Transfers and Offerings: Serving Global Health


The ogoh-ogohs are nearly done. Devil creatures with ponderous breasts, big bellies, fangs, claws and bulging eyes. Some are three or four stories high, others the height of doorway. Some are being constructed by groups of older men and young boys, some by groups of older boys. On Balinese New Year, 30 March, the parading and burning will begin followed by a day of total silence throughout the island: everywhere, everyone. I think about the hundreds of ogoh-ogohs tucked under porches and temple roofs, of young boys learning from uncles and fathers, and of the thousands of offerings by women, young and old.

Rainforest Fruits Deepa Agashe

Borneo rainforest fruits. Photo: Deepa Agashe

ogoh-ogoh in Bali

Balinese ogoh-ogohs. Photo: Jack Merridew//Wikipedia Commons

This is our final afternoon and dinner with our travelers, Dr. Lori and Dr. Karin. Dr. Ron, Kari, Loren, Trina and I complete the group. Joining the table fresh from his expedition on Flores where he was working on a National Science Foundation grant, Dr. Cam Webb empties his canvas bag of a veritable bounty of Balinese fruit: Snake fruit, Mangosteens, Sweet Sop and Rambutan. We learn how to mash, poke and peel open these new, exotic delectables and with fingers sticky and smiles big, we share Dr. Cam's offering.

Gathering around a long table for dinner, as if each of us were a different spool, the conversation threads spin tales of wounds and children, blended families and mixed marriages, forest expeditions, masts and staff reunions, of 30 hour shifts and 10 days of being "on", of word meanings and encounters with orangutans. Glancing down the table, I see Dr. Ron inspecting his handiwork on the heel of Loren's hand where a nasty gash required several stitches two years ago. There remains a numbness in the pinky finger and suddenly the table is an  exam room. Ron says this is why he loves ASRI, whether in the exam room at ASRI or at Warung Pulau Kelapa and why he has made a commitment to return when he has completed his residency program as a surgeon and ASRI has a Community Health & Training Center with surgical facilities. He enthusiastically talks about what he wants most: to simply serve his patients. At ASRI, he can do this he says, because "we practice 'transfer of knowledge' there and my patients do not have to worry whether they can pay, so I can just serve them as the best doctor I can be." More stories are shared about planting in community at Lamon Satong, training residency students, and how we strive to make good choices whether forester, parent, doctor, friend or patient.

Suture practice

Dr. Karin demonstrates suturing to ASRI staff.
Photo: Michelle Bussard

I think a lot about this phrase, "transfer of knowledge," and what it means to ASRI and in the larger world. It is a sort of sterile phrase, not unlike the instruments of a surgeon that Ron will soon learn to handle as deftly as Dr. Lori and Dr. Karin. But I know what it looks like and it is anything but sterile. It is Dr. Ron learning at the hand of Dr. Lori; it is Dr. Karin demonstrating suturing to an ASRI nurse without speaking Indonesian, it is young boys learning at the hands of their fathers making ogoh-ogohs; it is Dr. Cam's work in the forest that the planet's health may benefit from his learning. It is, but it is also not mentoring or teaching; it is, but it is also not shadowing or consulting, this "transfer of knowledge."

It is like a friend of mine observed of the word "current" -- it is what is happening right now, currently, and what we are constantly flowing through and in, as in the current of a river or the flow of life.

As our travelers talked of what they will take away, and as the Health In Harmony staff reflected on what we've learned and valued from this time, I also understood this transfer as an energy that, like Dr. Lori's word du jour, brings syzygy (alignment of planets), into play. She smiles and notes that you can't play the word in Scrabble without a blank. And I think that: indeed, this is what Health In Harmony and ASRI's work is about, bringing into alignment the health of all and the health of our planet. Would that there were more blanks in life! But, in saying farewell to Dr. Lori and Dr. Karin, I know how much these two women have helped to make this alignment happen and will continue to in their own places in the world. We depart on the eve of Bali Spirit Festival, in its eighth year. The title of one of the films says it all: " is an offering."

transfer of knowledge suturing

"Transfer of knowledge" at ASRI: joy and community in learning. Photo: Michelle Bussard


About Michelle Bussard | View all posts by Michelle Bussard

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