going back to Indonesia

May 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

I’ve several times read about people saying that a particular experience felt like a dream. I never really get it until now. This. Starting from the moment I entered Schipol airport today, checking in my luggage, wandering around the terminal, boarding the plane and finally sitting in seat 22C, I keep thinking: this past 3 months feel like a dream. Every sight has a sense of déjà vu. Like being on my flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on February 1 was just yesterday. I can remember that flight vividly: my sheer disappointment of not having a personal LCD screen like Emirates flights, the sleeping marathon during the 20 hours flight and intense cold I felt that made me wear a winter coat all the time. The moment I arrived in Schipol, stepping out from the airport towards my taxi, arriving at Radboud hotel. Yes, still, all those feel like yesterday. Like it really happened just yesterday.
I was dizzy, and tried to remember, ‘what had I done for the past 3 months?’ But at that time, I really couldn’t access my memory.
However, there’s not a moment skipped in Europe, nor taken for granted as I’d been living each day as if it’s my last. Living life to the fullest. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
I am dazzled. Has it been 3 months already? I need someone to tell me, “Yeah Ajeng, it’s been 3 freaking months!!!”
Time flies when you’re having fun. Radboud hotel was just a place to stay, and there, I felt as foreign as ever. But the student room in Minervaplaats, where I’d been living for the last 1,5 month, was home. Nijmegen, the yellow-blue train, the central station and city center, my borrowed bike, my backpack, my laptop, thoughts of my family and friends in Indonesia, Radboud hospital and the medical faculty, the lectures, appointments with the professors and friends in Nijmegen, the “coming to the hospital and attend patients everyday” has constituted my HOME for the past 3 months. And now, I have understood that home is where the heart is. And try to make sure that your heart is where you are now.

Goodbyes are different every time. You can’t really say: I’m good with goodbyes, I’ve done it a million times before. The last week in Nijmegen is quite special.

Monday: Dinner with Corry, my FAT MAN, in a nice and cozy restaurant. Indeed we’d formed a bond. Personalities, interests, and just the intense communication for weeks at work everyday from 9am to 6pm. That dinner was really good coz we had long interesting conversation bout, well, what else: LIFE. Past, present and future life of female doctors. Life of a real female doctor slash specialist in training (her), and life of a female doctor wannabe (me). By that day, we’ve gotten to know each other more, knowing just about the right information to just enjoy each others company and have a good time.
Tuesday: Dinner with Heleen and her friend Lian at Heleen’s place. We turned out to be neighbours, just a building away from each other. It was a nice dinner with interesting conversation about Lian’s recent research work in Bandung, Indonesia. She practiced her bahasa with me, and I was absolutely impressed! A good meal, relaxed atmosphere, just nice. Then I excused myself, too tired… But Heleen and I planned to see each other once more before I leave.
Wednesday: I forced myself to not make any appointment this night and tried to clean up my room (Kat’s room, technically), and of course, pack some of my stuff (which turned out to be a brilliant decision because by that time I still have two perfectly functioning hands with thumbs and everything…)
Thursday: I double booked the evening. I had first met Sylvia after work, visited her apartment and just talk. It’s funny: you visit people just because you want to be with them. That’s human contact. That’s important! We then arranged to meet on Saturday evening. Afterwards, around 9pm, I went to Radboud Hotel to meet Neeltje: we’re going out! It’s “student night” on Thurdays and we’d decided to go to city center, enjoy the warm evening there. First destination was the ice cream shop. Then we went for a drink on the terrace facing the Maas river. Beautiful view at night. Again, drink and talk. Then we walked a bit along the riverside before heading back. But… somehow I managed to get what turned out to be my last frites (FRIES) in Nijmegen this time: a stop for midnight snack at a fries shop. I owe Kat big time for teaching me this pleasant fat-accumulating activity. I got back to my place past midnight. That’s my last goodbye with Neeltje, and we planned to meet again if I return to Netherlands or Belgium Insya Allah.
Friday: Last day. We had pies and tarts in the consultation meeting and I decided to indulge myself with calories and sugar and high dosage of cafein, somewhat to help me deal with the intense feeling of knowing that I had to say goodbye later in the day. Then… yep, the moment finally came. Although I had been busy at the end of the day, making calls to the taxi company to check what time they’d pick me up on Monday to get to the airport, only to have them tell me that they didn’t have my name on the reservation. Then I frantically raid the secretary’s (Mieke’s) empty office and tried to find her home phone numbers somewhere there. And fortunately finding them. Then called her. Then faxed my own reservation sheet to the taxi company. Then called Mieke again. She then assured me that she’d contact the taxi company on Saturday and let me know about my reservation. That’s good. So I went back to Corry’s office, and she told me that Dr. Monique was already waiting for me, we’re gonna have dinner at her home in Den Bosch, an hour drive from Nijmegen. So, that’s the intense moment of goodbye. That’s too hard even for me. Hmm… We just know that no more “WE, AJENG AND I” sentence from Corry during the consultation or microbiology meeting next week, because the “WE” would become an “I”. We had been a team this month, and she had shared her passion for medicine with me, teaching me about diseases, patients, a female doctors’ possible life choices and possibilities, wedding and honeymoon plan, her hunky lover, their love story, and almost anything possible to be shared within 20 working days (180 working hours). Yes yes, I did cry after we said goodbye. But that’s just because I had thought that Corry looked sad! And of course we wished to see each other again in the future.
Anyway, no cry no more right afterwards because I had to go with Dr. Monique. I left my bike in the hospital and went with her car. We talked and talked and talked on the way… Just the nice chance to talk casually about everything with her, including some gossips during the course in February! Haha… That was fun. Then the unthinkable and most unfortunate thing happened. I bumped my finger to the door of her car when I wanted to take out my jacket. A sharp throbbing pain immediately tortured my right thumb. I asked for some ice, but the pain didn’t go away, and I thought it turned to this burning sensation… Anyway, we still had an awesome dinner in the garden with her family. It was a real home. Seriously. A house is one thing, but a home is everything in a house with love inside. I was then taken to the train station. But of course, as other sensory perception diminish, the PAIN came back more intense than ever. OUCH. I had to lift up my arm to reduce the pain. Then somehow I survived the train trip from Den Bosch to Nijmegen (30 minutes), the waiting for the train from Central Station to Heyendaal station (another 30 freakin minutes), and the train trip to Heyendaal (5 minutes), the walk from Heyendaal to my place (5 minutes walk). It was such a relief to get some painkillers, but even after the medicine, I still needed to distract myself from the pain with some drops.
Saturday: I did manage to sleep through the pain. I went to Heleen’s place and had coffee with her. Lazy slow Saturday morning… Then it’s goodbye again, wishing each other a lot of success in our studies and for us meet again someday.
Then at 11.30am I was off to Mrs. Sivirsky’s home. She’s a student counselor who’d been taking care of my financial matter in Radboud. But we had a lot on conversation before and I made the appointment to say goodbye to her. The pain on my thumb is still burning, even with Ibuprofen and Parasetamol. We had a fun conversation about school and some people in my class. Then we decided to take the THUMB PROBLEM to the professionals in the emergency room. I had brought my insurance paper along and that makes things convenient. So Mrs. Sivirsky accompanied me to the ER. That’s freakin ironic man… I mean, I just visited the place with Corry earlier in the week to see a patient. And then I became a patient. A patient in pain. Anyway, after a long and painful waiting, they finally put me in a room. Then I had to endure another long and painful waiting until the doctor or doctor wannabe (I’m not sure whether she’s a real doctor yet or not) came to see me. To prevent reckless care, I informed her that I am a koassisten. She asked some stuff, and then after some questions asked again: “So, what made you decide to come to the emergency room?” FU%K. I HAVE BEEN IN PAIN FOR 20 HOURS AND YOU STILL WANTED TO KNOW WHY I WAS THERE? FU%K OFF!!! But of course I didn’t say that outloud. HOW INSENSITIVE. Hey future doctors around the world, please do not ask these kind of stupid standard questions when you already know the answer and the patient is in agonizing pain. She then examine my finger, touched and pressed and bended here and there, causing some more pain in the process, then said, “I don’t think it’s broken.” Then I thought WANNA BET ON IT??? HOW COME IT’S SO FU%KIN PAINFUL THEN??? She then resumed, “But we’ll take an x-ray just to be sure.” DAMN RIGHT I WANT AN X-RAY. ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M NOT SO SURE IF YOU’RE A REAL DOCTOR OR NOT AND I HAVE WAITED 4 HOURS IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM TO BE SEEN BY A REAL DOCTOR.
Anyway, I waited some more. They took my x-ray. Then I waited some more. Then they came to me again, that doctor and a nurse. With a big smile on her face she told me: “Your thumb is broken!” Well, how I’m relieved to hear that. Seriously. I mean, first diagnosis, then treatment. So now at least we know the exact problem. They gave me a splint for my thumb and a sling for my arm. Mrs. Sivirsky and I said our goodbyes with the possibility of her visiting Indonesia on December. Finally, at around 5pm I left the hospital.
The emergency visit definitely blew up 2 of my 4 appointments for the whole Saturday. I had to cancel meeting Sylvia coz I had taken too long in the hospital and in too much pain to go all the way to the city center by myself to join her there.
From the hospital I went to dr.Barten’s home. She’d expected me to come earlier in the afternoon, but I already called and told her that first I needed to get my thumb problem fixed before. Of course besides saying goodbye the point of my being at her house is for our last discussion about our paper. Well, not the last, as we’d continue working together through emails when I’d be back in Indonesia. Anyway, she asked if I wanna eat anything. I spent the entire afternoon in the emergency room, and so I hadn’t had lunch. She made me sandwiches which I accepted gratefully; I was really hungry. She corrected my paper and add comments to it. Then we watched a short dvd about the determinants of maternal mortality. Hmm… even up to the moment of leaving Nijmegen I still have educational activities. Another goodbye.
And then I went back to my place and pack up the rest of my stuff, with one less thumb, and the help of 1000mg paracetamol, my drug of choice for the pain. Kat would be back from South Africa the next day, so at least I’d try to clean up a bit and made her home more like the nice tidy home she had left.
Sunday: Sylvia came to pick up a CD at my place. Then when we’re chatting, Kat came!!! I hadn’t expected her to show up so early in the day, so I was surprised… Nice reunion. It was really good to see her again. I mean, yeah, 1 month of getting to know each other really quickly and 2 months of not seeing her (with the 1,5 month of me living at her vacant place), it’s good to spend a little time together again before I left for Indonesia exactly the next day! We went to the city for lunch at a terrace, went back to her place (Hey, now it’s hers again, haha…), then check out her pics from South Africa, then had her friends come over for dinner. We got chinese food and ate somewhere on the grass beside her building. Chilly wind. Nice atmosphere with good food and friends of a friend speaking bilingually; laughter in between the chatters. Somehow the sun going down made this fascinating orange shade. Beauty exists when you’re aware of everything you sense, think, and feel. That moment there was beautiful.
We went back to the room, wash the dishes, and… Esther came for another goodbye! Hm, I got a dutch cookbook from her. Thanks a bunch Esther! She and Heleen are the ones introducing us, the international students, to Nijmegen for the first time. Then… it’s goodbye time with her.
Monday: Slow slow monday morning speeding up after Kat woke up. She’s going to Utrecht for Queens Day. I was to leave for Schipol airport later in the afternoon. We talked about some possible plans for this year. Then it’s “cya” with her.
By 15.30 I was picked up to go to the airport. Till we meet again…

Ajeng. In KLM809 flight, somewhere between Europe and Asia; 1 May 2007.


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