Monday, September 26, 2022

They Smile, Therefore I Exist

 I think that I will never be anything other than astounded by the friendliness of people here in Indonesia. I'm walking on the beach this morning and pass a group of teenage males hobnobbing at the side of the path. In America, if my own 55 years of experience is any measure, these boys will say nothing at all, nor even acknowledge an adult passing by. Here I am met by big smiles all around. "Hi, Mister! Hello, Sir!" How very odd, and at the same time how very pleasant this is. 

Again, in the evening, I am headed down to Sanur. I pause on the road to let a large truck pass. There are four men riding atop the cab of the truck. (Not in the cab, atop the cab--which is not something one will see in America either). Again, four toothy smiles, a waving of hands, a chorus of greetings. I suspect that in America this would seem way too "gay" for grown men. But how wonderful it is to see it! 

You cannot pass the people here, on a walkway, on the beach, in a grocery store, wherever, without being acknowledged--and there is something self-affirming in this alone, isn't there? Not only do I exist, but my existence seems to be a pleasant thing, judging by the simple warmth of the smiles. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Never Mind

 I'm really not doing well with keeping up with entries here in the blog, am I. It's not that nothing ever happens. In fact, often I will intend to write something, but then I get interrupted, or merely lazy, or there's something more interesting to watch on Netflix. Thoughts will come to mind, I will be ruminating over them, intending to put them in some kind of order and write them down here, but then they fade away, become superfluous. When you think about it, what isn't superfluous, right? 

I guess one thing that's changed is that I used to have a regular schedule of taking my laptop to Starbucks and just making a habit of writing every day (or nearly every day). But at last, I just decided that Starbucks every day is too expensive when a much cheaper, and actually much better cup of coffee can be had in Sanur at one little cafe or another. 

Another thing that's changed is simply that the typing position now is painful for my neck and shoulders, which indeed I am experiencing as I type this. So that's a bummer. 

Regarding that, btw, I finally went to the doctor (had to because he said he would prescribe again until I did. 

... Well, never mind. I just realized I've already written about this. Lol. 

Perhaps there is nothing to write about after all. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Pain Persists

 The back pain I mentioned three days ago is still alive and well, much to my displeasure. I guess back strains take some time to get better. I think I figured out though how this happened in the first place. I remember now that after the doctor told me about the muscle atrophy in my right arm, I came home and was looking on the internet at exercises that might help this condition. I ended up inventing my own exercise, which was to lean forward at a slant, place my hands on a low tabletop, and push myself up. Like pushups, only when standing. This was apparently an ill-advised exercise, as it was after this that I developed the back pain. 

Well, live and learn. And pay for it with pain. I got something for pain from the doctor, called Tramadol, but this is not helpful at all. Might as well be swallowing Tic-Tac. There are no strong meds here, such as Vicodin, because narcotics are against the law. So you're pretty much up shit creek as far as pain management goes. I did buy some methylprednisolone, which is supposed to help with inflammation, but other than that all I have is Panadol, which is the Indonesian version of aspirin. 

I'm not very much of a happy camper this week. It's always something, ain't it? Especially as one gets older. Can't even walk around the house without spraining your back. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Usual Adventure

 As I've mentioned previously, the last time I got my usual prescription from the neurologist I was told that next time around I would need to make an appointment with him since it had been quite some time since we'd last met. Well, that time came around, the day before yesterday.

My visit with the doctor was interesting, although a bit disheartening. As the reader may recall, I have often complained about the daily pain I have in my neck and shoulder, sometimes extending to the midback. I've never been quite sure what this pain is, but I have noticed that it has gotten generally worse over the last six years (to the best of my recollection, I experienced the onset of these symptoms some six years ago). 

Finding out what has caused this pain is one of those things that are at once a relief and a new stressor. The doctor told me with no hesitation whatsoever, after of course hearing my story and conducting an examination, that this is muscle atrophy from nerve pathways that have been damaged or destroyed in the neck and shoulder--otherwise known as muscle wasting. 

"You may have noticed that your right arm is thinner than your left arm," he said, "particularly the upper arm and shoulder, and that your right hand doesn't function well."

Well yeah, as a matter of fact I had, but I didn't want to think about it. 

"Okay, now I know what it is. What do I do about it?"

I am told that there is nothing that can be done. The muscles are no longer receiving effective messages from the brain, or rather the messages sent from the brain are falling off a cliff midway to the arm.

It's short and sweet. There remains only the matter of paying the bill. 

As I wait in a chair near the cashier's desk, I notice that this is all taking a long time. Then I realize that I've forgotten to tell the doctor that I want the written prescription so that I can take it somewhere, anywhere, other than the hospital, for I had been warned in the past that their prices are far more expensive than those in a little pharmacy. 

Before I can think of how I might remedy this situation, the cashier calls me to her desk. Thoughtfully, as it turns out, they want to inform me of the price before filling the prescription (thoughtful in the self-interested sense that they want to make sure they will receive payment before the med is actually prepared).


The nurse shows me a figure of just over 3 million rupiah. My usual price in the alternative pharmacy is 1.3 million. 

But I am aware that the doctor has written for two medications--the usual med and an added pain med. 

From here some confusion ensues. 

"Three million, you say? How much is each medication?"

"Three million." 

"No, there are two, right? What is the price of the one and of the other?" 

"Three million." 

Good grief. 

"No, no, no. Look, for just the first one, how much?"

"I will have to check." 

"Check what?"

"How much for one month." (The doctor kindly gives me three months at a time, you see). 

Well, this is going nowhere, so I give up. I tell the woman that her price, or rather the hospital's price, is nearly twice that at the nearby pharmacy.

She doesn't seem to understand this either. Not that she cares. Why would she? 

The next, I am off to the blood testing center. The doctor appears to have marked every possible box on the lab request sheet, and to have this done at the hospital would cost--you guessed it--3 million. (They seem to be quite fond of that number). I'm banking on that amount being less at the independent testing center, and indeed it proves to be less, 500.000 less. 

This was to be a fasting blood test, so I had last eaten at 8 o'clock the night before. I got up early, straightaway showered, had a smoke, got dressed, and was on my way to the testing center. Surprisingly, the whole thing went quite smoothly. Didn't have to wait. Just in and out (after about a half dozen tubes of blood were taken, that is) and on my way home, although it would be necessary for me to eat and then return a couple hours after eating for another blood glucose draw.

But for some reason, when I got back home from the first trip, I experienced a sudden pain in my lower back--the sort of pain that keeps you from standing up straight, you know. What in the world had I done? I could think of nothing. God forbid that this is muscle atrophy in the lower back as well! 

Nah, it can't be. That sort of this takes a while to develop, right? 

In any event, whatever it is, it is still present this night as I write this down here. Hopefully a good night's sleep will have a curative effect. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

the end

every day I have remaining

starts and ends with anticipation

the wasted days


one step closer

to the final breaths that stand in our way


is no longer a friend to me

you did not know

you do not know

that heaven

already gnaws at my bones

and eats the days

and makes them small

all is over before it's begun

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Becoming Another Person

 Learning another language is like becoming another person.

     Haruki Murakami

I came across this quote the other day tucked somewhere into my daily scrollings and I found it interesting, for while Murakami has exaggerated somewhat (in my humble opinion), there is an essential truth to the statement. One must not only learn the mechanics of the unfamiliar language but employ them comfortably despite the rebellion in his mind. This is not the way we speak, the mind objects. The words you have employed here are a mere shadow, a suggestion, a hint of what was intended.

When we speak of the world in a foreign tongue, the world itself is altered. We struggle to communicate in the foreign tongue while suppressing our sureness of the way things are supposed to be said. We struggle not only with the plain words but with the plainly absurd manner with which these words are spoken. We put on an accent because we have to, because otherwise the words will not be recognizable to the foreign (or rather the native) ear. And so we become someone else, or at least a playactor for the time being, playing someone we are not. 

And if the language is Indonesian, as it is with my struggle, we are leaving out articles, verb tenses, even the verbs themselves! 

A simple example: I am going to the library, in English, becomes Saya ke perpustakaan in Indonesian--literally, I to library.

I object! says the mind. Why you dolt, you have left out the two verbs and an article!

The brevity of Indonesian, the vagueness, the--what's the word?--clunkiness offends. There are far too few words on my tongue! What happened to the verb, To be (I am)? What happened to the verb used to express movement, I am going?  And when, by the way, did this trip to the library take place? Is it something you've already done (I went to the library), or something you are currently doing (I am going to the library), or something you only intend to do (I will go to the library? We are not told. We are told only I to library.

Now, in general Indonesian relies on context and on assumption. You see a person walking back toward home with a little stack of books beneath his arm, and therefore presume that Saya ke perpustakaan means I went to the library (past tense). Where specificity is required, the language employs a prefix: Saya sudah ke perpustakaan (I went to library already, Saya sedang ke perpustakaan (I am going right now to the library), Saya akan ke perpustakaan (I will go to the library sometime in the future). 

Ah, but do you want more work for your tongue? Take the word for emergency--darurat. Try that on for size. The English tongue does not make this word, right? 

How about this one: ketidaksempurnaan. Imperfection. (It's imperfect, all right). Here, Indonesian has employed a prefix (ke), a negation (tidak), and a suffix (an) to make the base word perfect into the noun imperfection. This is at least similar to the English adjustments made to a base word, but it still seems clunky, somehow artificial. Of course, it is not at all artificial to the person you must become, only to the person you are.

Having (not at all) mastered all this, one is then confronted with that language which common Indonesian people commonly employ, known as bahasa gaul, or nonformal Indonesian. And you will never hear the word ketidaksempurnaan again. We never say that, one will be told, with an added chuckle. We don't talk like that in everyday life  

Hmm. All righty then. Time to become yet another person altogether!