Sunday, January 23, 2011

As advertised

I'm writing from the airport in Jakarta, making my way back to Central Java after wrapping up my stay in Lombok. Added on a long weekend after our mid-year conference ended--and glad I had an extra day after I joined several other Fulbrighters in falling violently sick during our time at the Sheraton Senggigi. My bout came the night before we were supposed to check out and knocked me down hard. We checked out Friday afternoon and at one point about 8:30 a.m. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to leave my bed. But I did and joined another afflicted ETA at the hospital for the most frustrating non-diagnosis I've had yet here.

At least six of our group of 44 fell out with similar symptoms--I'll spare you--during our three-day stay and I think at least four of the six visited the same doctor for help. This doctor's principal strength was her English, which was definitely the best in her hospital, but she was beyond reluctant to diagnose our troubles. Instead, she asked a coupe questions about the timing and quantity of body fluids passed, had an orderly take our blood pressure and temperature (with an underarm thermometer), and then asked us what kind of medicine we wanted for treatment. Uh, what kind do you think we need? Well, maybe I needed an IV. Or maybe rehydration salts would do. And maybe we needed an anti-nausea medicine or maybe we didn't. But probably definitely we needed some antibiotics for an infection.

Doctor, is it your opinion that we have an infection?

It's hard to tell.

Then why prescribe an antibiotic?

Do you not want an antibiotic?

Most of the doctor's time, after she answered or didn't answer my questions and those of my friend, was spent working out the order for our drugs. She presented each of us with a completely different set of prescriptions, and one my friend figured was about twice as expensive as it should be. (She'd been sick in the same hospital before and the earlier bill had been significantly cheaper.) We asked about the cost--oh, yes, the doctor could prescribe less expensive medications--and why two people suffering the exact same symptoms would be prescribed none of the same medicine.

The composition is the same, the doctor said.

The medicines are the same? So why prescribe different ones? What do these different medicines do differently?

The composition is the same.

So we haggled down the price a bit and shuffled exhaustedly back to the car and spent a restful hour in our hotel beds before checking out. My friend and I sent the night Friday in the house of a fellow ETA and the next morning felt well enough to catch up with a good group on the beaches of Kuta, a mostly unspoiled beach and surfing destination on the south shore of Lombok. I wasn't feeling up to any surfing but I was able to walk the beach a bit and wade into the bathtub waters of our little bay.

Kuta Bay.

A view from the porch.

I rented a beachfront hut and a scooter for $20 and spent a night about 35 yards from the very spot where the high-tide waters of the Bali Sea crashed a little too noisily against the sands. I eventually got to sleep but, man, even a gentle sea is a massive force. Not exactly lapping. But I'm quibbling. The setting and the company and the mostly rainless weather and the monkeys down the beach and the fishermen laying evening nets in the bay and the jagged hills fencing us in and the shady recesses of our porches, where we could sit and read or talk or just sit, this was Indonesia As Advertised: The sunsplashed beach idyll. Pretty nice. I mean, not Door County nice but decent.

Evening fisherman.

Monkey on a beach.

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