Ambai Island, Yapen Islands Regency
Ambai Island is part of the Yapen Islands Regency in Papua. We arrived at Ambai to cover the local cultural party – there were traditional dances and local theatre that was performed on sea. We were standing on the wooden bridge pier and was on the process of shooting for one of my traveling programme called Pelesir. It was such an interesting scene where the locals perform a theatrical story about ‘The Abducted Slave’. The talents were performing at the sea on traditional boats and they continued they’re act climbing up to the wooden bridge pier to where we were standing.
So, there we can cover closely about the act. I was standing beside a local friend who we ask earlier to be my co-host, so he can tell us more about the local’s culture and nature in Ambai Island. He was just standing only inches away from me at my left side. All our eyes were locked with the theatrical moment’s just infront of us. In SECONDS, Yes SECONDS! The bridge pier broke because of overloaded people. It had broke continuously for three times. Well, I had the first one and if ONLY I had stepped back for just ONE STEP I will be safe. But, oh well I fell! – without letting me the chance to think on how to survive myself or even to just let me have time to step back for just one step. I fell for 3 meters down to the sea surface and another +/- 3 meters down underwater. Far as I remember the bridge instantly wobbles uncontrollably and caused a lot of people to fall. I could feel while I was drowning, the chaos of heavy iron wood splashing producing white bubbles underwater. Up over there the falling bridge scene was possibly more or less like a domino effect. It gave me the feeling that I was pushed down because of the pressure of the falling woods. All I can do was pray to Allah. As I was still going down, all I can pray inside of my head was, ‘I hope I won’t be drowning too deep. I hope it’s not deep!’ All I could see was dark blue seawater with a little light somewhere, shadows of falling iron wood and white bubbles coming from the splash. Suddenly, I was up on the surface. I saw my local friend who logically should be next to me was actually standing with his sunglasses still perching on his forehead but rather far away from me. This is strange I thought! People were everywhere on the water and some were safe up on the bridge and what I can hear was people shouting here and there all panic from the tragedy. Surprisingly, I was quite by myself standing and still at the straight vertical line from where I had fell. My local friend called me, ‘Fiona!’ And as usual I acted cool and everything was okay. I tried to collect myself and look at my surrounding, then he approached me and kind of dragged me away keeping me safe from the broken bridge because apparently some were still falling down. My biologist friend- who also fell but was okay from it- came running towards me and checked me just in case of any injuries. He probably had seen some blood pouring at my arm or leg because he directly checked at my wounds on my right arm and said this is a big cut it must be stitched. He directly asked me whether I felt dizzy or hurt. And I said no. I neither can’t feel my wounds and actually don’t know if there was any. Once I saw my own trickling blood at my right arm, right knee and my left calf, I realised that I was injured. People was running and gathering towards me some shocked and some surprised that I was wounded. My back shirt around the back of my shoulder was teared from a hard bump that I tried to recall it was from the broken edge of the bridge when I fell down. The rest I don’t know how I got my cut from. Mostly they said I got the cut from bia bia (local language for a type of white shell -shape like a clam but rather small that usually sticks at wooden bridges) which is poisonous. I was guided towards the traditional house area not far from the bridge where the locals live by the sea. I climbed one of the nearest stairs and went in from the back doors. The local Papuan women were all busy and panicked at the same time preparing a cure for me which is HOT BOILING water! They said that to lose the poison they usually use hot water on the wound. So, they made me a whole BIG boiling hot water as you can see it steaming. And a woman brought a towel and dip it into the hot water ready to clean my wounds. I tried not to look surprised because hot boiling water equals big cuts doesn’t seem a good idea. So, I asked my biologist friend that they don’t need to do it but we thought that it would be considered rude to reject their kindness. My friend said that it’s probably their way in cleaning the wounds. And then I said okay although with my cringing look and because of my expression they said ‘Jesus God! Jesus God! Sayang…. It’s going to be alright.’ My friend suggest them to do it slowly. Not long the Regent of Serui Island came running-still with the beaded ornament attached at his hip – came to the kitchen where I was and he instructed the people to escort me to the speedboat. I felt relieved and said thank you to the locals. As I was escorted to the backside of the house again and ready to climb down the stairs except this was on the other side, one local Papuan man came rushing to me while munching bettle nut and vine – I remembered his face instantly because he was one of the main talent of the theatrical show but I didn’t notice there was a bump on his forehead which my friends told me afterwards – and then took out his munched bettle nut from his mouth towards his hand and put it at my calf while mumbling some words as he tries to help me heal. Well, it felt like a burning sensation and my friends told him that it was okay because we have to leave and go to the speedboat soon. We approach the nearest clinic, instead the Regent directed his subordinates to call all the clinic member to clean up my wounds inside the speedboat. There were also one local Papuan woman who join us in the speedboat lying down in shock. They said that she got knocked somewhere in the stomach area from the wooden log. At first, I thought they were going to stitch me right away because I saw all the stitching tools. Then the Regent immediately said ‘No! We already called a skin doctor to come over to my place. So, you will be stitched there.’ The clinic team cleaned my wound with alcohol 70%. Yes! Alcohol 70%! It hurt sooooo much until I sang it off to make me feel better and not worse. It felt like a squeeze of lemon was poured into a cut. And that how it feels like! You know when they say sing, or think and try to feel positive as could be when you are in pain then the pain will lessen. That’s what I did. I didn’t cry but sang it away. It stings like crazy I tell you! Then we arrived at the Regent’s place. I try to clean myself first from the saltwater while waiting for the doctor. Besides that, I ate RAW ALOEVERA like a jungle-man which I usually bring in my bag during my adventures . And because of this accident I regretted that I had brought only one leaf! Aloevera is known for its miraculous healing for the body inside and out! I ate it to prevent any serious injuries that I don’t know and to help the healing process for my wounds.
When the doctor came, I was asked to lay down on the couch and the stitching process begin. Of course, alcohol 70% was given again but not as much as before and the doctor gave me local anesthetic injections around my wounded area in order for the stitching process to begin. Anyways, I can feel pain at my knee for two or three stitches and the rest I couldn’t feel it. So, in total I have 20 stitches, 15 at my right arm, 5 at the knee, others were using butterfly wound closures. I have to drag my right leg every time I walk because I couldn’t bend my knee yet from the fresh stitch. I remember I was put in a wheelchair when we landed to Jakarta but only until the baggage claim area. Two to three weeks later I opened my stitches because the doctor in Jakarta said that my wounds were already quickly dry. I have to wait 1 month to heal but longer time until the deeper wounds dries inside by itself.
Moral of the Story:
Spread kindness every where and anytime because we will never know which kindness that you have spread will help you in your hardship times.
Never lose spirit in your adventures. Keep on traveling because this is the part of knowing your own self. It is a self journey.
Bring an aloevera leaf if you can! Another addition for your first aid kit.
I lost a tote bag where I put my clothes and makeup bag inside. If I’m not mistaken, I had entrusted it to someone because I thought I might need it later for the shooting. But my tote bag was no where to be seen, lost and sunk. Well, I have never thought of it ever since and was okay about it. Then the other day, the local people of Ambai using their traditional boat – that might take 3 hours ride had found it and sincerely gave it back to me. They probably had dived to search my possession. The reason for this was they don’t want to have a bad impression because from all that had happen. I was lost in words.