“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” —Albert Einstein, 1950
Mary Brannock, our first participant in our ambassador program for tekMountain Women’s eHealth strides ahead on her journey through Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, it’s been a spectrum of serenity upon arrival in Denpasar, the capital city and main hub of the Indonesian province of Bali. Upon her first step off the plane, she was steeped in the exhaust and tumult of Balinese taxi drivers falling over each other to gain her business. The smell of sweet soy sauce, tamarind and stir-fried prawns of Nasi goreng (fried rice) fill the busy street. With her trusty backpack chest strap buckled tight and wits about her, gained from her invigorating adventures in Melbourne last week, she stands her ground, rooted into the earth, and politely turns them down.
She has relied on her own two feet so far to guide her to the next wondrous and wild pin on this magical journey.
Mary has also navigated the wall-to-wall cacophony of the aggressive tourist-saturated area of Kuta, whose ratched-up sounds and aggressive advances gave her “a bad vibe,” which all the more proves to her that her inner compass is working—that all signs point to get the heck out of there. As she has been reflecting on her travels in this short interval of time that she has been away from home, she has come to deeply understand that she seeks both the venue—and to actively cultivate an openness of spirit within herself—to have those authentic conversations with people that are willing to engage her with honesty and open-mindedness. Mary is committed to better understand women’s health globally, and she is is honing her inner radar to source and attract those who want to give and receive. (Sorry aggressive taxi drivers).
Einstein explains the limited parameters of the human experience as a barrier to compassion. “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. She experiences herself, her thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of her consciousness.”
How can we refract the optical delusion to break through our consciousness?
The first words that Mary learned in Bahasa, the local language are Terima kasih – thank you.
In her own words:
“The Balinese people are so very kind and truly go out of their way to help you.” Terima kasih
“They always are willing to help and do whatever they can.” Terima kasih
“I wanted to learn these words first as to thank the many people who have helped me find my way, learn to ride a motorbike and make good suggestions.” Terima kasih
We learn the language of the country we are visiting. We stumble through the words, phrases and tricky intonations. We get tongue-tied. We try again.
Back in Densapar, when about to be buried in offers for cabs, Mary slightly experiences a moment of panic: it’s a new place, new language—she is a traveler on her own. She asks for help from another solo female backpacker. She is urgent, she is earnest. Help is abundant when she asks, when she is vulnerable, thrown off-kilter. These lessons learned are reflexive: for her, her fellow travellers, and for the construct of the “wholeness” of the human experience.
If you ask for help, you will widen your circles of compassion. It just takes practice.
“This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us.”
Mary chooses the buoyant joy of sourcing kindred spirits over the so-called “prison”. Once on her way to Ubud from the tourist trap Kuta on a happenstance bus with two hostellers from Germany, they made their way to Ubud for very cheap (8 dollars). Luckily, the bus driver was in the hostel picking up some other travellers and accepted their last minute request. She explains this experience as “Absolute Magic,” and we agree—the thrill of travel, the surrender to the unknown and the unplanned adventures are what makes taking the road less travelled so satisfying. On the ride to Ubud, she made fast friends with a French traveller—and they all decided to go off the beaten path when arriving in Ubud. They hiked 5 miles (packs and all) to a hostel in Ubud.
After a quick shower, they made more friends, rented a motorbike and explored a waterfall called Yeh Mampeh or flying water. Mary recants that this stunning waterfall is untouched and quite a challenge to get to. They went close to sunset and trekked through a jungle, climbing muddy rock. The circle of friends forged ahead, and exerted themselves for the ultimate pay-off.
They got caught in the jungle in the dark hiking back.
“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison…”
Someone was smart enough to suggest they bring headlamps, which they promptly strapped on.
They got back to their hostel unscathed, muddy and lifted up by the impromptu experience, the seamless unity of it all.
Mary met a Balinese couple and had dinner with them, her inner radar noting that these people were willing to delve into the heart of her journey—women’s eHealth topics. They spoke about the taboos of talking about sex and the deeply concerning high teenage pregnancy rate in Bali and Indonesia. Talking about sex in public, or private is not socially acceptable. But the couple was so encouraging, so fervent with their suggestions to have Mary talk to some local women’s health clinics, so that she can further bolster her research. The couple loves the idea of having a text messaging service for youth in Indonesia to ask these vital questions.
They taught Mary some words in Bahasa so she could communicate better with the locals.
They taught her Terima kasih – thank you.
We at tekMountain Women’s eHealth are dedicated to contributing to the dynamic conversation serving the wider women’s health community and the ehealth landscape.
This opportunity to broaden our global perspective will aid in better understanding population health and access—and in turn be able to create innovative solutions to incite positive change for women’s healthcare. We are helping to cultivate a culture of collaboration, dialogue, and resource-sharing. United, we have the power to truly change the world by connecting with other advocates across the globe. We invite you to join us on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Stay tuned for updates on this blog on Mary’s experiences, informed insight and hope for the future of women’s health.