Indonesia: Last email

28th Oct:


This is my last email from Indonesia. I have two weeks left and hopefully I will be spending them away from the computer and the internet, of which I have been saturated with lately!

My latest and most exciting news is that I have had my first tropical disease! After my exciting adventure with my first parasitic worm for two months (that's how long it took me to realise that the growing itchy trails on my skin were actually a microscopic worm happily progressing in life by eating away at my flesh), an experience which I had looked forward to ever since taking a parasitology course in third year, I have contracted my first mosquito-borne virus: Dengue Fever. 

It sounds like something out of a colonial account of life in the East Indies, and it's shit. As the name suggests, Dengue gives you fever, and makes you feel like you've been run over by several trucks. It's not fatal but the severity varies between different people according to the strain and your immune system. My illness started suddenly, while I was on an expedition in the forest. I woke up on the first day and couldn't get out of my rice sack. Back in town, on the morning of the expedition, we had left behind one of our expedition members, the lovely man that I call Boydie. He looked like shit the morning of the expedition, with really high fever and blood-shot eyes. I was really worried about him and as I got worse I was really anxious to hear how he was doing and what he had gotten ill with.

Being in the forest felt really claustrophobic, because all I could see from under my mosquito net in my brain-frying, eye-poppingly painful headache and muscle-aching, bone-aching, hot-cold sweating state was: Trees. Tall and beautiful trees to the left, tall and beautiful trees to the right, in front, above and all around. I knew that if I had to see a doctor, I would have to walk back 12 kilometres through the dreaded peat-swamp and its treacherous wet logs and muddy holes and sticky-out roots. 

At the end of the first day, I managed to drag myself to the water-hole used as a bathing place to dip my head in the peaty water, in hope of some relief. A frog leaped past me and a bat kept swooshing around me in the darkness, which made me smile among my steaming tears. 

To my surprise, I managed to walk back to camp the next day, with the help of the amazing Indonesian guys and the encouragement of the remaining of our team, of which one suffered severe chaffage and the other was exhausted from having to do everything because the rest of his team currently sucked.

To cut a long story short, after a week in bed with nausea and a tremendous disgust of everything allegedly edible, several blood tests- a few days in an amazing hospital in Jakarta- a whole series of America's Next Top Model- a few episodes of Oprah-a night in a business suite courtesy of the insurance company and a fateful meeting with a plate of spaghetti bolognaise-later, I have emerged, Dengue-immune, several kilos lighter and happy as ever. 

(Unfortunately the kilos are piling back on as we speak, as my appetite has reinstated itself with a vengeance)

All 5 of us infected with it are all healthy and happy now, including the lovely Nicky-Long-Lashes-Boydie. Basically we have waged war against the mozzies by putting wire mesh over all the windows in the house, carrying with us mosquito repellent at all times and equipping the house with litres of stinky deathly spray. Sometimes I think everyone has gone crazy because I see them running after invisible things in the house with a spray can or hitting the walls or the furniture or themselves and then either being very angry or very happy about it. The mozzie blitz seems to be working though and no one else has gotten the Fever since.

Anyway, I was planning on travelling after my contract ended in 15 days, but DengueRama made me really miss my family and my friends and fresh salads and freshly poured pints of beer, so I guess I'll be heading home, even if home is Cyprus (which none of the Indonesians I have ever met- at work, in my travels, in corridors, in buses, on the mountains, at the sea, in the hospital, in taxis or anywhere- know of or could care less about, and which kind of puts things in perspective (OK apart from Alfie, the crazy pastor who thought Cyprus was the birthplace of Jesus)).

Maybe Oprah played a part but lying in my bed in Palangkaraya or in that hospital room in Jakarta by myself made me realise yet again how much I depend on my family and my friends and how lucky I am to have all of you in my life. Without you I would be completely lost, like a single foreign girl on foot among the buzzing traffic and back alleys of Jakarta or the sprawling rooty jungles of Borneo! All the texts, phonecalls, skype calls, facebook chats (and even chocolate that came through the post from Edinburgh!) were devoured like paracetamol all these days! :)

I know Indonesia is a place one can't stay away from for long and even with all its rubbish, corruption, power-struggles, pollution, poor infrastructure, deep divide between rich and poor, greasy fried food, cutting-down of the rainforest, tropical diseases and drunk Australians, it is still a rich, beautiful country with beautiful, friendly and funny people and one that I will be coming back to for sure. The coral reef wonders, volcanoes, temples, beaches and animals will have to wait for my next escape from my predictable, structured and cosy warm-fuzz-pajamas-and-hot-chocolate-under-the-duvet-no-malaria-world.

Love and miss you all.

Lilia xxxx


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