Sunday, March 01, 2009


In Bogor my first visit was to Ciah and her son Agosto, in their wooden shack under the dark, damp trees. Agosto was home from hospital, recovered from his typhoid, but looking pale, thin and unsmiling. I gave Ciah a small sum of money to buy food.

"Sorry it’s not much," I said, "but there have been a lot of people getting ill recently."

To be honest, I could have given a lot more, but for some reason I was feeling grumpy. Maybe it was the after effect of the beers with Tom.

In the children’s ward at Bogor’s mental hospital in Babakan I visited the mentally backward youngsters, John, Daud, Erwin and Saepul. John was naked, tied up, and sitting in a pool of diarrhoea. Erwin was locked behind bars in his usual small cell.

"John’s lost some weight," I said to the nurse named Diana, a well-nourished woman who looked happy in her work. "Has he seen the doctor?"

"Yes," she said, grinning in a way that suggested possible insensitivity or malice.

"What’s wrong with him?"

"He’s greedy. He ate too much and got sick."

"Is he getting any medicine?"

"He’s OK."

"He looks ill; malnourished."

"No. He’s fine." What was it about Diana’s smile?

I took Daud and Saepul for a short walk in the hospital grounds, and then washed my hands.
I dropped in on Asep and little Andi in Bogor Baru. Asep was still getting his TB medicine and had put on some weight around his face and chest. Andi was running around with his friends, but his stomach still had that swollen appearance of the malnourished.

Next stop was at the house of Dian, the sister of Melati and Tikus. Dian showed me her TB pills and smiled from a face that had put on more flesh and become prettier.

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