Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Health & Sanitation

GeoTagged, [S6.24828, W106.99083]

Well, health and sanitation in Indonesia are very different from that of the States--to say the least. My observations of TV ads and everyday interactions has led me to conclude that companies selling modern hygiene products--such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and cleaning products--are still trying to convince the everyday Indonesian that habits such as brushing teeth and washing hands with soap after using the bathroom (if you recall my blog post about Indonesian bathrooms, you know the later should be an especially important hygienic practice). Floss is still unknown to the everyday Indonesian; tampons are a strange concept for Indonesian girls to wrap their heads around (there are none available outside of Jakarta). All that said, all across Indonesia, bathing at least twice a day is nonetheless the standard of good hygiene. My observations about health and sanitation tie directly into economic class: when I say that the everyday Indonesian is generally not concerned with toothbrushing or washing hands with soap, it is important to remember that the everyday Indonesian is more concerned with finding their next meal. "Food" for thought, an average meal from a kaki lima(street food vendor)--outside of a big city like Jakarta-- can be cheaper than Rp. 7,000. That's a little over US 70 cents; the cheapest off-brand, new hygienic-sealed toothbrush that I've seen is Rp 3,000 or a little over US 30 cents...
Maybe when the average Indonesian starts making more than about US $50 a month, they will have the luxury of worrying about healthcare as basic as a toothbrush and toothpaste. On the other hand, I remember learning about the importance of tooth-brushing and hand-washing with soap when I was in elementary school from the guidance counselor's government mandated talk with my grade. On top of that, my whole life I've had insurance from my parents's jobs and dentist visits at least once every six months; I've grown up watching both of my parents encourage and exemplify daily dental hygiene..regular Indonesians have no such instruction, and my impression is that outside of Jakarta it is unusual to have an insurance plan provided by employers.
I have had the benefit of medical insurance and regular doctor check-ups my whole life; my host mamah told me she has gone to the doctor three times--when she gave birth to my three sisters. Americans think that good health care is expensive in the States...
A few months ago I jammed my pinky toe on the wooden block base of my family's traditional Javanese couch-thingy. Before a doctor visit was considered, an Imam who was also a traditional healer was called. He massaged my toe and foot to try and get the blood flowing; let it suffice to say that even though I consider myself as having a high pain threshold, it did not help and was still painful. After four or five days of a swollen black toe, my older cousin took me to to the clinic on my street. In the front reception of the clinic, an old man was smoking, waiting to be seen. The doctor sanitized my toe, used a needle to poke a whole in the swollen blood sack that had accumulated under my tow nail, put a bandage on my toe, and called it done. I went to the reception desk and got a prescription for amoxocilin (an antibiotic), a steroid (to accelerate healing), and another drug whose purpose I do not know. The bill was Rp. 100,000. Or a little over US $ 10. The paperwork consisted of me giving them my name and address. There was no insurance paperwork or health history paperwork to be filled out; I was not even asked if I was taking any other medications. My point in sharing this is partly to try and explain the extreme cultural chasm that I am still trying to bridge. When the Imam healer was called, it was by Nathan (another YES student whom I was visiting)'s host mother who also teaches about the health profession. In the states I would consider myself a hippie and such, but if my toe is looking and feeling as funky as it was, I want a licensed doctor that I trust, modern disinfectant, and an x-ray; please and thank you. I recognize that my reaction to situations involving health and sanitation is very different from the reaction of an Indonesian. My standards of health care and sanitation have been formed by living a regular middle class life in a first world country. Thus, I'm socialized to expect immediate access to more resources and modern convinces... such as ice for my swollen toe, a nice doc', and that great invention called an x-ray machine.
This brings me around to one of the most important things I've gotten out of my experience so far: the life-experience to enlighten me and show me first hand that first-world countries are the minority and not the majority; even though I have been lucky enough to travel quite a lot, excepting Haiti, what I've seen first-hand of the world is first-world and very privileged...I'm just now getting some perspective and realizing that the majority of the world is not as fortunate as citizens of first-world countries.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A bit about Transportation by car

February 12, 2012
I'm in the car right now with my family. Yesterday we left from Karawang and drove the six hours to Tegal; after sleeping over, we left for Yogyakarta this morning. We didn't sleep very much last night, though because a dog got run over by a bus in front of grandma's house--everyone heard the crash and screaming and after that we were too alarmed to sleep. On top of that, at grandma's house the bedroom's aren't air-conditioned and the mattresses are traditional cotton-filled Javanese beds. The past two days, I've experienced driving in West but mostly Central Java. Yesterday my sister Dea drove and today my papah is driving. The roads we took to Tegal were brand-new toll roads, with spectacular views of luscious green rice paddies and misty mountains. the toll was a whopping Rp. 25,000 (over $2.50) because it's less than a year old. Now we are taking an alternative route through the mountains, headed to Yogyakarta because the usual road that goes through Semarang is apparently beyond pot-holed and chasmed. In Virginia, roads are worn down and out by erosion, ice, and snow; my mamah and papah say that roads in Indonesia are so terrible because the government skips corners when making the roads--to pocket the money--and the heavy trucks that aren't supposed to be allowed on the poorly-constructed roads bribe officials and use the roads anyways. So, the windy road that we've been hugging through the mountain passes have been unkind to our Honda Freed's tires. We just got back on the road after getting a flat tire changed in a village along the way. It's raining steadily and the sky is cloudy and grey but the circle of mountains, rice paddies, palm trees, clay-tile roofs, and sugar cane plants still brilliantly adorn the countryside. A while ago we passed along a forest of pine trees, which really surprised me. After asking what the trees were called in Indonesian, my family informed me they are called "pinus" (pronounced PEE-nus). I'm not going to lie, my immature insides chuckled. At some points the landscape was breath-taking in the same way that the mountains in Virginia are breath-taking; at times the only visible differences were young banana trees and a lack of any kind of guard-rails.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I run

February 1, 2012
This is the second day in a row that I've gone on a run! Yesterday I pushed myself and ran for 25 minutes and cool-down walked for another 5 or 10 minutes. I just now got back from a 15 minute run with a 5 min cool-down walk. I'm really proud of myself because it's so hot and humid that it's easy to be lazy--I'm also really out of shape... When I run it gives me endorphins; I sweat and I feel cleansed. When I run I interact with Indonesians and say good afternoon to them. They joke around with me about running and getting exercise; they think I'm this crazy olahraga bule who looks like Barbie but gets really sweaty and red in the face when I run.
I run through side streets, dirt paths between concrete or brick houses.
I run past barefoot children and barebutted babies.
I run next to picket-fences constructed of bamboo and reed.
When I run, I share the road with cars, motorized scooters, three-wheeled rickshaws, bicycles, vendors with portable food carts, cats and children at play in the street, and chickens.
I run past elderly men and women holding their great grandchildren;
I run past houses with tin roofs.
I run past houses with clay tile roofs.
I run past what I hope are abandoned houses that have no roof.
I run past school children walking home from school.
I run past in-house warungs.
I run past song birds in hanging cages.
I run on dirt side-pathes next to open drains filled with black and grey water; in the shade of fruit trees and the great leaves of the banana tree; skirting along the moss- and vine-covered brick wall thats mostly cement molding, I pass muddy puddles and great chasmed pot-holes in the road.
I run with the smells of Indonesia: the stench of feces, the mildew after rain, the odor of sweat, the putrid reek from the smoky fires all along the side of the road, the smell of the Earth; the wafting of spices being ground, the aroma of food being fried in a wok, the perfumes of women teachers going home from school, the crisp smell of cloves and tobacco, the detergents from laundered children's clothes and women's under garments hanging in the gated front gardens of houses.
I run with the sounds of children at play, cats fighting, chickens crowing, birds chirping, parents chastising, women gossiping, vendors calling out the names of their foods they will make you, the whine of motorized scooters entrusted with the lives of four-person families, the dragging bells of the becak rickshaws, the squeaking of bicycle gears and tires, the honking of cars trying to squeeze along the road with everyone else, the summons to the bule to come closer--join the squatting Indonesians and tell them my personal information, the encouraging 'ayo's from the dozing becak drivers without customers.