MY MONTH IN BALI, INDONESIA
From February 15-March 13, 2008, I had the honor and privilege of volunteering at Yayasan Bumi Sehat (www.bumisehatbali.org),
a midwifery birthing center in Bali, Indonesia, founded by the American
Robin Lim, CPM. As part of a team with Indonesian staff as well as
other international volunteers, I attended 30 births during this time.
The clinic is nonprofit and approximately 60 women a month give birth
there, each making whatever donation they can. Many cannot afford a
hospital, so Bumi Sehat gives them an option besides giving birth at
home, unattended. Bumi Sehat is working to change the high infant and
maternal morbidity/mortality in Bali.
clinic provides prenatal care and gives free prenatal vitamins (thanks
to sponsor New Chapter) in addition to birth and postpartum care. The
clinic also provides basic medical care to anyone who shows up sick or
injured. (Note: You can make an IRS approved donation to Bumi Sehat
from their website, mentioned earlier. They are currently fundraising
to build a larger clinic which they will own and not just rent.)
are two other local mommas with their newborns! Although I spent a lot
of time at the clinic, I also did enjoy leaving the village of Nyuh
Kuning and walking the 25 min into Ubud, an artistic tourist town. The
walk included going through the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
was a delight to get to know the Indonesian staff including 6 midwives,
despite our language challenges. Some speak English fairly well. I
worked hard to learn some Indonesian language, and do OK in the birth
setting. I can say,”You’re doing great!” “Breathe!” “Relax” “I have to
sew (suture).” “Do you need to pee?” “The baby wants to breastfeed.” I
also can say a few more technical things like “the membranes are
intact” and “umbilical cord”, and yet there are many common everyday
words I do not know. I tried enough to make the Indonesian staff laugh
frequently. Here I am with Ibu Kadek, the youngest midwife, and Ibu
Ketut, one of the older midwives. (“Ibu” means “mother”, and is used as
the respectful title of adult women.)
the rest of largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali is Hindu and daily trips to
the temples and offerings are very important, in addition to a myriad
of special offerings for holidays. Here is a picture of a woman placing
the daily offerings (that she has already made and had blessed at a
temple) in the doorway of each of the rooms at Bumi Sehat clinic.
learn a bit more about the offerings, I took a class at the local
library with 3 other volunteer midwives: Olivia from California, and
Maria and Lisa, from Italy. I really enjoyed meeting and learning from
midwives from many backgrounds! We had great discussions comparing
birth practices in various countries, and sharing “tricks”.
Ubud, and indeed on much of Bali, there are the famous terraced rice
fields. I went on a guided herb walk on paths among the rice fields- it
is gorgeous. I saw turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, pineapple, tapioca,
taro and papaya, clove and coconut (palm) trees, most of which had been
planted to be harvested. Bali is just south of the equator, so it is
tropical- hot and humid. It was the rainy season so many days had an
hour or two of rain, but I took 2-3 cold showers/day and still usually
felt hot and sweaty.
adventure was hiking with four other volunteers up Mt. Batur by
flashlight in the early am, to reach the top by sunrise. It was a steep
1.5 hr. scramble up, but then it was delightful to watch the world
below slowly be revealed. Mt. Batur is an active volcano, with steamy
areas and dark areas below from eruptions within the last 20 years.
did indulge in some of the self-care treatments readily available in
Ubud at amazing prices (the exchange rate is such that everything is
very cheap for most foreigners). For example, a 1 hr. massage followed
by a mud treatment, cool yogurt, and soak in a tub with flowers… was
about $14. So I had to do some of that, in the interest of supporting
the local economy, of course! Here is the lovely woman who gave me a
great 1 hr. $7 pedicure, which finally got the last of Mt. Batur out
from under my toenails.
the day before I left I was able to visit a beautiful beach and do a
bit of great snorkeling (1 hr away on the back of a motorscooter- a
very exciting ride), then that night visit a temple for a ceremony and
watching some traditional Balinese dance, which includes some very
complicated hand/finger and eye movements. Later in the program there
were two men dressed as traditional women dancers, who were very funny
even without understanding their jokes.
I had some fun, and even the work was a bit of a vacation with little
paperwork (minimal charting and no billing!), almost no phone calls and
almost no driving. I could focus on being with birthing women and
babies, the work I love most.
am grateful to Robin Lim for creating this amazing clinic, I am
grateful to the other international volunteers for their support, and I
am grateful to the welcoming gentle, artistic, and spiritual Balinese
people. I can’t wait to go back again in a year or two!
am also grateful to my colleagues Mary Grabowska and Shawna
Celnicker-Chong, for covering my practice while I was gone, and Katie,
for keeping our office running smoothly, as usual. They are amazing.