The Music of ASRI

Michelle Bussard and most of the Health In Harmony staff are currently in Sukadana, preparing to welcome a group of donors to ASRI in just a few days' time. We will be featuring blogs about the on-the-ground ASRI experience during this time.

Volunteer Andrew MacDonald hard at work.

Volunteer Andrew MacDonald hard at work. Photo: Michelle Bussard

It took four years, but Andrew MacDonald was back at ASRI wrapping up his six weeks. We would gather to celebrate his time here but there was still work to do completing the last entries to the labyrinthine reforestation relational database;  entries that would tell the story of what happened before the Lamon Saton fire and, with hope, its phoenix rising story.


Earlier that day, Dr. Jesse -- ASRI's new attending physician from UC San Francisco who is giving six months of time to collaborate with ASRI's Indonesian physicians -- had asked if there was anything Andrew needed help with that last night, after clinic hours.  When Trina and I arrived at Cam and Kinari's a few hours later  Andrew, Jesse and Erica (ASRI's Manager of Conservation Programs) were huddle over computers, brightly bound Indonesian composition books opened to the fading scribbles recording the facts of life: plantings and progress of a reforestation site. Trina soon joined in on the last laptop available. With seemingly little effort, Andrew's fingers danced across the numbers keypad and conversation wound around our stories and the stories of this place. Cicadas filled the night with song;  the house lights offered a halo in the otherwise pitch-black night. With the last entry made from Book 209, Andrew and Erica broke out the durian in celebration. With it pre-historic looking football shape, sharp cones covering its surface that could kill a person if it fell on their head from the dizzying heights where it grows, it is anything but obvious that one could eat this thing. It's smell for starters, made 100x worse upon cracking open the lethal shell, is...well...let's just say one has to get past the smell to get the creamy lemon-vanilla pod into one's mouth.  Everyone ought to try it at least once, if only once. Stalls and piles of the fruit line the roads as its ubiquitous odor wafts through the rainforest. Motorbikes strapped with keranjang rattan baskets filled with the treasure buzz back and forth.  The durian's onset is relished here as we in the Northwest relish the salmon runs.


Although there would be no graphs to tell the story yet, the next day's joy in Morning Meeting was palpable even as Andrew shared a heartfelt farewell and welcomed all to his send-off party.  Arriving that night about 7:30 p.m., several ASRI bikes were  evident outside of an otherwise nondescript cement and steel door hulk of a building. In the gloom, one could just make out the highly stylized airbrush signature: X-One Karaoke. Ushered up raw wooden stairs to room of  glittering silver and black walls and a flat screen TV, the action was on. A "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" Indonesian rendition was expertly crooned by Will and Clara's 7-year old daughter, Holly. The children and the roomful of adults began swaying and clapping lightly. A few turns set the mood, more ASRI staff arrived, everyone squished on couch and floor and soon names were called out to pick a song and karaoke. Andrew's turn came up. After much fun bantering, the song was picked. Andrew took the mic along with Dr. Nomi, ASRI's newest Indonesian physician and first Muslim woman to serve in that role. In Indonesian, the two laid into the words, the rap-rock song's words and music filled the room; everyone piling onto the chorus: This is the music of my country; this is the music of my country. It's worth a listen:

In this room, thousands of miles from anything very familiar, there was what is most precious and familiar: seeds of change. Dr. Nur's date for departure has been set and new Indonesian doctors are arriving to take up their posts. Dr. Vina is in the United States completing a fellowship at Yale and Stanford Medical Schools.


Upon her return, she will step into the role of Head of Clinic. There is both an incredible beauty and pain in the growing up of an idea, a concept, a child. Dr. Nur's departure will mark the end of an era at ASRI even as a new one begins. He will take with him not only a bounty of new knowledge and skills but also the affection and respect of founder Dr. Kinari Webb. Together, along with co-founder Dr. Hotlin, they worked side-by-side and together faced Dr. Kinari's brush with death when stung by the box jelly fish in July 2011. It is the end of an era even as a new one begins. Dr. Nomi, Dr. Vina, Dr. Jesse  and other's will carry on and create new traditions and stories. Erica will carry on the reforestation lineage set down by Dr. Cam Webb and Andrew's work will help tell the story of new beginnings too. The song, This is the music of my country ends with a baby's to a mother's ears. It is a music we all share in some deep place in our hearts and souls: it is the music of love and hope. It is the music of ASRI.


About Michelle Bussard | View all posts by Michelle Bussard

Michelle is the Executive Director at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR.