partu, continued

  him: ?
  me: mother came in
  from like
  30 minutes away
  waddled in
  with our help
  we checked her out
  baby was still 5cm away
  so we were like
  k nap time
  i pass out
  for TWO HOURS LOL
  wake up
  mother is moaning and groaning
  him: 5cm away roflrofl
  me: we suit up
  then
  it becomes apparent
  she’s wicked exhausted
  and not feeling it
  she’s 34
  this is her fourth baby
  the dad is like
  nope
  not going in there
  rofl
  so her mother
  who’s like
  in her sixties
  is the one who helps her slightly
  however she still pushes
  pretty weakly
  and it takes
  forever
  eventually
  baby crowns
  pretty blue
  adorable child though
  very pretty eyes
  we have to suction him though
  because he decided to get a face full of blood
  oops
  but yeah
  dressed him up all nice
  antibiotic’d his eyes
  nurse gave the mom a nice shot of oxytocin
  bam bam
  thank you ma’am
  *wham bam
  breastfed normally
  i scrubbed down
  and now it’s 4am
  huzzah.
  him: dayum.
  me: well maternity is
  special
  lulz
  sometimes you show up
  a baby comes at 8pm
  you can sleep soundly
  sometimes
  like my friend
  you go in
  wake up
  and the damn baby
  has slid out
  of the mom
  in the bed
  because it’s her tenth child
  and i’ll be damned if that tissue
  isn’t as new as it used to be
  rofl
  him:  brrrrr
  me: lul
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partu

“Let the dad do it. You know, bonding and stuff.”

I looked up at her and nodded—tiny pink mitten in one hand, the baby’s left arm in the other.

“Right, right. Sure. Okay, baby. Bye-bye, baby.”

I turned around slowly, motioning silently for the dad to come over. He was still at the side of the delivery table, clutching his wife’s hand. He looked unsure. I would be unsure too. After all, this was a real, living, breathing baby. Technically their third, but the only one alive. A sudden death at age 2; a miscarriage; and today. Today was going to be different. Today, they were going to start doing everything right: exclusive breastfeeding, immunizations, regular checkups.

___

She was so beautiful. Her big, watery eyes shined up at us like stars. The midwife had instructed me to dress the baby instead.

I fussed around with the baby’s clothes. I buttoned up her blouse wrong; it took forever to get the chloramphenicol dabbed into her eyes; one of her booties kept falling off. But still, somehow, she was remarkably peaceful the entire time. Grasping at my fingers with a strong, healthy grip; cooing softly at me from beneath the incubator. She was only minutes old, too. Minutes.

___

We were both washing our hands thoroughly at the sink. The blood that had splashed onto the floor during the mother’s afterbirth had been mopped up, and the midwives were cleaning the rest of the room. This was my third delivery, but she had seen at least five. And we had both witnessed twins—premature, fragile, heart-breaking twins. One of hers had lived though, fighting for life, stubbornly gaining 25g each day. So she too remained stubborn, monitoring the baby and the mother all day and night. She slept at the clinic more than she did at home. She would be a fantastic doctor one day.

___

“Look at the dad,” she said. She poked me lightly in the ribs. The midwives had instructed the father to wash his hands, then finally let him approach the incubator. He was standing there silently, beaming from ear to ear. The joy was infectious.

“He’s so damn happy right now,” she giggled. “He’s just so, so happy.”

Cristo Rei

The Cristo Rei statue is…kind of huge. In terms of height, it’s second only to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He stands atop a huge metal globe. Kind of a weird interpretation of “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” lawl.

The view as you walk towards Cristo Rei

A family was herding their goats on the hill that morning. Iha bibi barak, yo.

The family looking on at Bidau

The view from Jesus’ backside.

The road to Cristo Rei

Towards Arturo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

173

On House, M.D., there was a character named Wilson. He was an oncologist.

I remember an episode from season one. It was the season finale, or at least pretty darn close to the end. The episode is called “Three Stories.”

There’s a scene where House is standing at the front of a lecture hall, twirling his cane. He’s addressing a room full of med students. They must be in their first or second year, since in the U.S., I’m told that you don’t start seeing patients until your third year. House is talking about an patient of his. The patient is dying.
___

“I have a friend. He’s an oncologist. He’s so good at his job, that when he tells a patient that they’re dying, they thank him. Can you believe that? They say “thank you” when he tells them that they’re gonna die. “I’m sorry, but we’ve done everything we can. You’re going to die.’”

I can’t help but think of Wilson. What’s it like, to tell someone they’re going to die? What’s it like to carry that weight—the burden of someone’s life? What’s it like, knowing that you did everything you could, but still, somehow, some way, no matter how hard you tried, you failed them? That you were somehow complicit, responsible, guilty? Do you remember the name? The room where you broke the news? Do you remember their face? Do you remember the look in their eyes, when you told them that the end was coming, and that there was nothing they could do about it?
___

It’s her first day at the clinic. Well, technically, she flew in from Bali yesterday, but this is her first full day. Her orientation, in more ways than one.

I don’t remember how my morning routine when that morning. I think I said good morning—drank some freshly brewed Timorese coffee, ate a roll smeared with jelly; maybe Senora made eggs that morning. I remember waking up at 6:59AM to my cell phone alarm. I remember actually hopping out of bed instead of just rolling over and going back to sleep like I do most mornings. I remember us walking—my roommate, me, and the new girl—we walked the thirty minutes to the clinic.
___

She was clearly exhausted from the chaos of adjusting to a new environment. We all were, in some small way. Some of us were just more used to the chaos than others. But through the layers of exhaustion and jetlag, I glimpsed excitement. It was there, and it was real: she was excited for her first full day here. She was excited for 8AM rounds, for meeting all the patients—for real, authentic, hands-on clinical experience. Nothing like med school, no sir. This was Timor. It was real.

When we walked through the gates of Bairo Pite Clinic thirty minutes later, our smiles were huge. It was only 8AM, and I already had sweat dripping down my back, but the new girl’s excitement was infectious. “Bon dia,” we chirped. “Diak ka lae?” Our smiles faltered when a nurse ran up to us. “Douter?” she asked. She was wearing a face mask. But it was 8AM. Who wears a face mask at 8AM? Even the grounds crew doesn’t put on their face masks until around 9AM, and that’s for sweeping the TB wards. How odd a greeting—a nurse in a respirator mask.

We followed the nurse to general wards. To the isolation room off on the right—bed number one. I think that’s what the bed is numbered. Bed One. Right next to the nursing station. I know who’s there. My roommate knows who’s there. The new girl doesn’t. She’s barely spent an hour on the clinic grounds yet. What kind of welcome is this? It’s not even fair.
___

His vitals. He’s not breathing right. It’s not chain-stoking, it’s different. It’s like he’s breathing in slow motion. His eyes are open. There’s a breathing tube in his nose. I haven’t seen him in two days. I should have checked on him yesterday. I didn’t know he was this bad. Nobody knew he was this bad..

She’s freaking out. She takes his vitals, stares at the machine. She’s not tapping her feet or wringing her hands, but her eyes are wide. There are still bags under her eyes. She’s weary from traveling. And now this. Her first day at the clinic, and the very first minute, she’s greeted with this.

There are no doctors around. Just a few worried nurses. The nurse who called us over is standing in the doorway, unsure of what to do. I’m just an undergrad, damn it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what the numbers on the machine mean. My roommate is a year younger than me. We don’t even have stethoscopes hanging around our necks.

Her eyes are frantic. They dart around the room, searching for answers. She’s the fourth year med student, after all. She’s supposed to know what she’s doing.

“Should I call Dr. Dan? I’ll call Dr. Dan.” He’ll know what to do. He’s been here for so long. But before I can even unlock my phone, he’s at the door. He must have been standing outside of Maternity, waiting to start rounds. I wonder who called him over. He says hello, but his face is grim. I plaster myself against the wall, trying to stay out of his way. He takes the patient’s vitals with his stethoscope. He ignores the machine. He shakes his head. The patient’s family speaks English. They hear what Dr. Dan is saying. They understand what he’s saying, but they don’t get it. Nobody gets it, it’s happening too fast. It can’t even be a quarter past eight.
___

“No, no, no. I don’t understand. He was fine ten minutes ago.”

He’s gesturing wildly, stabbing the air with his finger.

“No, look, I took a nap. It was 7AM, and I just woke up ten minutes ago. You know, to feed him some more rice, to make him eat. And then suddenly, suddenly, this! He is breathing, breathing like this. Like this. Like this.”

He mimics his brother’s pained raspy breathing. “It jumped to 173! Wh-what is this mean?”

Dr. Dan shakes his head. He says something to him—something in English. I don’t remember what he said. I just remember pieces. I remember, “I’m sorry.”

The brother is almost shouting now—shouting at no one in particular. He’s shouting at Dr. Dan, shouting at his comatose brother. “He was fine yesterday! Talking, eating, all fine!”

“I’m sorry. I have to get back to rounds. Max, would you stay with them?” Suddenly, I’m not useless.
___

It’s always hot in the general wards. The brother and his brother in law brought a fan in, but it doesn’t help much. Four people are crammed in there, but I’m the one who’s supposed to know what’s going on.. It’s only been a week since the twins; I can’t do this again. His eyes are open, staring at the ceiling. He’s staring at the ceiling fan, asking it to start working again. The awful, raspy breathing has stopped. His heart beat is still at sixty, but in a few minutes, it’ll be at forty. Then twenty. Then nothing. Soon his heart will stop beating. There’s no oxygen going into his lungs. We can do nothing.
___

I wish I had a stethoscope. The machine still says 173; 173 over something. It beeps every twenty seconds. I don’t know what it means.

Please, please stop looking at me. I’m sorry, I don’t know. There’s no air going on. No, it’s not. Yes, he might have a very faint heartbeat, but it’s going to stop soon. The blood that is bleeding into his brain, it’s stopped his breathing. His lungs no longer work. His heart will stop pumping blood to the rest of his body soon.

I’m speaking to them slowly. I always speak too fast. I always mumble. Everyone says my English is too confusing, too American, too low. I’m speaking deliberately. The two men standing in front of me, they speak excellent English. They both went to university. I spent an hour talking with them last week on their first day here. They flew two thousand miles to be here. They really care a lot about him.

They were worried. They got a phone call, and that was it. They were told, “he’s not well. He is very sick.” And just like that, they flew over. Jobs on the line, lives on hold. All the way here, just for this. They bought him a plane ticket home, for crying out loud. For July 3rd. We thought he’d be better by then. We thought he was faking the numbness. I mean, he was ashamed. I would be ashamed too. But no, you can’t fake some things. You can’t fake bleeding in the brain. He can’t be 30,000 up in the air, he’ll die. Come on, guys, please be reasonable. We don’t know if he’ll be ready by July 3rd, we just have to wait and see.

The machine still reads 173. Why doesn’t the mute button work? It says “SOUND: OFF” in bright green letters. I check for a pulse on his wrist. Of course I can’t feel anything. But I don’t know for sure. I don’t know anything. I’m as useless as this damned machine.

He starts crying. I don’t know what to say. His brother is dying, and he’s thousands of miles from home. He seemed so determined when I first met him. He’s short, and walks with a blustery air about him. I remember the first time I met him on rounds. He spoke confidently; matter of factly. They sat in the office with me, and I explained what little I knew. It was an idle Sunday, and I was confident too. I remember that I was confident that he would make the July 3rd flight.

He’s starts sobbing. Wailing, into both of his hands. He seems so broken, so defeated. How do I even begin to empathize? His brother in law walks over, and stands there beside him. He places a hand on one shoulder, and stares off into the distance. His eyes are dry, and his mouth is thin. Unlike his brother in law, he’s tall and thin. He hasn’t said a word; he hasn’t made a noise in ages. I ask him if he wants some time alone with his family. He nods.
___

I feel like a doorman. A security guard. A guard dog. I pace back and forth in the lobby outside the nursing station. There’s a candle and a statue of Mother Mary just next to me. There’s bright sunlight streaming in through the open doorway. And behind me, there’s wailing, crying, sobbing. He’s speaking in a language that I don’t understand.

Patients and their families drift by me. A little girl looks cautiously at me. She can tell something is wrong. I wonder if she thinks that I look sad because of her. I hope she doesn’t think that. She hasn’t done anything wrong.

I try to smile back at her. She usually smiles back. She has the cutest damn smile when she smiles. Please smile. Please don’t be afraid of me. Please don’t be afraid. I know you don’t understand, and I know you can’t hear me, but please don’t be afraid.
___

One of the second year med students walks slowly towards me. I nod silently to him. He has a stethoscope. He always has one around his neck. He’s been here for almost two months. He knocks on the door, and we enter the room together. The brother has stopped crying.

He asks us to tell him what is wrong with his brother. He’s still in denial, asking questions we’ve already answered. The second year med student checks for a heartbeat. He checks his chest. He shakes his head.
“I’m sorry. He’s gone.”

A nurse comes in to take away the machine. To pull out the breathing tube. To take out the IV. Blood still comes out. There’s still blood in his veins. We close his eyelids. He stopped blinking long ago. The brother wants a picture. He wants a picture for their family. We help him sit the patient up, and his back is still warm. It’s hot and sticky. The bed is drenched in sweat. A gasp of air escapes his throat. His head lolls to the side. It makes me jump a little. I hope they didn’t see me jump. I feel bad that I jumped. We clean him up a little, wipe the blood off his arm. We clean the sweat off his brow. We straighten up his pillow, and sit him good and proper.
___

I pass by him an hour later. The brother is sitting outside the general ward. Around him mill his late brother’s friends. They’re talking to his brother in law. They’re sorting out the proceedings.

“A box to put him in?” they say. “A place to bury him?” they ask. The brother just sits there on the bench. He’s not asking any questions. He’s just gazing out into the distance.

His eyes are dry now, and he doesn’t say a word when I walk by him. He has that vacant, far-off look in his eyes.
___

I wonder if it gets easier. I wonder if it gets better. Because right now, I’m just so tired. It was so, so difficult, and I didn’t even do anything. I couldn’t do ANYTHING. I just stood there. Silent. With the easiest job in the world.

cockfighting

WARNING: this post will not be a happy, cutesy little piece about kittens and sunshines and rainbows. it will be about timorese cockfighting. now, cockfighting is a
very bloody, very messed up, very real thing. i do not in any way condone it. if the idea of cockfighting bothers or offends you in any way, i recommend you stop reading right here. it’s not gonna be pretty.

you’ve been warned.

__________________________________

literally hundreds of timorese, filipino, and chinese men (only a handful of representatives from the latter two countries). mostly holding $1 bills and yelling excitedly. the “ring” is a 20’x20′ raised platform made of concrete, covered in dirt. it’s surrounded by 2′ high chicken wire & wood fences (high enough to keep the chickens in, but low enough so that people can toss balled up $20 bills into the ring from the sidelines). the ring is surrounded by narrow wooden “bleachers” that men stand on. if you’re a malae like me, you can ask to stand in the “box seats”–the staging area that prospective cockfighters queue up in with their chickens. all you have to do is say, “bele foto?” and they’ll nod excitedly at you…

“it’s pretty easy to find it. just exit the clinic, then turn left…go straight, then turn left again. it’s on your left. look for a ton of motorbikes, roosters crowing, dead chickens, and a bunch of timorese men.”

i’m not sure how much exactly it costs to enter a chicken, but it’s more than $100 for a chicken, an agent, and the entry fee. by the way, that thing on the chicken’s foot? that’s a blade. it’s a special thing they do in timor. i’ll get to that later.

there’s a lot of money in cockfighting. like, A LOT OF MONEY. this guy was one of the “refs” from what i could tell. he took the entry money from owners.

the owners have their chickens peck each other to piss them off real good. sometimes the owners let them peck the sides of each other’s necks. then they unsheath the blades, kiss their chickens good luck, and let them loose.

i actually didn’t mean for that wad of money to be in the photo. oops.

at many points in a typical fight, chickens will stare each other down, assuming this position. it reminds me of boxers sizing each other up, probing with one glove. boxers with knives attached to their fists.

the owners get really into it too. some of the “veteran” cockfighters seem to be friends with one another, and will laugh and joke with each other as their chickens murder the crap out of one another. at one point in one fight, when one chicken’s intestines were hanging out from its body from a wound, its owner turned to his opponent and jokingly poked the other owner’s butt. they both laughed. it was pretty messed up.

i’ve never seen chickens this angry. like, it’s palpable, the fierce fighting instincts raised in these cockfights.

it gets pretty gnarly.

yes, that’s blood. yes, that’s a 2″ knife tied to the chicken’s left foot yes, it’s dead.

this guy’s chicken won, as you can probably tell from the wad of $20 bills in his hand. the colorful sheath is for the huge blade thing they tie to the chicken’s left foot. every chicken that fights has one. it’s used as a stabbing and cutting implement, though i’m not sure how the heck you train a chicken to stab another chicken. i saw an agent with a display box of them. like, the kind of box you display fine cuban cigars in. in bali, and as far as i know, in the rest of the world, chickens aren’t given blades to fight with. just in timor.
uhhh….yeah……
also, i’m pretty sure this owner painted his left pinky nail orange .____.

i think his chicken won. “good job,” the guy patting his back seems to be saying.

i have no idea what this kid was doing here. that chicken was tied to the post. they start ’em young, i guess.

malice

the view from ground level behind “the box seats”

the fauna of bairo pite clinic: kittens

Stray animals are everywhere in Timor. EVERYWHERE. You have wild dogs roaming the streets–some with clearly infected reproductive organs, others lying absentmindedly in the middle of the road; you have giant pigs and little piglets romping in the trash piles, looking for scraps to eat; and at the Bairo Pite Clinic, you have kittens. A couple of larger full-grown cats, but mostly just little bitty kittens.

Most of the kittens have messed-up, partially severed tails. Le sad. A couple of them have gimp legs too. Le even sadder. HOWEVER, they get their fill eating scraps from outside the kitchen, so it’s not a terrible life for them I suppose. I wouldn’t try to adopt one of these little guys, though. They’re a bit high-strung.

Also, fun-but-actually-frustrating-fact: the only lens I brought with my 7D is my 28mm f/1.8, so I was forced to inch slowly and carefully towards the kittens to take pictures of them. Oh, how I miss my 85mm f/1.8….

o hai dere, kitteh.

whachu doin’ under dat dere bush?

y u so shy?

om nom free foodz yush plz

oh noes, i iz teh caught red-handed

secret kitteh spies watching from underneath a building’s foundation

RAWR, ATTACK!

okay i’ll be docile now

…because he’s the kitten bairo pite deserves…but not the one it needs right now…a silent guardian….a watchful protector…