Friday, April 07, 2006
Tuesday we visited a leprosy hospital, the biggest, and one of the last, in Indonesia. Twenty years ago they had 500 patients here; now they have 100, and the staff actually outnumber the patients.
Still, even though leprosy (aka Hansen’s disease) is now curable, it keeps claiming new victims. We met one 21 year old guy whose right leg was paralyzed, who will walk with a lurching gait for the rest of his life. We met a 30-year old who has a wife and three kids, who used to sell noodles on the street for a living. The idea of trying to support a family on that income is mind-boggling in the first place, but now it’s very unlikely he’ll be able to do even that job. Nobody wants to buy food from a leper.
The doctor told us some of the patients use makeup, fake bandages, etc. to make their condition look worse. That way they can make more money begging in the street.
It wasn’t a completely unhappy visit, though. We met a very lively 65-year old woman who’s been living in a little compound at the hospital for eight years. She loves it. “I have food to eat, and lots of friends, and a TV, and doctors and nurses,” she said. “It’s like a leper nation here.” Her voice was so expressive, I almost felt like I could put her on the air without a translation.
The story is for a show called the World Vision Report. I’ll try to post a link when it’s done. It’s strange doing stories with tape in a foreign language. Feeling like you’re in control of your tape is a big issue for a radio reporter. I remember when I started, years ago, I often felt like the tape was pushing me around – taking the story in different directions than I wanted it to go. When I got more experienced I figured out how to turn the tables on it and make it work for me. Now the tape and I literally don’t speak the same language. I feel like I’m trying to build a house with jello – I can’t really get my hands around it. I’m meeting with the interpreter soon to get more precise translations of the cuts I’m using, and hopefully that will help dispel this uneasy feeling.