Archive for the ‘Sumatra’ Category

A Grandma at 19 Years Old

June 11, 2010

I was shocked by this video.  I knew that children can suffer from premature ageing (progenia) and they usually pass away by the time they reach teen age from heart disease and stroke.  It’s a rare condition but well known because of it’s horrific effects.  Somehow it seems more horrific to find that it can occur in people after they have reached puberty.  Maybe it’s because children don’t really understand the full pleasures of life, they may know they are missing out on years but they don’t appreciate what those years can be like.  When someone has had a taste of adult life and be at their peak of health and hope only to have it snatched away, well that’s very hard indeed.

At the age of 17, Ita had just got married.  She was pretty and full of energy.  She made her living selling women’s clothes door to door in her North Sumatran village (Sumut = Sumatra Utara).  Now she is 19 and her life has changed as you can see.  Her husband has left her.  She feels extreme pain in the joints and back of the neck and she suffers from fevers.  Her parents have spent all their savings on medication and treatments.  Worst of all, people mock her, calling her ‘nenek’ (granny).

The disease is called Werner’s Syndrome, which occurs after puberty.  People with this illness can live into their 40s and 50s.  I read that a discovery was published in the January 2010 issue of a medical journal where it was found that vitamin C could cure mice who had been given the disease.  It didn’t increase the lifespan of normal mice, but the ones with the disease were restored to full health.  I haven’t heard of it being trialled in humans, though it would be harmless for someone to try it.

Sadly, it’s too late for Ita.  She passed away in February from pneumonia.  As for her husband?  He remarried shortly after this clip was made, a short while before she died.


Child Abuse? Ardi Rizal – Smoking Baby

June 2, 2010

Ardi is two years old and smokes 40 cigarettes a day.  His father introduced him to smoking when he was 18 months.  His parents say he screams if he doesn’t have a cigarette in his hand.

Smoking is a popular activity in Indonesia.  It’s socially acceptable although smoking is more frequent among lower income earners and men are more likely to smoke than women.  The same profile as in Western countries, but a lot more of it happening.  Cigarettes are cheap and are sold in small packs of as few as ten.  Many vendors are happy to break a pack and sell singles.  You can also buy single cigarettes from peddlers at traffic lights.

By far the most popular type of cigarette is the kretek.  Kreteks are a blend of tobacco and cloves (and other minor flavourings).  They are probably more harmful than tobacco-based cigarettes, they certainly seem more harmful if the heavier smoke and strong, sweet smell are anything to go by.  Menthol flavoured smokes also sell well.  Indonesians have a sweet tooth and that extends to smoking.

Just as 30 years ago in the West, cigarette companies are by far the biggest advertisers and are the biggest sponsors of recreational and sports activities.  They can afford to do this because their profits are immense.  There are many rags to riches stories from the early 20th century of young men who got in at the beginning of the cigarette industry.  To get an idea of the profits to be made, you need only visit the House of Sampoerna Museum in Surabaya or drive past the huge Gudang Garum estates in Kediri.

Separating Indonesians from their kretek is going to be a long and hard fought battle.  I feel that it’s probably a battle that doesn’t need to be fought now, considering the many other problems there are to deal with.  Improved public education would help, combined with gradual increases in cigarette taxes.

As for Ardi?  I think it’s more a case of parental stupidity.  You can see from the clip that the boy has been taught swear words and how to make faces to entertain adults.  The fact that he cries when he can’t get a cigarette is a lame excuse.  Any responsible adult, even in Indonesia, knows that it’s unhealthy to smoke, and his parents are responsible for him.

There are claims on the internet that he can’t run.  Well, he is a little fatty and stubborn, why would he run when he has a tricycle.  The claims that child welfare has taken him into custody are untrue.  However it appears that his mother has finally been shamed into seeking help in curing him of his addiction.