SCOOPS FROM AFRICA
Ethiopia: Expedition to the Lip-Plated Mursi Tribe
Before the Expedition to Africa
SCOOPS FROM MIDDLE AMERICAS
Cuba:Illegal Cuban Cigars - how to put your children in danger
Bahamas:Diving with Sharks-how to use your children as sharkbait
SCOOPS FROM EUROPE
Germany: Painting the Berlin Wall
Finland: Midnight Madness in the Arctic Circle
USSR:Mistaken for Russian Spies!
SCOOPS FROM INDONESIA - my second home
Would You Like Dog For Dinner Dear?
Aceh Octopus and How to Cook Fern Shoots
The Magic Man of Sama Dua
Of Roosters & Cat Poo Coffee
Aceh Volcanoes in the Mist
Atlas Shrugged - The Journey Into Post-Civil War Aceh
Cloud Nine Chocolate Lava Cake - When the Locals Cook For You
Washing Elephants Deep in Sumatra
Patrolling Illegal Logging in Aceh
Trekking the Sumatran Orang Utan
That Bloody Rooster!
Death Defying Acts in Sumatra
SCOOPS FROM THE REST OF ASIA
Calcuttan Journey: To Work with Mother Terese
Coming to Penang
Penang the City of Tiffins
Trekking the Himalayas
Would You Like Fried Insects with that Vow?
The People You Meet When Travelling
SCOOPS FROM U.S.A.
Seduced by New York
Calcuttan Journey: To work with Mother Terese
In 1990 I journeyed to Calcutta. I was going to work with Mother Teresa in Kalighat, the home for the sick and dying. I can remember driving away from the airport toward the city with a huge blood orange sun sinking into the horizon over the squatters villages. I stayed at the house of an eccentric expat British lady who greeted me with her primped and snappy chihuahuas and had her turbaned 6ft 'help' take my bags to my room. The next morning three 6ft turbaned helpers came wielding brooms and laughing after I ran screaming down the hallway wearing nothing but a towel and wet hair. A dinner-plate sized huntsman spider had interrupted my bath!
|Washing in the street is all part of normal life in Calcutta|
I wound my way through the dark and narrow back streets, out onto the main road and along to the house where Mother Terese lived with the Sisters of Mercy and rang the large brass bell outside. I explained to the sister that I wanted an interview with Mother Terese and she frowned, shaking her head, and muttering that the Mother hadn't been well and she didn't like my chances. I told her I would wait all day if I had to. I think it was a test of sorts to weigh up just how serious I really was about seeing Mother Terese - 5 long hours later with nothing but a crucifix and and a depressing image of Christ glaring down at me in admonishment from a naked wall, I was ushered up stairs to a balcony and a tiny old lady, in bare feet and the blue bordered white sari that is the uniform of the sisters, came shuffling toward me - she was about the same height as my Omi in Germany, that is 4 ft nothing.
She took my hands in hers and asked 'What can I do for you my child?'
I explained what I'd been about what my skills were and asked if there was any way I might be of greater use to her.
'My goodness, well yes, yes, yes child!' she exclaimed 'We need you desperately at the Leprosarium! You must go there immediately, immediately - yes this is the right place for you!'
I was so overwhelmed by the whole process that I completely forgot to ask if I could take a photo with her! I think she was actually quite happy not to be snapped for curiosity value.
|Leprosy Clinic next to the tracks|
The next morning I took myself off to the Leprosarium which was a nightmare of typical Indian direction giving (because no one wants to tell you they don't actually know the way to somewhere) that felt like a Pink Panther chase. With the correct location of the Leprosarium finally pinpointed I could see that there was indeed plenty of useful work for me to do. Leprosy patient suffer similar vascular/neural complications to diabetics so I was in my element with foot ulcers and here I actually had equipment and materials to make functional and accommodative orthosis. The main problem was that the ulcers needed dressings and the latest shipment had been detained by the authorities for an indefinite time - read: we would never see it again. I left sometime later with the promise of shipping supplies which would have a 40% of actually getting to them.
|Rene & Christine Allary the French couple we became friends with and worked at Jack Preger's clinics with.|
|One of Jack Pregers street clinics I worked at.|
When I reflect back I realise that never once did I break down at the tragedy and cruelty of humanity. I still felt deeply on an emotional level, but intellectually I was able to objectivise. I just got on with doing the tasks that needed doing. I saw many volunteers leave shortly after starting and never return, the presence of such intense suffering overwhelmed them to a disabling extent. Really, you have to ask yourself - what is the point of indulging in self-pity? Apart from attracting attention to yourself, it doesn't actually help anyone! Humanity needs perseverance in the face of suffering to get the job done.