It’s difficult to say and worse to have.
Starting life as a small pimple on my back that I couldn’t really see, one thinks OK, this is OK. Let’s follow the usual procedure: clean with alcohol or some tea tree oil, put on a not-possible-to-come-off (even with surfing for a couple of hours every day) plaster (band aid) and all will be ok.
No. OK. Let’s hit it with the invincible antibiotic cream and the plaster.
It’s now become a scarlet red volcano on my shoulder blade, that throbs and seriously hurts. I show it to the locals. “Ahhh, bisul. Kecil. Tidak masalah. Saya punya satu begini, besar" - “Oh it’s an abscess. It’s small. Don’t worry. I had one like this, big", they say. OK. Go in the ocean they say, the sea water will sort it out. OK. Great. I can go surf.
Another day passes. The pain intensifies. I’m wondering if I am a total wimp.
Now Maria steps in. She brings her friend over who makes village medicine (this refers to medicine locals make using natural herbs, leaves, flowers, oils etc). Her friend has a black substance in a clam shell. And a bottle that previously contained the Indonesian version of soy sauce in it but now is full of an oil with bits and pieces of chilly, leaves and I don’t know what else.
The local lady sits me down. Uncovers the bisul. Gasps. Turns me around. Holds up her middle finger of her right hand and tells me that with this finger (it can not be any other finger) she will administer the black medicine from the clam shell in a circular motion and then put on some oil so the scar is not so bad!
A couple of days pass. The now black volcano has grown in stature. I decide I best make a trip to the capital to visit the hospital.
The doctors uncover the bisul and gasp! What is the black? They send photos to the surgeon. News from him. He needs to cut the volcano open, remove the infection, put me on intravenous antibiotics and I need to spend the night in the hospital. I don’t relish the last part. The hospital here is called the moveable hospital as it was built as a temporary structure to be moved; it’s become permanently temporary.
I decided to chat with one of my best friend’s, Nizar, from the capital and get another opinion. “TIDAK. Lizzie tidak.” (“NO. Lizzie, no”). OK. Come to his house he said. OK.
Here was another close friend of mine on Nizar’s phone, Captain Firadeus Alma (if you translate parts of his name from Portguese you get Captain Fir god soul which is very appropriate, he’s a magnanimous character). A former captain in the Indonesian Special Forces and a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot for the UN in Africa he’s seen a lot. I was ordered not to go back to the hospital but to await the correct antibiotics that his lawyer daughter would bring from Jakarta tomorrow along with Olympic muscle building powder to replace lost protein. OK.
Next Nizar took me to a local resort where the rooms had a/c and a tv - very unusual here. I spent the next day here until the volcano on my back erupted. Next on the scene was the local resort driver Ratman. An expert in bisuls I was to discover. Upon inspection he decided it was time to squeeze one of the “eyes” out of the infection. One?!! There are more than one? YES. Crap!
Supine on the balcony table Ratman, with Nizar on a video call so Captain Fir god soul could observe that all was being done correctly, the first eye came out. An evil mini green egg in appearance. This was repeated over the next three days until all the remaining evil eyes were out. In the meantime Captain’s daughter, the antibiotics and Olympic muscle building powder had arrived. Maria and some of the locals from the village I live in came everyday to the resort bringing food, chatting with me and making sure I was OK.
I was. Hurrah. The worst was over.
Upon my return to Bido where I live, some of the locals saw the mark on my back. “Oh bisul BESAR” (Oh what a BIG bisul you had)!