1 June 2016

Haroke’s longing


In the morning, the weather in Wandai District is not as cold as in Sugapa District, reaching up to 15 degrees Celsius. Perhaps because Wandai is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, the wind direction is more restrained. During the Flying Doctors program, we stayed in a church with floorboards – more than adequate for shelter and medical services.

Circumstances forced us to perform surgery under local anesthesia, which is not unusual for patients with relatively large lumps. I found a patient with a large tumor. The team explained that the condition could put the patient at risk of feeling more pain during the surgery. The patient agreed. The surgery went well, as did the general treatment.

But the most interesting part of this Flying Doctors was when I met a young boy. Haroke, his name. Since morning, Haroke had been busy pacing back and forth with bare feet in the rain. I don’t know what he was doing. What was clear was that he was not tired at all. Curious, I approached her.

“What’s your name?”
“Haroke, Sister!”

She answered while busily washing plates, glasses and various types of cooking utensils. Afraid to disturb her activities, I went to the restroom next to her. It was a good room for this area, but there was little water to use for toileting and bathing. For days, we had to get used to the conditions.

I met Haroke again one day when she brought rice for lunch for us, exhausted from serving the community from morning to noon. In between eating and resting, I had time to chat with the boy.

“Little brother, thank you for the rice. Let’s eat together!”

This was not a casual invitation. I knew they rarely ate rice, let alone complete side dishes. Generally, they only eat tubers, corn and vegetables, and even those are processed in a very basic way. Boiled or grilled. That’s it. In Java, the same food can be transformed into a variety of creative snacks, such as taro that can be turned into chips with great flavor.

“Haroke, what do you want here for the progress of this area?”
“Nothing, big brother! We just want teachers so we can go to school. We want teachers who are always there whenever we need them.”

The 6th grader who had just finished her exams answered blushingly. I was speechless. And slapped. A thousand questions popped into my mind. What were they doing during school hours? Are there no teachers? Isn’t there a school building? Are there any facilities inside? How do they study? Where do they get guidance? Why is this inequality so evident?

Shouldn’t children in Java and Papua have the right to enjoy the same treatment from the government? Don’t they have the same right to study in the classroom with their teachers? How can the Constitution be realized here? Haroke’s heartfelt longing really cuts to the core of my heart.


Why is Papua so different from Java?