More about those adventures later as I enjoy remembering the details…
On day five or so, I suddenly felt very unwell, with a fever and an awful headache. With four days of rest and rehydration, I think it’s nothing serious and I feel practically normal again, but it was a bit scary and stressful and gave a new perspective to my trip. You can’t always choose your own adventure.
On Being Sick in Sumatra
Symbols — I realize how I use symbols every day, how suspicions and markers help me keep time and rally myself. For the first five days of being here, I had pastel blue bed sheets with a lovely patterned throw on top. Under the first sheet, just when I was getting into bed there was a second sheet, a pretty rainbow-striped one. When I was ill, the sheets were changed to a sick-room blue stripe and white, without the flourishes. Today, after about four days of being ill, the rainbow-stripe sheet has returned and makes me feel happier just looking at it.
Kisses — Indonesian children blow kisses to white girls and the girl nextdoor blows plenty to me even though I look like I just came off a bad sea voyage.
Laughing — is good and can be created out of nothing — ie the Indonesian people laugh a lot, and they laugh when they’re nervous or surprised. Many people are offended at being laughed at, until they know, then they tend to laugh along. I think it’s great just to laugh, for no reason at all, or because you’re scared or embarrassed. It’s the only really common language I’ve found here and it works every time.
Reading — For the upteenth time in my life I’ve rediscovered the pleasure and power of reading. I feel like reading has saved me in unlikely situations; when I’m sad or lonely I can go into a book and everything outside — even if it takes some patience — drops away. Once when I was little a teacher told me that a particular book had saved his life at college, and I didn’t know what he meant but I absolutely do now.
While being here I’ve snuck in to the little library cabinet in the lodge office and have taken out a few books. One on birds of Indonesia, one adventure story about a boy who goes to live with African elephants, and one about a pair of twins trying to solve a row between their parents. All solid choices.
It also reminds me as a writer to look in unexpected places for wonderful writing. In the adventure story for example, some of the most precise metaphors and similes can be found — drawing two species of the animal kingdom together — like in describing a witch doctor stalking towards a panther, “He swayed like a lame heron as he walked.” I thought that was very good.
My family — self-explanatory :)