I needed to fill a prescription today for some medicine that's simple and straightforward and easy, and no biggie.
The first Pharmacy that I went to didn't have it, so they sent me to another. And they to one yet further.
The medicine exists, the pharmacist assured me, we have it here in Indonesia. She looked in her book, and there it was in all it's chemical compounds, plain as day, and plain in Bahasa Indonesia.
There's a big pharmacy just a short trip away, she said, surely I'd find it there. In and out, I thought. Quick. Snap. I'd be back in a flash.
Traffic snarled, the taxi driver took me to the back of beyond and then round again, stop and go, and mostly stop, until we arrived, the pharmacy big as promised and stocked full to brimming of everything. Except my medicine.
But the largest hospital is right down the road, three ladies behind the counter told me. Just two stops on the bus. I would find what I was looking for at the hospital without a doubt. Maybe. Yes. We think so.
I paid my 35 cents, minded the gap, and boarded, the only Bule for miles, and the only mark for a bus full of indecipherable stares and quiet titters behind back turned hands.
I disembarked. A warren of wrong turns and questions with intelligible answers finally lead me through a parking garage and into the hospital pharmacy. Where they didn't have my medicine.
Blank. Blink. Blink. Look down. Blank. Can not. We do not have.
So I smiled. And explained: I need it for living. And maybe do you have any suggestions as to where I can find it? Sorry, I don't speak Bahasa. Thank you for your help. Smile. Bright eyes. Smile. Smile.
Finally through six people, standing in a circle, explaining and explaining and explaining again, sharing my complete medical history with strangers, calls made on my behalf, maps drawn, apologies, smiles, and laughter at the absurdity of it all, we pieced together the picture.
It exists in Indonesia, but it's been discontinued. There's one pharmacy, clear across town, that still has a few boxes. Okay. So, we're on to something. It'll work out I said. Thank you so much for your help.
If this were China, I'd have raged. If this were Japan, I'd have been in tears. But instead I left the hospital, got in a taxi, and drove home. My head lolled by the window as we passed open sewers, street-side hawkers, a donkey cart, rubble huts, houses behind gates, a Mercedes SLR, and and then gleaming steal towers.
There's a psychic Balinese massage therapist who comes occasionally to work on my back. Last time she came with her vial of oil and little candle, she told me stories of oracular dreams, good omens and ghosts. She said that maybe I lived in Indonesia in a past life.
I don't know. Perhaps. Probably not. But I do know that each time I see a banana tree casting shadows upon shadows, vibrant green and almost black, I feel home, and there's a little gratitude that rises up from somewhere so deep.