Suka dan Duka.
*Note: the following cerita is about my experience with amoebic dysentery. I try not to be graphic or crude; however, I would like to note that pooping and diarrhea have been around since we, as humans, enjoyed our first bites of food. I believe there is a book called “Everyone Poops”. For the faint of heart, I suggest you read this book before you read the following.
There is an expression in Indonesian which I have already forgotten. It has something to do with the highs and lows in life. The ‘suka’ or the good, and the ‘duka’ (the bad) come together in this cereal box of life and you can’t have one without the other. Some days are going to be suka, others a whole lotta duka. It seems that my first week at site has been a big hunk of duka.
I have experienced a lot of firsts while being in Indonesia; naturally, of course, since this is my first time here and in South East Asia. Many firsts I am proud of, others not so much. Spending my first time ever in a hospital was not something that I could have foreseen or even imagined. Spending my first time ever in a hospital in Indonesia, however, is material worthy of a nightmare or a slightly riveting, mostly terrifying, show on National Geographic. Spoiler alert: it was not as bad as it sounds, but it was not something I’d like to experience ever again.
I arrived to Bandung after a 16 hour train ride that was nothing like the Hogwarts Express, much to my dismay. We did enjoy ourselves on the train, though, chatting about life, playing Train mafia, indulging in the company of some adult beverages and ultimately indulging in what would be some of our last moments together for a while before we headed off to permanent site. Some of us seemed to not even want to indulge in sleep, much to my annoyance.
On the train, my intestines were not happy to be along for the ride and they protested. After 5 hours of sleep, we had to make it to the start of our Principals Conference. I was not feeling chipper and had a really nasty headache and sore throat. I needed to put on a smile and mask my discomfort to endure the rest of the day.
That night, I went with some of my favorite girlies to an Indian restaurant. They were having the time of their lives. I was having a fever.
I put myself to bed. I woke up the next day and still had a fever. Because of my symptoms, the doctor thought it best that when the other PCV’s went to Bandung Advent Hospital for a tour, that I should just go ahead and check in. Cool.
4 hours and a blood and stool sample later, I was free to go. That was my first time ever pooping in a cup. I felt like a high school boy pooping in a bag in preparation to light it up on the porch of an unfortunate neighbor. I was all giggles, the nurses could hear me. That wouldn’t be the last time I would need to do this.
I got some meds and was on my way. My fever broke that night and I was feeling up for the 3 hour journey to my site.
My counterparts and principal were very eager to have me come to the school to meet everyone. They literally meant everyone because the press, the mayor, and the universe were there to see Miss Courtney James in the flesh. I was honored, really. I also found it extremely endearing that when the article ran in the paper, a giant picture of myself in a nightgown (remember, I did not know that I was meeting everyone, I also did not know the Batik gown I was wearing was actually for sleeping, maaf) appeared with a caption that read ‘Miss Country James’.
I forgot to mention that I was delayed in going to site because I spent a night extra in Bandung. Everyone had already heard I was sick. Everyone also thought it was a change in climate that had put me there, or maybe that I had not eaten enough rice, or perhaps I just can’t handle spicy foods.
I had been at site a grand total of 2 days. I went to bed Saturday night and was hoping that the next day I would be able to try out the “tennis court” at my school. Amoebae/parasites don’t like tennis, and kind of like having things their way, so this never happened.
Instead, I found myself for an entire night and morning at the mercy of the foreign beings in my body. They would sometimes confuse themselves and could not make their minds up if I should be vomiting or having explosive (and I mean explosive) diarrhea. I suppose they came to a compromise and decided that these things would happen at the same time. Brings a whole new meaning to the Future song, Same Damn Time.
Seemingly, I had lost control of my body.
In this whole episode, I tried to eat some bubur (or porridge) that my poor ibu was trying to feed me. She was so concerned that I had not eaten. How could I not want to eat? Ibu, I promise, it wasn’t me. It was the amoebae. And, it was the amoebae that threw up your bubur that is very delicious. You don’t have to doubt your cooking skills or ask everyone that walks in if your bubur is good while I am yakking it up in the toilet.
When I made it to the emergency room I was completely incoherent. I had a fever at that point and I remember trying to make conversation with Desmond, the male nurse as he started an I.V. and shot me up with all kinds of things, including a little something for the pain. Before I knew it I was flying through the halls on my stretcher, looking up at the Indonesian man taking me up to my room and just grinning ear to ear. At that time I was not scared, just high.
It was the following days as a number of nurses and medicines entered and exited my room that I began to feel lonely and quite scared. There was a moment where I was sitting in bed deciding if I should cry or not and I decided that I was already very dehydrated and crying wouldn’t be the best thing to do. So, I cried just for a second. Or two. Probably, like three or four.
Joe and Inge, after being told by Margaux and Alan that I was in the hospital, came to see me immediately. I was reluctant to tell anyone to come because I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody. Luckily I have such wonderful fellow PCVs who don’t listen to me and act like normal people. I am so appreciative to Joe and Inge for spending the night with me. I was all alone. Nobody from the PC staff was there, and my counterpart came during the day. That’s all fine and dandy, but I just met him 2 days prior, and it was extremely awkward.
Alex and Leah also came to visit and I am so thankful that they were able to do so.
I was in the hospital for 4 days and 5 nights. Some highlights include watching Wimbledon, soccer, FOX TV, and Aljazeera news in the AC and eating watermelon. The hospital also gave me a welcoming basket of fruit for my stay there. This accompanied the many loaves of bread that I received from the teachers at my school who came to visit me. I suppose it must be tradition.
It was also interesting that the nurse that sponge bathed me wanted to be my friend on Facebook. She was such a sweet heart I had no choice but to accept. Perhaps that is tradition as well. I bathe you, I become your friend on Facebook. Word.
My last night I was very bored and decided to explore the Hospital. As I went from floor to floor in my hospital duds and IV walker, I could see those that were there who were far less fortunate than myself. I was scared. I didn’t know who these people were or how they ended up there, but I felt sad. I realized then that things in life happen to you that are beyond your control. The only thing that I could control about that moment, and this experience, is my attitude.
There were times, and there are times now, that I am back at my site where I go into a dark hole and I feel sad, lonely, hopeless, and inadequate. Then I think of how fortunate I am, all that I have gone through before and the many things that lie ahead. I just gotta take the sukas with the dukas and ride those dukas out.
My dad, who I love very much, sometimes writes me e-mails and signs them as Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars. As if I am his young Jedi Knight in training. In his most recent email to me, he quoted Yoda in saying “To be a Jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light or darkness, padawan. Be a candle in the night.” Then he writes “thank goodness you have chosen the light”.
Dad, as you know, sometimes it is hard to see, but I am trying every day. It is easier to see the light when I have such great support from you and Mom. I love you very much. I am trying to be the candle in the night as your young Jedi Knight.
Prognosis: We shall see. I am on some meds now and in a week I will go get another stool and blood test.
Thanks to all for the love.