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Ketapang Update

In contrast to the rice padi above which we pass each day on the way to Sungei Awan Ketapang is busier than ever – you can see the town evolving month by month – more cars and talk of a new Shopping Mall – maybe not a good thing.

The days simply are not long enough at the moment. In the last few weeks we have released one orangutan, admitted two new rescued orangutan, cleaned and kitted out the PCR laboratory, received three days intensive PCR training, had five babies sick with flu and needing intensive care and embarked on a disease risk analysis. In the mean time the volunteer group have derusted and painted the newly erected Kandang Hijau (green cage) which had been brought from the old transit centre so that we have been able to release a big male from his cage in the quarantine area. Add to this the sedation and testing of an adult male this last week and you can see that we are not idle! The main resident vets at the centre have departed as planned and for a few days Sara and I were virtually on our own with only the help of Manel a recent Spanish graduate. Now we have the luxury of a young female vet from Singapore and a recent Indonesian graduate to help us.

Sara finally arrived at Ketapang a week after me having attended COP school in Yogjakarta and handing over the equipment which OVAID had donated to COP. We were delighted to see one of the donated rescue bags in use just a few days later. (pictures on our OVAID Facebook page) Sara was a day late arriving after waiting for 7 hours at the infamous Pontianak airport (see my first blog) only to find her flight cancelled last minute necessitating an overnight in the city. In fact she was quite grateful for a nice bed, a cold shower and a double portion of chips after a week camping at COP school and living on rice and cabbage soup!

The weather is fluctuating between intense heat and thundery tropical storms at the moment and it is amazing how quickly you fall into the most forgiving ‘laise faire’ attitude in Indonesia. What seems a major inconvenience if not a complete affront in the UK is normal here, like no internet for days or the power going off repeatedly. In Ketapang power is always so short that areas of the town are simply cut off sequentially but randomly to save electricity so it was with some surprise a couple of days ago that in the middle of a power cut three little men and a very large ladder appeared outside No 59a Gg Tomat as I was sitting on the veranda. While the ladder was precariously propped against a post and one electrician ordered to take his life in his hands the older white shirted supervisor engaged me in conversation over the garden wall. I discovered that he had a small farm on the way to Sungei Awan (the IAR centre) and grew vegetables. Impressed by my pigeon Indonesian his conversation relaxed and increased in speed to the point where I was not quite sure why he wanted to come into the house. I assumed it was to check the electrical supply but he was effusive in his thanks. Not until he took his shoes and socks off and ran into the bathroom did I realise why he was quite so grateful; particularly since he remained there for some considerable time. Having just spent half a day on arrival cleaning and bleaching the disused bathroom my heart sank as I realised that this was perhaps more than just a quick visit! In fact the visit to our ‘mandi’ turned out to be no more offensive than the normal Indonesian insistence on thorough washing and ablution!

Yesterday we lost our water supply – another ‘normal’ and not irregular occurance. This can be a problem for several days but suddenly this afternoon a little man turned up on a scooter carrying a little plastic bag... the plumber! He proceeded to kick and vigorously shake the pipe that snakes along the surface outside our house for several minutes before donning his crash helmet and departing. We had assumed that this was the preliminary investigation and several more sweaty days without water would now certainly pass but to our surprise he re-appeared within an hour. This time the plastic bag was replaced by a large mattock slung horizontally across his feet on the scooter and sticking precariously out at each side ready to slice off the ankles of any unsuspecting passerby much like the swords on Boudica’s chariot. We have no idea what he did except bury the pipe in a much more user friendly way and depart but we now have water – the wonder of Indonesia.

What should have been a day off tomorrow has reverted back to a day at work with another anaesthetic to perform. Somehow, though, the opportunity to work closely with the orangs never seems like work no matter what the hours. On Monday it will be back to ‘normal’ work and a late shift – starting at 10a.m. and finishing after 7p.m. This means that Sara and I will supervise the return of babies and juveniles from forest school in the afternoon and put up and administer all the afternoon medications. Sara has already become adept at making the papaya leaf smoothie ( papaya leaves, potato, honey, rehydration salts, charcoal and a dash of lacto bacillus) for the babies with loose motions and we will take delight in giving big Jojo his drink and getting a gentle hug from Kiki who spent years in confinement and still sadly relishes communication in preference to a peanut treat. We are even getting better at recognising individuals now and use a descriptive system for identification. Overweight Pingky is obvious, Neng is the dark ‘diesel dyke’ orangutan and Huta always replies with a gentle whimper whenever you call her name. Patrick has a real ginger Irishman’s beard, little Gunung looks like Homer Simpson with his top lip pouting over his bottom while poor little Rickina is instantly recognisable by her old machete scar on her little head.

The keepers get great enjoyment from my attempts at Indonesian but so far no real gaffs. Learning Italian I used Michel Thomas’ CDs and he had a great expression which was when you say something just ‘try and get it over the net’ and you will probably be recognised; sometimes though my best attempts are into the net and met by a complete blank. The other evening I proudly and carefully rehearsed and then asked Cha Cha the nurse if there was anything I could do to help – in my Indonesian it came out something like “ I do can anything help me?” and that certainly wasn’t over the net! ‘Could do better’ as they say.

Unbelievably we have been away almost one month and this weekend the volunteer group that arrived after us will depart back to Kuching accompanied by Kristi and Scottish Dave with his soft Aberdeen drawl. This will leave Sara and I ‘home alone’ in our little house in Ketapang fending for ourselves for a week as Ibu ‘the lady that does’ only works when the volunteers are in residence. The realisation that we will have to cook for ourselves dawned shockingly but the local market is only down the road on our moped route and an all you can eat meal at the little Chinese vegetarian stall up the road only sets us back £1 each with a freshly squeezed Es Jeruk drink. (Jeruk is small sweet mandarin orange type fruit) I am sure we will survive.

Our daily journey to work and back continues on our little one mirrored red scooter. We would both love to have a Go-Pro camera mounted on it for a day as most people in UK will not believe the incredible sights we see every day. There are no rules of the road, yesterday we overtook a man dragging two huge coils of metal rods along behind his moped and the little 10foot long pick up trucks loaded with vast quantities of 20 foot long hardwood planks have to drive at walking pace over the bumps as their front axles bounce clear of the road! Sadly the near misses are not always so and yesterday we came across a little girl of seven or eight who had just been hit by a speeding moped in the middle of the road. Her father was pathetically nursing her in his arms as he tried to flag down a passing four wheel drive to rush her to hospital.

A timely reminder to take it easy on the road each day.

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