly under the thatch like cobwebs.
Midnight. I desperately need to empty my bladder. Stepping out, I squat and urinate. It’s remarkably peaceful, only the sound of a distant river flowing in the background. The pale silver moon has made every shadow look purplish. Back in the hut, I glance at Olince’s face lit up by the dancing light of the fire’s embers, so at her brother’s. In repose, they look almost serene.
I am not the hero I thought I was. They have been taking care of me.