My favorite patient, August, invited me to visit the leprosy settlement adjacent to the hospital where he lives. Dr. Yousuf took me there. I found August will all of his friends laughing and talking excitedly over chili peppers and chopped mushrooms and other vegetables they were preparing to cook. These are people who have deformities from leprosy and do not feel comfortable living out in the public where stigma hurts them deeply. So they live like one big happy family in this settlement. Actually I found it to have collegiate community atmosphere; people hanging out together on porches– young people living in their own apartment dorms without parents because parents will sometimes abandon their children who contract leprosy. The settlement is self-sustaining: there are farms, restaurants, shops, bicycle repair shops, hairdressers, mosques, and anything you can imagine.
In the afternoon I had such a contrasting experience to the morning in the settlement, it was almost jarring. I had promised one of the physiotherapists that I would go into the city with her daughter who was excited to meet an American. I was picked up in the afternoon. On the way to Jakarta in 3 hours of traffic I discovered that the daughter and her friends were only 17-years old. They were high schoolers. This is going to be interesting, I thought, as they talked excitedly about boys and their favorite pop stars. I had no idea where they were taking me. I hoped we would be going to the Wayang museum. But it turned out they were taking me clubbing. I didn’t know what to do but go along with it. What can you do when you are 3 hours away from your home without language to communicate your concern or ask what is going on. So I went to the apartment with them and waited while they peeled off layers of clothing and caked on layers of make-up. “you should wear these” one of the girls told me, handing me a pile of sequins. There was a tube top and a mini mini skirt. I just can’t wear this kind of thing after India and Uganda where anything above the ankles is scandalous. So I opted for my Ugandan dress which is certainly not a clubbing dress but I like it and I imagined the club to be somewhat like the dance bars in Thailand (relaxed and low-key). But I could not have been further off. ” Le Club” had a $100 entry fee; it was high fashion VIP Jakarta. I felt out of place, annoyed about the cover charge, and hopelessly stuck. I can’t just go home and say look, this really isn’t my scene to my youngster friends because they were the only ones who could get me back to the hospital which is 3 hours away. So i just went along with all of it. I thought even if I feel slightly abducted by high schoolers, I can still have fun. I have learned by now how to surrender. So I did. And I did have fun. The club was fancy, spectacular laser lights cutting though the crowd and base throbbing to my heartbeat. This is Jakarta’s club scene. My friends had a great time as well and the whole night ended up being a great success.