The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru, Cannibals, and Mad Cow Disease


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Genetic Testing and Genetic Determinism

Seizing the chance to travel to the other end of the world, Klitzman embarked on an adventure that would change his life. Wie bewerten Sie den Artikel? Details zum Adobe-DRM. Mit dem amazon-Kindle ist es aber nicht kompatibel. Buying eBooks from abroad For tax law reasons we can sell eBooks just within Germany and Switzerland. Regrettably we cannot fulfill eBook-orders from other countries. Medizin-Studium Klinik. Anmeldung Mein Konto Merkzettel 0. Erweiterte Suche. Ihr Warenkorb 0. Der neue Herold ist da!

Modelle Anatomische Modelle Somso-Modelle. Lehmanns Verlag. Robert Klitzman Autor. Bitte geben Sie Daten ein: Name oder Pseudonym. Bitter fighting raged to regain control of the island. For the first time, airplanes flew over many regions. In darting over the steep ranges, some crashed. After the war, systematic exploration finally began of the eastern half of the island, which was found to contain three million inhabitants, still living in the Stone Age. Groups, tucked in steep valleys and surging mountains, had remained markedly isolated from both each other and the outside world for millennia.

On the island of New Guinea, over seven hundred and fifty separate languages are still spoken—one-half to one-third of all the languages ever spoken in the history of the entke world. These tongues are not dialects with differences akin to those between, for example, French and Italian, but vary from one another as markedly as Hungarian from Hawaiian. The Fore are only one of these seven hundred and fifty groups. Anthropologists such as Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead had come to various parts of New Guinea and its islands since the s, and each had examined a different set of people.

These researchers explored an assortment of themes, illuminating the various ways in which cultures approach warfare, power, spirituality, gender, sexuality, and aesthetics. New Guinea has served as a vast lens and mirror for understanding human culture and psyche. But crucial, otherwise unattainable data remained theresoon to be lost.

As kura constituted the vast majority of the world's cases of transmitted infectious protein disease, it was also important to find out as much as possible about this disease. But the task would not be easy. Recently, several puzzles, medical and anthropological, about the illness had been appearing. While the natives argued that the disease can be cured through counter-sorcery, Western scientists viewed the illness as untreatable. Did the Fore possess a remedy? If not, how did they support their claim despite evidence to the contrary?

As the natives also insisted that the number of cases remained the same, one of niy jobs would be to determine who had kuru by Western criteria and who did not, in order to understand whether and how the epidemic was changing, The Fore and their neighbors still believed that sorcery caused the illness.

As a result, the Fore had continued cannibalism fin respect for their dead relatives —even in the face of mounting deaths. As more tribal members died, more were eaten. In fact, cannibalism had begun to decline not as a result of kuru, but from colonial government patrols and missionaries, arriving for the first time in the decades after World War II, pressuring the natives to end the practice, and arresting any violators.

Occasional cannibalistic feasts are rumored still to occur in secret. Had Caucasians not entered the area when they did, the Fore may have vanished. Yet the transmission of the infectious agent through cannibalism had not actually been proven. In fact, an anthropologist, W. The nation's leading anthropological journals and The New York Times reported on this new idea despite it being purely speculative and unfounded. This "revisionist" theory insisted that proof of cannibalism exists, at best, only as written records that are merely "texts" and do not refer to anything in reality.

Hence, another of my goals would be to document the lingering memory of the nature of these feasts, adding these data to the record. No one born after cannibalism stopped had been found to develop kuru, but it would be important to show that this was still the case— particularly now with more recent patients. Since the length of time from the most recent cases of cannibalism was increasing, it might also be possible to determine how long the incubation periods could be—how slow these "slow viruses" as they were then called were.

How long could the infectious particle take to affect someone after exposure? Previously, it had been impossible to trace cases back to specific feasts because so many feasts had been held in a very short period of time. Yet current cases might be the results of the last feasts held.

These recent patients might have attended only one or two feasts in their lifetime—as children—not dozens or hundreds throughout the span of their lives as had been the case with patients earlier. Thus, it might be possible to pinpoint exactly when infection had occurred and exactly how long the agent took to begin its attack. Recently in some villages, after no cases at all for several years, clusters of individuals appeared to get sick suddenly—after decades of being healthy—and die.

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Robert Klitzman

It was not clear whether these were new outbreaks, and if so, what caused them. Was the infectious agent indeed still lingering somehow in the environment? Or were these clusters the result of the last feast or feasts? These individuals would together then have been infected decades before and been completely healthy until now, when the slowly replicating agent attained levels sufficient to kill. The idea sounded absurd—something out of science fiction. But the discovery of identical incubation periods of possibly thirty years in two or more people would suggest that a very specific, far from, random process was occurring inside the brain.

Moreover, a second, environmental "trigger" would then be far less likely. Moreover, if such episodes of transmission were found, these decadeslong incubation periods would then be measurable and confirmed for the first time in particular individuals and would be the longest ever documented.

These discoveries could help alter how medical science thought about these and other disorders. Most infectious diseases— such as the flu—incubate merely for days, or even hours. Other adult ailments, too, might perhaps then be the result of virus-like particles acquired decades before but not producing the usual immune signs indicating infection. There was perhaps no better way to understand what was universal about man by which I will mean human beings—both men and women and what was specific to different times and places.

I had studied these issues through works of history, sociology, anthropology, and literature. But I now wanted to look for myself. I would approach these questions by exploring how a different culture viewed death, brain disease, and epidemic. Western medicine looks at illness, the brain, and the human body in specific ways—scientifically. Nothing could address questions about culture and psyche better than comparisons with the Stone Age and New Guinea—the last region contacted by the outside world and the home of the largest concentration of primitive people on earth.

What was life like in the Stone Age, untouched by civilization using this term loosely? This land could offer myriad similarities and contrasts for understanding our own society—from how people dressed, to how they viewed life and mortality, and what they dreamt about. The Stone Age and the New Guinea rain forests were also now disappearing. Coffee plantations and foreign lumber and strip-mining companies were rapidly denuding mountains and valleys. I would be exploring a universe and a time that were soon to vanish.

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Reports on the primitiveness of New Guinea did little to entice foreign investment. Yet I would still be able to enter this unique area of the world, this natural laboratory, as a medical researcher, and I would thus have one of the last chances to explore cultures there. Moreover, it would be important to observe how the Stone Age interconnected with the Space Age and the information superhighway—how individuals leaped across thousands of years of development in a single lifetime. Many had been born in the Stone Age before Westerners had arrived. How did they put the two eras together?

What was easy and what was difficult about the integration? How did the two cultures—theirs and ours—view and interact with one another? What was different and what, due to man's underlying biological nature, was the same? Brazil had primitive peoples, too, but they had had contact and colonial pressure for over five hundred years. PNG had not. This trip to New Guinea would thus provide unique glimpses of radical shifts in societies and individual lives. I didn't yet think much about the obstacles to doing this research—having to communicate in Pidgin English, facing malarial swamps, parasites in the water, landslides, tribal wars, and other natural and human dangers.

I felt a little scared, knowing no one there. I had never seen dying patients and was afraid of dangerous infectious diseases. But there were important questions to answer here. Also, I figured that afterward I'd probably stay in large American cities for years. This, then, would be my last chance to immerse myself in a completely different place.

I spoke with Carleton further about going. I applied for a visa from the New Guinea embassy—which told me the processing could take months. In the meantime, I edited a catalogue of Carleton's films on kuru and primitive cultures. Outsiders will also cause trouble in your host village. And you should be on antimalarial medication. Take Fansidar. You'll probably go into Fansidar-resistant areas, however. You can take chloroquine, too. But then you'll probably be going into chloroquineresistant areas as well. So it's best probably just to stay on Fansidar, and when you're on the coast, double your dose.

After one week, she had a nervous breakdown, and had to be flown home. In the final weeks before my departure, I scurried about finishing projects and preparing for my trip and for being away from civilization for several long months. The week before Christmas, two days before the embassy knew my flight was to leave, I received my visa.

I would give the presents to my family when they saw me off at the airport the following morning. Shoppers shoved into store elevators. Crowds pushed. I yearned to escape this crass materialism for something more innocent and pure. In one store, midst mobs and elevator bells, five children, all but ignored, sang "Silent Night," their voices lost in the trample. That night I had a drink with friends at a midtown Hyatt hotel. Most, akeady tired of their jobs in New York, wanted a change. I was about to have one. I would fly first to California where I had never before been , and then to Hawaii.

High above the clouds, I finally sat back and relaxed. In Los Angeles I visited college friends briefly and then left the continental U. Back in the air, clouds hung over the small fragment of California as if thin paint on the limitless blue. In less than a year, I'd be entering medical school. But now, I was free. I arrived in Hawaii at night. In the morning, I strolled to the beach and faced the Pacific for the first time. It was New Year's morning, The ocean stretched on, fusing with the sky in diffuse frothy light.

The ocean seemed far softer than the Atlantic—the only other ocean I knew. On shore, rich, fragrant air filtered through lush trees. Cypress, birches, and palms surrounded me. Here was paradise, eternal summer, a dream. I had forgotten how beautiful nature could be. The beach was deserted except for a woman sitting in jeans and a work shirt on a square blue blanket. She caught my eye and we nodded. I noticed she was playing cards—tarot cards on closer inspection.

I strolled over. It will be your fortune. I flipped it over. She was astonished. Before entering the airport terminal, I took one last long glance around me—at the West. The branches of trees swayed quietly around me. I picked up my bags and walked toward the building. In the tinted glass doors I glimpsed my reflection, standing by myself in jeans and a workshirt that had big breast pockets. I was lugging two big suitcases and a knapsack—a traveler, bound for the unknown. I was curious to see who else would be journeying to this remote island-—I knew no one else there.

Only fourteen people boarded the huge Rows and rows remained wholly empty. I took three seats. As I buckled my seat belt, I still felt apprehensive—that I should know more about Papua New Guinea, and what I was getting myself into. I also feared becoming lonely or homesick. I had a long list of questions based on readings in psychology, anthropology, and literature: how do dreams and myths differ between cultures? Is man by nature alienated from his society? But these issues now seemed distant and abstract. I looked out the window. He slid along the cushioned seat beside me. Curious sounds came out of his mouth.

He caught my uncertainty. I got used to getting spanked. But living on a farm, I watched my father doing chores, and I began to do them, too. He realized that an insane person could not do these jobs correctly. I was taken for tests and found to be deaf.

It took me to age 16 to learn how to lip read. Eventually, I trained as a carpenter. Now, every year for three weeks, I travel to New Guinea to work at a mission and teach carpentry. I'm a quarterback for the Los Angeles Earns. I've been born again and now spend a few weeks each year spreading the word. Political and economic interests always seemed at play. She stopped to hold onto the top of the seat. Two younger women followed her closely, watching her progress. His forwardness amazed me, but the old woman's eyes lit up. Looks like you're off for a big trip," Walter said.

I've always wanted to go to New Guinea. If I don't go now, I don't know when I would. I was a pediatrician. I stood up and shook her hand. Hers was frail but firm. Her name was Betty. The other one was nay sister. Internal medicine. She was President John R Kennedy's physician. But she died several years ago. But it's been harder recently. Luckily, I learned years ago how to avoid jet lag.

You'll be surprised, it works. Walter was now sitting on the armrest in front of me; talking to a middle-aged woman in jeans and tennis sneakers, with wrinkled tanned skin and curly salt-andpepper hair. My kids all grew up and moved out, so I decided to embark on a new life. Now, each year I go somewhere exotic. Last year was Tibet, the year before that Patagonia. Three years ago I went to the Galapagos. This year is New Guinea. I scrimp and save all year to go. By the way, have you met Mark and Steve? In the row in front of her, two men sat, bandanas around their heads, wearing unbuttoned plaid flannel shirts and tee shirts.

I had noticed them checking in at the airport with long oars. We've been to most of the world's other great places for white water rafting. Last year, the Amazon. New Guinea's the only place we haven't been. Mark just started medical school last year, so we've had less time. When we do have the time, we really go. I didn't have a reservation or know of any hotels.

In my excitement and naivete, I hadn't thought about where I would stay—or even what I'd do in Moresby. I had planned a few days there, figuring that as the capital, it would be important to see. Carleton had been too busy to give me mundane details such as where or how long to stay there. I was on my own. We wrote away in advance. Since the school's on Christmas break, they thought they'd have lots of space. It's also cheap. But I'm sure you'd be welcome to stay there, too. After all, you're here to do medical research. Soon we were all standing in the aisles conversing as if at a cocktail party.

Our respective adventures somehow bonded us. The only people still seated were a family in front. A middle-aged couple and their two daughters all sat reading books. Walter walked over and started talking with them, too. They were from Los Angeles. New Guinea is the most unusual place in the world we haven't been. I told them. It turned out that friends of theirs—film producers who lived in Beverly Hills—had a son in my class.

The Whittiers and I were glad to find a common connection. There, above the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles from anywhere, we ended up talking for an hour or two. A tall man with glasses and a long, greying beard stood to one side observing us all. I eventually walked up to him and introduced myself. He was Richard Balsam, an anthropologist, was traveling to study tribal law. He asked about the research I would be doing.

I've never done anything like this before. You'll see phenomena more clearly. Your mind will be less muddled with theories. Just remember to keep in mind the most important lesson in all of anthropology. We all have different maps. She peeked back at us, seemed bored by herself up front, and soon came to coach class to join us. She was Australian, returning to visit her husband, who owned a company strip-mining the New Guinea rain forest.

Eighteen hours later we landed in the capital, Port Moresby. As we all waited for our baggage, I ended up standing with Richard. A ground crewman finally brought out the luggage, piling it on the floor. There was no rack. A few baggage carts lay scattered about—all broken. None had intact baskets or were painted, I passed a counter labeled "quarantine" and, partially obstructed behind a desk, a sign proclaiming, "Malaria is endemic in New Guinea, If you get sick within six weeks of your arrival, contact a physician.

We took our bags and proceeded through customs. Officials stopped only the woman from first class, wheeling a cart piled high with boxes of expensive gifts, and the two raftsmen, Mark and Steve, whose huge backpacks stuffed with sleeping bags and inflatable equipment towered over thek heads. The remainder of us passed a partition and entered the rest of the room at this one-building airport. The walls were all painted dull yellow. Fans churned slowly overhead. We all shook hands, "And what are you going to be doing here in PNG? Do you have a place to stay here in Moresby?

Do you have plans for dinner tonight? Are you sure that would be alright? We would be honored. Mark and Steve finally made it past customs, and the three of us took a cab to the dorm—a long line of rooms between a lawn and the jungle. We each got a room. They took a nap, and I decided to tour the town. No road left the hot, humid city for more than fifty miles before ending abruptly in the jungle. To get here from anywhere else in the country required flying.

This nation, emerging from the Stone Age, depended more than any other on planes. Many natives had collected together enough money over several years to fly to the city, and came looking for work, only to find none. Stuck there now, unable to afford airfare home, they fell into poverty and resorted to thieving.

The homes of the Chus and other expatriates—or "expats"—were all robbed at least once a year. The town curved around a harbor, On heights jutting out into the sea, rambling mansions sprawled, affording expansive views of the water. Yet up the sides of the hills climbed shanty towns, and abandoned concrete World War n pillboxes, now used by prostitutes at night.

I took a public bus inland to see the country's Parliament building, located at the end of a muddy dirt road. The national emblem had fallen off the side of the whitewashed stucco structure, leaving a grey silhouette. Nearby stood the National Museum, which, a sign said, was "Closed indefinitely due to leaky roof. A German couple joined me. But torrents of mosquitoes attacked us. We ran out as fast as we could. But we just changed our airline tickets. We were going to stay here for two weeks, but now we're flying back tomorrow morning.

We'll be glad to leave. I felt like a total stranger here, missing friends and family. Nothing was easy or orderly. I constantly had to make difficult decisions about and assessments of what to do. I decided to walk around and see the hospital near the dorm. Thick mud oozed along the cement walks between the squat buildings. Inside the hospital, a woman lay asleep on the ground beside her ill child.

Patients all walked barefoot, not owning shoes. On the doors hung primitive drawings of the male body, with enlarged, emphasized genitalia. That night, I dined with the Chus. I met them at their house, a building on a cliff with a view of the water. An eight-foot-high black metal fence surrounded the property. Their year-old daughter, Jennifer, joined us, wearing a fashionable yellow wraparound dress, a yellow pin in her hair, shiny gold shoes, and red polish on her finger and toe nails.

She had grown up here in Port Moresby and now attended a boarding school in Australia, from which she was home for Christmas vacation. I wouldn't even know where they go. Don't mostly nationals take the bus? They didn't understand. Chu told me, changing the subject. But the Arabs are stupid," "I don't know if I'd call them that," "Why, I don't mind if even both your parents were Jewish," he explained. Diana turned to me. Chu continued, " try to arrange a meeting for you with your minister—the Minister of Health. We left their house and drove to a Chinese restaurant where all the ingredients were imported.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, a "national," joined us. Larry spoke to him privately, then the minister turned to me. Afterward, I returned with the Chus to their home to watch the latest videos from Hollywood—the major form of entertainment, I soon learned, among these expats and their friends here in Moresby. The capital seemed culturally dead, the most culturally deprived area I'd ever been in, lacking any signs of Western or native artistic culture—except for the painted hospital doors.

Of the several expats I visited before eventually leaving the town, none had any Western or New Guinea art in their homes—not even reproductions. I missed even the cheap posters of Monet paintings back in the States. We can drop you off in Goroka. By joining them, I would get to visit Lae—where Amelia Earhardt was last seen—her last takeoff point from Earth.

The open air structure had no doors or windows—just open portals for the air to flow in. As I stood shaving in front of the mirror over the sink, I suddenly noticed something move over my head. A lizard—like a baby alligator—was crawling up the wall just behind me. It was brownish-black and eight inches long. I froze. It did, too. Slowly, I turned around. It stayed perched on the wall, darting its tongue in and out. A gecko, I decided, probably harmless.

Still, I finished shaving as quickly as possible, and hurried out. Later that morning, we left the capital and flew to Lae, The town, once the third largest airport in the Pacific during World War II, now, fifty years later, still consisted of only a few metal buildings and wooden shacks built around the airstrip. The jungle encroached. Sam's father had corne from China with his two brothers. Prohibited from bringing women with them, they had married natives.

Sam now owned a store next to his home. All but two of the trade stores here were owned by Chinese. The other two—the largest, Burns Philip, and the Steamships Company—were owned by the Australian shipping lines that transported the goods, allowing them to dominate the market more firmly. Chu said. PNG had become independent from Australia in Since then, two political parties—that of Michael Somare a national, and the first prime minister and that of Julius Chan—have alternated power.

Politics has revolved around the rise and fall of these two groups, each coming or going. That night I went to bed in the town's one motel.

Why was I here? What was I realistieaEy hoping to do? Was I wasting my time? I reminded myself that I had traveled here to observe and learn, and would eventually be moving on. I thought of all that explorers, scientists, and anthropologists must have put up with. Despite its name, the Highlands Highway was merely a thin dirt track ploughed through the jungle only several years before my arrival—a mere thread of dust when rain wasn't falling. The road was the only one leading from the coast into the still partly uncharted Highlands.

No Westerners had ever been to some parts of this mountainous country. Official government maps still depicted large areas merely as blank, pale green stretches labeled "uncharted. The road was primarily one lane. When another vehicle came, we had to pull over to the side. Yet this was the lifeline for most of the country and its population. At the first mountain pass, a landslide had caused a traffic jam. Along the twists of road, huge freight trucks and passenger-stuffed pickups waited.

The natives all sat nonchalantly, as if they had all the time in the world. Our small car by itself squeezed past the larger vehicles and continued on. I looked out the window at the rain forest around me—the first I had ever seen—far denser and lusher than I had imagined, the trees and leaves all unusually shaped. We rumbled further into the mountains, their pale blue peaks cloaked by dense, swirling clouds.

This road fragilely linked two worlds that could not have been more different. I little knew where I was headed. The day was long, driving on this dirt track. Finally, we stopped for a late lunch at the one restaurant we passed, and had beer, hamburgers, and potato chips—all that was on the menu.

Eventually, we arrived in Goroka, which was to be my only tie to the outside world during the upcoming months. Here was the last outpost of the world—as far as telephone, electricity, mail delivery, and imported goods stretched. None of these things existed north or south for hundreds of miles. Against this vast backdrop of ranges, a few strange trees poked up, sprouting leaves only at the very top. A carpet of luminous light-green grass rolled between the edges of the valley, stopping abruptly at the foot of the hills.

Compared to Port Moresby, the West had penetrated and influenced the Highlands much less. Expats were fewer. The air seemed cleaner and clearer, and poverty absent. After all, for millennia the Highlands had been self-sufficient, supporting its whole population. The town's very existence seemed strange, almost miraculous. Barefoot natives wandered along the main street by the few wooden stores—the one bar, one small hotel called the Bird of Paradise , one bank, one general store, and one bakery the only place for hundreds of miles around that commercially baked bread and cake.

An isolated loneliness pervaded the air—a sense that this was, in fact, the last outpost of civilization. The town had the feeling of the frontier, of the American Old West. Here, in the midst of a vast uncharted wilderness, the few stores stood as tiny reminders of the outside world. Around it, these few structures had slowly been built. The buildings remained centered around the airport, just as cities in the past had been built along the sides of rivers.

Only later had the highway been built. The Chus dropped me off at the Institute of Medical Research—a compound of dark wooden buildings on top of a hill. I carried my bags up the driveway, opened the screen door, and walked in. I knew almost nothing about my new boss, the Director, Dr, Michael Alpers—my only contact in the country—and was apprehensive about meeting him, given my youth and relative lack of experience.

I hoped 1 would get along with him. My exposure to expats thus far had left me wary. The only person in the building was Michael's secretary, Ami. Alpers is away for two weeks," he told me, "Dr. Alpers told me to give you the keys to his house and to take you there. On Monday we will drive you out to Waisa where you will stay. Alpers leave any instructions for me? You will go to Waisa to stay with Roger and Maryanne Richardson who are building washhouses for the people.

Your instructions will be waiting for you there. I assume you will be helping them. They will have further instructions for you," I felt disappointed. I had come all this way to build washhouses? Ami gave me the keys to Alpers' house and dropped me off, quickly driving away. The ground floor of the house contained only a garage. Metal stairs led up the side to a veranda and presumably the front door. I started to climb up. All around me, spiders had spun webs, cloaking the staircase in a dense tent of woven silk.

At a few points I had to duck to avoid scraping my head on this canopy. In the middle of the silken nets sprawled fat spiders—black and fuzzy with blue spots, shiny and yellow with red dots—many the size of plum tomatoes and looking like tarantulas. The variety stunned me; I hoped none were poisonous. The webs stretched under the eaves of the roof as well. I opened the door and walked in. From the walls hung long pointy spears and wooden shields carved with alligators and human forms. The carvers had made the shields crookedly, not along right angles and didn't show much of an attempt to conform.

In the centers floated vaguely humanoid shapes with protruding spirals, suggesting arms, legs, penises, and testicles. All of these slanted at odd degrees. None stayed rigidly horizontal or vertical. Nothing in the human body in fact does, I realized. A glass-topped box held a collection of butterflies, with wings of bright electric blue, and gold tinged with ochre.

In another box, seashells spiraled in all shapes and sizes. White spots, resembling tiny leaves, decorated dark greenish-black shells. Two large old-fashioned, hand and pedal-operated looms—presumably belonging to the director's wife—filled the center of the living room. Purple, yellow, orange, and red wool blankets, half-woven, were rolled down, the colored yarns dangling off each side. Floor to ceiling bookshelves held literary classics from around the world, including books by Confucius, Cervantes, Thoreau, and Proust, along with a collection of old classical records—the complete works of Bach and Mozart, though almost nothing else.

I had brought along only two books to read and there were no bookstores for hundreds of miles around. Alpers' house reminded me of all I had left behind in the States. Part natural history museum and part Shangri-La, his home was a welcome oasis. I would be staying here for the weekend by myself. In the morning, I wandered out to see the town. The few streets were all unpaved. The tallest building was two stories high. Most were single story. The pale wet white fibers stuck out of his mouth as he sucked out the juice. He spat the pulp on the ground.

At the market, women crouched on the dirt, each behind colored sheets, displaying a few bunches of bananas, coconuts—the shells encased in even thicker outer husks—or betel nuts. The bananas were of several kinds, some short and stumpy, others longer, resembling American bananas, and more expensive.

I bought the latter and excitedly peeled one. It looked like a normal banana, and I put it in my mouth. But I could barely bite it. It was like eating styrofoam. I threw the fruit into a garbage can on the street, and sat down on a bench. Some natives standing around watched and laughed at me. The natives laughed again. But only for cooking. I walked around further. I bought bright green betel nuts, which I tried eating. They had been dipped in lime powder.

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I had heard that natives chewed the pulp, then spit it out, to give them a high. But the fruit sucked all the moisture out of my mouth.

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It was a different, though not particularly pleasant, sensation. Back at Mike Alpers', I noticed a phone on a corner table, and tried calling home collect. Static crackled on the line. Finally, a New Guinean voice spoke. My mother answered. I was relieved. I feel I don't know anyone. You just got there," she reminded me. Despite the loneliness and difficulty, I wasn't going to quit now after coming this far. It got louder. I got up.

The wine glasses in a sideboard beside the dining table were jingling; the plates started to rattle. Oh my god—I suddenly realized—it was an earthquake, I had never experienced one before. What was I supposed to do? Lie on the floor? Get out of the house? For several seconds I stood dumbfounded. Then, the vibrations started to die down. It had only lasted a few seconds. My breathing and heart rate began to return to normal, too.

The shaking stopped. Here in New Guinea, part of the Pacific Rim, earthquakes frequently occur. Two days later, Ami supplied a driver, named Kanaua, with whom I set out for Waisa on a side road, even less developed than the Highlands Highway, Heavy rain poured down, galloping on the canvas roof. The windshield wipers sloshed back and forth, painting beige strokes across the dirty glass. I bent down and squinted to peer through a few curved streaks of thinner, more watery mud, but couldn't see where we were going.

Outside, rain and mist obscured the landscape. Water seeped in along the tops of the windows and streamed down beside me, wetting the seat and my clothes. I pulled into the cab as far as I could, as a shiver pierced down my spine. The road slithered over the fingers of mountain ranges rising up all around. Along the road, steep mountain walls tumbled down. Clear waters splashed down ochre, grey, and red clay slopes, between smooth rocks. From the colored clay, stalks of tall, lush green grass sprouted. Thatched huts huddled under surging trees. Jagged mountains lifted up and over each other, ever more pale and distant, their ragged tops like ripped sheets of blue paper against the sky.

These hills had risen through the effects of continental drift as Australia, pushing north, rammed into New Guinea and crumpled up the earth like a crunched-up piece of paper, creating the mountains that now ringed us on three sides. This thin road wandered into the remotest stretches of the inhabited earth. Few, if any outsiders had ever traveled to some of these areas. Some children had never seen a White person.

Landslides periodically washed out several sections. We passed Kuru Mountain, rising tall and wide, separating the Fore and neighboring groups from the Goroka Valley and other regions, and creating seclusion for millennia. Kuru had flourished on the far side of the mountain and been absent on the other. No other area in the world has been named after a disease. Plague, syphilis, tuberculosis, and cancer have lent their names to no place—except hospital wards. Such was kura's terrible impact. The mountain stood now, its peak rising against the darkening sky—a wall that would lock me into my new home for the next several months.

Traditionally, to get to Goroka Valley from the nearest Fore village took several days by foot, with the trekker having to carry more than one-third of his or her weight in yarns as food. We passed a few small groups of people along the road, who sang out "Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai," and waved—differently than in the West, with fingers spread out vertically, a sideways "royal wave," Children shouted in Pidgin, "Hi, masta," from the English, "master," a term used to address White men—its connotations apparently unknown.

After several long hours on the road, Kanaua pulled over and stopped the car. It was now pitch dark. A heavy rain pounded on the roof. I looked out and saw nothing—only blackness and woods. Not a single light. He got out. I took a deep breath and then followed his lead, running to the back of the truck in the torrent to grab my two bags from under a tarp.

They were soaked. He ran ahead and I followed, splashing down a path until we came to a small hut with a porch. I stomped my feet on the wooden porch to dry them off, and he opened the door. His voice, with its Australian accent, surprised me in the middle of this wilderness and it was unusual to my ears. Yet it was refreshing to hear English. My wet clothes clung to my body. I turned around, fust as quickly as he had come, Kanaua fled. His running steps, stamping in the mud, disappeared into the splattering rain. He had a long drive ahead of him to Goroka.

I was now here alone. Some walls were of roughpained wood, others of plaited bamboo. I would be living inside a woven basket. We didn't enter. A tiny shaving mirror tilted against the wall. But there were no taps or running water. I looked confused. That was the whole house. It lacked electricity. A hissing Coleman kerosene lamp provided the only light. The walls were empty. I tried to be civil, but hadn't expected as much barrenness.

I felt I was in the nineteenth century Wild West. Later, I learned that the house also contained a flashlight and a short-wave radio receiver. I would soon find out that it was just about the only house for countless miles around that was rectangular as opposed to round , and had a metal as opposed to thatched roof. The roof was an angled sheet of corrugated grey metal. A gutter along the side collected and emptied rain water into a drum, from which spouts poked into the sinks, supplying water. Traditionally, the natives drank from streams in which pigs and wild boars shat.

Intestinal parasites probably infested everyone who drank the water. As a health measure, the Institute had arranged for Roger and Maryanne to build washhouses—small, yard-square structures with smaller corrugated metal roofs, collecting water into smaller drums. Michael also had the Institute build our hut as a research base.

We now sat down at the table in the center—I on the right, Maryanne in the middle, and Roger on the left. But I still lacked specific instructions. But be careful. It's very hard getting anything done here in the jungle. When we arrived two years ago, Mike Alpers had only one piece of advice for us: expect only failure, He was right. But when I got into my room and closed the door behind me to go to sleep, Michael's words echoed in my head.

The Trembling Mountain by Robert Klitzman | Da Capo Press

IWe were seated when we heard a knock at the door. Roger went to open it. I stood up and walked outside. Sana was short—the top of his head reached the middle of my chest. Yet his chin rose in the air, and his cheek bones were high; Ms eyes glittered and he had fine features. As a walking stick, he used a black umbrella, topped by a carved, shellacked wooden handle—an odd accessory here, right out of the City of London.

It was as much an artifact here as a New Guinea mask would be there. Yet it lent him a distinguished, almost Edwardian air. I wasn't clear what to say in return, not sure how to say "nice to meet you" in Pidgin, or even if one could—if such words existed in the language. But he seemed pleased to meet me. That was important for him.

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