Monday, January 7, 2013

A Very Papua Christmas

Sorry I’m a little late on this, and I haven't gotten any photos up with it. Been a busy few weeks…

When last I posted I was newly recovered from the malaria and snorkeling at Pasir Putih with the host fam. The next week was mostly wrapping things up before things shut down and everybody left town for the holidays. I had my last meeting with Ibu Ice on the Tuesday before Christmas and the next day she shipped back out to the village; the next day I met with Bapak Martin; Friday was my last day at the office. On Saturday I went to the market to pick up the clothes I’d ordered from the tailor, only to find that everything was too tight and she’d made me a church dress instead of a beach dress. (And even if it were for church, there’s no reason for the neckline to be that high, ever.) One more reason to plan in advance, so the good tailor isn’t too busy to take your order. Come back tomorrow, and the changes will be made. Fine. I stopped by Orchid for some candies for the grad room and headed home.

That night my stomach felt off; I couldn’t sleep. My cough came back, and the next day, the 23rd, I had a fever. I went for another blood test, and lucky me: after two weeks of feeling better, the malaria was back. Seriously, this was starting to feel like some sort of cruel cosmic joke, like the universe was playing whack-a-mole and I was the mole. This time the doctor gave me Darplex, a new drug out of Timika that was supposed to be effective against the malaria found in Papua. Take three pills right before bed, she said, then go straight to sleep or else they’ll make you loopy. 20% of patients get nauseous on this stuff, so if that happens come back tomorrow and we’ll give you meds for that. It’s new enough that Felicia didn’t carry it; I had to go to another pharmacy arount the corner to buy it.

So I took three pills before bed and 20 minutes later I’d puked them right back up again. Always, gotta be the exception, don’t I. When I went back the next day for the nausea pills there was a different doctor who’d never heard of Darplex, told me that the vomiting was caused by the malaria, not the pills (so that’s why it started right after I took the pills and stopped as soon as they were gone. Uhuh.) and eventually gave me some antacid liquid to gat me off his back. Because that’s really gonna help.

In all this was a much milder case than the first one though, so at least there’s that. More along the lines of a cold this time than a stomach bug, and even if the meds did make me sick the drug-induced nastiness was oven much more quickly and decisively than the malaria-induced version. Still not fun, but it could have been much worse.

On Christmas Eve the whole family went to church, and on Christmas morning I came out of my room to see the whole house cleaned and lots of chairs and jars of cookies set out in the living room. In the afternoon a group of people came over to eat and chat, and there were people coming in and out and eating and chatting for the next two days. Christmas out here seems to be much more about Jesus than about shopping – no presents, just carols, cookies, and colored lights down all the streets. I spent most of the day sleeping – turns out my cough medicine was mostly benadryl, so no wonder – and occasionally coming out to shake hands with guests and refuse yet another plate of noodles and chicken. The next day was more of the same, plus packing, and I had to cancel a goodbye meeting with Pak Martin due to illness, which, judging by the deluge of texts he sent me the next day, he still hasn’t forgiven me for. But if malaria’s not a good excuse, I don’t know what is. And on the 27th I dragged my sorry butt out of bed and made it to the Manokwari airport for the 9am flight to Makassar.

The first thing I did once I’d checked in at the Losari Beach Hotel was to take a long, hot shower, my first such since Bali in early September. Friggin’ Christmas miracle, that. You don’t realize until you’ve gone four months without one how utterly wonderful a hot shower is, even in the tropics. In the afternoon I met A., an anthropologist friend from Yale, and I got fried duck and melon juice for lunch and he showed me around Ft Rotterdam, Makassar’s main tourist attraction. Christmas miracle #2: sitting and talking, in English, with someone who understands both my life back home and what it’s like to live and do research long-term in Indonesia. (He’s out there for a year and a half, and how he does it I don’t know, but I expect the presence of at least one good Italian restaurant in the city helps. Lord knows we could use one in Mkw.) It’s also good to find out I’m not the only one daydreaming about prosciutto and Nica’s sandwiches. 4 days…

This being my first time out of the house for any length of time since I’d gotten sick again, around 7:30 I pleaded exhaustion and went back to the hotel to crash. The next day, Friday, I spent the morning enjoying fast hotel wifi (Christmas miracle #3), then went for coto, the Makassarese beef soup, for lunch. You can’t go through Makassar without eating coto, and this one improved on the version I’d had in Manokwari by not including chunks of brain, liver, and lung. In the 20 minutes it took me to eat my bowl of soup the father of the family sitting across from me ascertained that I’m an American student and asked for my cell number and skype info so his daughter, who was studying English at the university and barely said a word the whole time, could contact me. That happens more often than you’d think, from people in line ahead of me at the atm or the ojek driver who drops me off at Ibu Ice’s. I have to wonder, do people ever say yes?

 And finally it was back to the airport for my flight out of Indonesia. I got a chocolate glazed at the Dunkin’ Donuts (Christmas miracle #4), possibly the most soul-satisfying piece of fried dough I’ve ever eaten. At 9:00 that night I’d landed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Field trip complete (Christmas miracle #5).

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