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December 1, 2010

“And Baby Makes Three” – Part Two

Tom McLaughlin

Sibu, Malaysian Borneo – We arrived at the government hospital emergency room and automatic events began to unfold. Suriani was placed in a wheel chair and raced to the maternity world with me and the Food and Beverage manager along with the maid racing behind. Sometimes, we lost sight of her in the maze we had to navigate.


She was pushed into the exam room where I was politely told I would have to leave and where I responded with a resounding No! One of the nurses, who spoke excellent English, told me in no uncertain terms that I would have to leave and wait outside.


“Outside’ was a long corridor with benches lining either side with large open windows. Cats, who had won many a battle, wandered down the corridor. Mosquitoes hummed and buzzed. A Chinese family, grandma included, waited for news on their loved one.


I sat down on a bench and waited. And waited and waited. I don’t know how much time had passed, but it seemed like there were at least a couple of sun rises in there someplace, No, it wasn’t that long. Just seemed like it.


Finally, a young Chinese doctor brought me into the maternity area. She looked 12. “You’re the doctor,” I asked incredulously, searching for any sign of breasts that would indicate she had at least passed puberty. There weren’t any. She said yes.


The Malaysian medical system, as with many commonwealth nations, takes the best and brightest from high school and sends them straight away to medical school. The four years of the bachelor degree is skipped. Therefore, they graduate in their early twenties.


She began to explain to me what was going on in the Queens English, slow and carefully. Many of her patients are uneducated. I informed her that I was a biologist and she should get straight to the point. In essence, the C-section would be required that night as my wife’s contractions had proceeded at an alarming rate.


I was sent back into the corridor to wait while my wife was prepped for surgery. I made friends with the father-in-waiting who spoke English and we compared notes. Here I was almost 60 and he in his mid-20’s bonding together. The rest of the family I don’t think spoke any English.


Meanwhile two cats began their yowling just outside the window and this resulted in a full-fledged cat fight. These two tabby males, who had obviously fought many wars, being covered in scars and half ears, jumped down into the corridor and raced only to jump out the next window.


Three young Iban guys joined us. The Iban language and the Malay language are close, but I had to listen carefully. I was able to figure out which one was the father and decided the other two were the supporting cast.


Dad sat quietly to one side while the other two seemed to be enjoying themselves, talking quite loudly. When they discovered I spoke Malay, they quickly engaged me in conversation. They wanted to know all about me, where I was from, why I was there, how many children I had and many other questions.


They asked if I wanted to see their tattoos. The Iban culture has for many generations sported these blue ink adornments carved into their skin. Some of the elderly are covered from head to foot in these drawings. Their wonderful way of life bears absolutely no resemblance to the tattoo culture of the western world.


The first one took off his shirt and I traced a dragon from one hand, up the arm, across the back of the neck and down the other arm. I told him they were very well done.


The other Iban, seemingly embarrassed because he did not have such an elaborate decoration, showed me three skulls on his arm and a smooth empty chest. I said he would probably get more later. He agreed.


Fighting cats, slapping mosquitoes, wonderfully tattooed Ibans, and people sleeping on mats on the floor helped past the time.


To be continued… week


…life is good…


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