Rebakah and I both came down with a fairly brutal illness in Kutacane — the locals, obviously, diagnosed it as masuk angin (entering wind) from the recent arrival of the rainy season, one doctor guessed malaria, a nurse tossed out dengue, while an archeologist of ancient Aceh called it the “Arab flu”. We are normally accurate at diagnosing our tropical illnesses because we have had our fair share over the course of more than four years of living in various parts of Southeast Asia. Between the two of us, we have combined to get TB (2008 Thailand), dengue (2009 Bandung), E.coli (2006 Vietnam), almost had my lower left leg amputated in Miri (2008) after being bit on the knee by a poisonous insect in the Sarawak rainforest, life-threatening kidney infection (2013 Singapore), plenty of stomach bugs, respiratory infections, pre-term labor caused by tooth infection (Salatiga 2009 – Eliot was eventually born in the US, but just a week after landing), and so on. Our parents tell us to stay in the US because, like many Americans, they believe Indonesia is too dangerous. But Rebakah and our dog, Appa, both contracted Lyme disease from ticks last year in Ithaca!!
We left Kutacane on this Susi Air flight to Banda Aceh a few days earlier than planned to get tested for malaria just to be safe. The flight was a pleasant, albeit slightly nerve-wracking, experience across the length of Aceh. Seeing the expansive dense forests and jagged mountains from the sky paints a more hopeful view, I think, for the forests of Aceh than maybe what appears in the news reports.
Eliot stayed healthy the entire time, took care of us, and pushed us onward with an incredible positivity. He is the toughest research assistant around and continues to amaze us with his adaptability. So thankful for the strength this little guy has and the health he has maintained. Next stop is the Provincial Archive in Banda Aceh. I think I’ll stick to the archives for a bit and maintain my greatest chances of illness or injury from paper cuts, bruised toes from dropped bundles, or a cold from the insane levels of the AC.
It turns out that Rebakah did indeed have dengue fever, and I picked up an e.coli bug along the way, but we have since recovered.