Friday, August 30, 2013

Ceremonial Departure

One too many ceremonies for the pembantu (maid). It's been a long battle. Through the past two years, I have always kind of tried to stick up for her out of a sense of what's 'right', somehow; and this has caused more than a few problems at home. One problem with the  'house helpers' here, among the Balinese ones anyway, is the constant obligation to attend ceremonies. It seems that they have a ceremony for just about everything, and are regularly called away to attend these events, which are most often in the kampong (or home town). Thus, the employment of a maid three days a week doesn't really turn out the same as having a maid three days a week. In addition, I had become close to the maid's little girl, Kadek. I felt that the family relied on us for their livelihood (at least in part), and I worried about what would become of the children should their mother lose  her job.

Ironically, it turns out that the maid is not much worried about this, as I learned today when Louis basically decided to fire her (after yet another ceremony).

I suggested that she talk to Louis later, and she declined.

"You're afraid?" I guessed.

"Oh no. Bukan takut (not afraid). Malas aja. Basically, don't care.

She went on to tell me that a German man would hire her for more money anyway.

Sigh. Oh well.

Louis told me about this attitude from the outset. I never listen :)

Live and learn.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This morning, while coming back to Biaung from Denpasar, I saw a beautiful horse on the Bypass. The horse, with rider, was strolling down the outer lane beside the center divider. There are a lot of strange sights in Bali, but horses are not generally among them. In fact, I've rarely seen a horse here -- just a couple of times on the beach. I reckon that this horse (not to mention its rider) had nerves of steel. Bad enough for a car or a motorbike (which have no feelings or fears) to negotiate the madness of the Bypass, let alone a horse. And yet the horse proceeded apparently without fear, majestic and stately above the buzzing of the motorbikes -- unperturbed, disinterested, serene. It was a beautiful sight, in its own way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shadow Summit

Recently, I was contacted by a publicity agent who wondered if I would read a memoir, in digital galleys, by Jon Chandonnet. Shadow Summit, Making Peace and Prospering with MS, is Mr. Chandonnet's personal story of diagnosis, struggle and transformation.

The author takes us on the journey from his first symptoms and diagnosis through the various stratagems he used in dealing with the disease over the ensuing years -- from a first response of denial, to the medical regimens, a fixation on diet, mind and spirit exercises, "sun gazing", and so on.

This is a man who had done everything with particular devotion and energy even before his diagnosis. A graduate of MIT, the quintessential 'young man with a bright future', Chadonnet soon finds himself battling MS shotgun style, having a certain sense, as I suspect, that a disease with a wide range of possible causes and treatments demanded a wide-ranged, inclusive approach.

Through a single-minded, seemingly tireless employment of various methods, Chadonnet sought to  swallow the beast in small bites, through intense exercise, painful endurance, Spartan diet, rigorous mind and emotion training, philosophical awareness -- you name it.

Personally, I tend to be rather the opposite. The less, the better, one might say. Both  I and this author have made significant recovery from a handful of significant early damages. Whether Mr. Chadonnet's modalities or more or less efficacious than mine, one cannot really say. It is, in my mind, a matter of the whim of MS. Yet, no matter what you do, you must do it in the belief that you have adopted the best course, whether that be exercise, diet, meditation, life-style change or what have you. The author of this book set out to take the victory away from MS, to hold it at bay, and he has certainly done so. More power to him.

In the final analysis, this is a well written, deeply felt book that will be educative, inspirational and thought  provoking for any reader, and especially for those with MS. We all have different stories, but, on some level, they are all the same.

I recommend it as both informative and entertaining.

22 Shots

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail from someone familiar with this blog. She wanted to share 22 short films made by a sister who has MS. Despite the painfully slow internet in Indonesia, I watched these 22 films clips and was impressed by their artfulness and by the aggregate of feeling conveyed. The films are centered around 'Eve''s first 22 injections of interferon and will ring a number of bells for anyone who has found himself suddenly undergoing this process. Although I no longer take injections, I certainly remember it well, and I appreciated the keen-minded, soul searching distillation contained in these short compositions of image and word. I therefore, with permission, pass on the link.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


In a rare feat of sheer genius, I managed to post my new badge on my blog (Healthline Top MS Blogs). Let me be the first to congratulate myself.

So, I suppose, in view of the august occasion (and because it is the month of August as well), I should actually write something.


Well, I note that in today's edition of The Jakarta Post, a recent survey showed that Indonesians are overall favorable in their attitude toward America; this, in spite of the generally unfavorable attitude of the Indonesian government and higher powers that be. This is not surprising. In fact, the lion's share of Indonesians are moderate, only marginally 'religious' (in terms of the extremist Muslim tripe regularly tossed at their heads by Ulema, the Islamic Defenders Front/FPI, and such-like), and have a general desire to progress from backward rule and small ideas to a greater inclusion in the pace of life and the modern character of culture.

Just days ago, a certain portion of the South Jakarta populace had their panties twisted in a knot by the appointment of a Christian woman (Ye Gads!) to a district position in local government. Straightaway, they trumped out a petition demanding the dismissal of the woman, on the grounds that she could not possibly lead or be effective in a Muslim culture (proving, thereby, that they themselves could not lead nor be effective in the same). Well, happily, there was a backlash from the thoughtful folk of the neighborhood, and the demand for dismissal was itself dismissed.

Good on ya, Jakartans!

Do Indonesians like the American government, or policies, or drone strikes, or foreign interventions? No, not really. What they like is simply the idea of America - the land of the free, the home of the brave, the myth of riches and equal opportunity, the sheer power, the tall people, the SUVs and the ovens and refrigerators and laptops, the rap music, instant stardom, endless glitter - Wall Street, Hollywood, New York City and the Statue of Liberty. Liberty, yes, that's what they like. The guaranteed rights, the confidence, the swagger, the fearless will against rule and oppression. They play the music, parrot the words (for the point is tone and delivery, not meaning), and they admire the luminaries who have risen above anyone's say-so or judgment. They are all Americans, in heart, in hope.

I have a yellow shirt with blue letters that read American on the front. And you would think I was a shapely woman in a miniskirt. It catches most every eye, and often inspires a comment, if only a word. It must be spoken.

"American", they say, as I pass. And in this, some seminal, some essential meaning is shared.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Way of St. James

I learned just yesterday that my second wife will soon be departing from the US to France to follow the 'Way of St. James'. This 'pilgrimage', featured in a recent movie with Martin Sheen, involves a  480 mile trek from the northwest corner of France to the northwest corner of Spain. A good way to lose weight, at the very least.

She seems to have been very sad and confused ever since our divorce, and has harbored a lot of bitterness and anger. I hope this experience will do her good. I think that it will, as long as she commits to walking with her soul rather than just her feet.

For the last nine years, I have tried to maintain a relationship with her, often visiting while still in America, and then often writing to her since I've been in Bali, but it has been difficult, sometimes impossible. She has more and more invented her own version of the story of our divorce wherein she plays the heroine who has been betrayed and misused. For her, the story of our troubles begins from the day we separated; for me, it began a year before. She will not remember now how often I tried to talk to her during that last year, how many times I warned her about the hole she was digging for us, how many times I asked her why she was doing this. It all fell on deaf ears at the time. Only after the end finally came did she want to undo it. But, of course, you can't undo what has already been done.

It's a sad story, really, which should not have happened. But in this world there are many things that happen when they should not.

So I hope that she can arrive, at the least, at some sort of philosophical peace. You cannot make perfect or proper what is neither perfect nor proper. You cannot right a wrong. All you can do is accept it, integrate it, and move on, though you carry it always in your heart. There is more to come. The story does not end with the end of an imperfect world.

Good luck, Georgia. God bless you.