sick in surabaya (part 1)

Posted by anya on April 28th, 2010 filed in Uncategorized

written on April 21st, 2010

Oddly enough, the thing I wish I had brought is a camera. I wish I could show you the florescent lights above my head, the coral and grey color scheme that seems to envelop everything, the way the nurses look, covered by headscarves, the IV drip that’s fused to my palm, and the way the food looks when it’s brought in, all cling wrap and plastic. It’s a weird thing, being hospitalized for my first time in Surabaya. Being told, for the first time, that I’m too weak to walk or even be in a wheelchair and having the nurses wheel me to my room in a stretcher. For more reasons than one, I feel like this city and I are off to a rough start. There are things in our blood called thrombocytes, and I have a number of them that’s way below normal. Usually, this is a sign of dengue fever. So I’m here, at Rumah Sakit Mitra Keluarga, and feeling better now that the doctors are doing whatever they’re doing. My energy seems to be coming back slowly – I can type this and not feel like I have to take a break, for example. I also never knew how terrible the world becomes when your sense of taste loses its power. For six days, almost the only thing I could stand to eat was watermelon, and my mouth felt incredibly dry, and everything I tried to ingest felt like cardboard. It’s not my dream, of course, to be coming back to epicurean delights with hospital food, but I’m not being picky. Although today was my full day of meals, the menu seems to consist of rice (that comes in pleasantly hot, lukewarm, and dreadfully cold), some sort of questionable meat, boiled egg, some soft veggies, and a bit of fruit. At some point, the nurse brought me a menu on which I was to choose a main meal and a type of bread with it. I have yet to see anything resembling my choices, unless by tomato omelet and cheese bread they meant Spam-like meat (with an egg oddly inserted into it) with tomato-ish sauce and a side of rice. I remain perplexed but, as I said, I’m not picky.

The hospital isn’t so bad, actually. I’m finally doing the things I said I’d do when in Surabaya – reading, practicing and studying Indonesian, and writing. I’ve just finished “Love is a Mixtape”, which is overall not a very good book and a pretty bad one to read while in hospital. My original plan was to send it to Jamie when I was finished with it, but I now understand why Anna was hesitant to recommend it in the first place. The basic story is that this rock critic guy is writing a book around mixtapes he used to make, mainly in the mid-90s and mainly for his wife-to-be, Rene. She dies and he spends the book talking about the experience of being a young widow and how music means so much to so many people and defines more things than we admit. I agree that music matters a hell of a lot (I can pinpoint the soundtrack to some of my highest and lowest moments), but Craig Sheffield isn’t a good enough writer for me to fully feel his emotions and he isn’t self-deprecating enough to be funny, although he makes some attempts. Also, he refers to R.E.M. As ‘punk rock’, which confuses me – he does work for Rolling Stone though, and how they’re still thought of as music journalism confuses me as well. Anyways, maybe I’m unfairly judging this guy simply because he pales in comparison to the literary orgasms I get from Chuck Klosterman, whose book “Killing Yourself to Live” I just finished listening to (again) while I was too weak to read or watch movies over the weekend. When it comes to writing about the intersections between music and relationships, there is still, as Carly Simon would say, nobody who does it haaaaallllfff as gooood as you. Another reason for my disdain for this Sheffield guy may be that I just read a book Zach gave me by David Rakoff, who, if only in terms of language, is an even better writer than Klosterman and who makes Sheffield seem like a teen angst writer.

So now, I am onto “Master and Margarita” which is a book I borrowed from Jenya way too long ago and promised myself I would finish while I was here. And holy shit, it’s really good. Much to my great shame, I don’t usually have the patience for Russian classic literature (maybe I haven’t given it the chance) and I leave it for people like Jenya to talk in depth about the philosophical debates within ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. I have started that book a couple of times before giving up way too easily and running to my own collection of cheesy Russian crime novels (“sunflower seed books”) for consolation. I’ve decided to make Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” an exception, probably because it’s at least 1000 pages shorter that ‘the Brothers’. Anyways, I’m only about a quarter of the way in and so far it’s excellent. A page-turner, if I may say so myself. And it’s funny! Not Klosterman-funny, but funny in a way where you imagine what you’re reading as a scene in a movie and the brilliance of the author’s craft becomes painfully obvious.

Oh, to end this blog-post-to-be short, I must mention that I’m not the only intern who has gotten sick like this. Apparently, this is quite a familiar routine for the school’s administration, so I am just a proverbial notch on the hospital bed-post. But, as I once told a guy who commented that I had gone the longest without completely rejecting him because of his lame pick-up techniques, ‘I work(ed) for the Olympics, and we are all about setting records’.

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