A six weeks session was organized by Gertrude Cox in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1946. Gertrude was above all an organizer, and a very good one, The DBS decided that I should attend that conference--talk of sampling was in the air and it was felt that someone in the Bureau should at least know what sampling was. From that meeting and what grew out of it I learned whatever little I know of the science of statistics.
Sir Ronald A. Fisher was the star of a dazzling assembly of statistical talent that Gertrude had put together. They included William Cochrane, whom I later caught up with at Harvard; Jacob Wolfowitz, a protege of Abraham Wald at Columbia, as well as some lesser figures, but all of proven excellence in their research and teaching. Each gave a six-weeks course.
At that point in his life Fisher was already a legend and I was excited as we waited for him to appear in the class-room. When he did come in he gave us a lecture on genetics of certain characteristics of mice. He would pick up a mouse, hold it 3 inches away from his eyes, and examine it carefully. I speculated on what the mouse was thinking about all this.
His extreme short-sightedness, surprisingly, was the source of his mathematical prowess. For Nature compensated by an almost uncanny power of visualization. He could for example see degrees of freedom, well known in statistics, as dimensions, and when that is possible important propositions of statistics become almost obvious. I remember standing by at a later meeting when Frank Yates asked him about his power to do this. Fisher answered by describing a four-dimensional cube; Yates appeared to follow his description, but I did not; those English words, arranged according to the rules of grammar, were meaningless to me.
Note the title of Fisher's main book: Statistical Methods for Research Workers. The last three words are significant. He regarded himself as the knight who would protect the honest research worker against the wicked mathematician smothering him in formulas and diverting attention from the all-important biological aim of his research. Cramer, the Swedish mathematician, later published painstaking derivations of Fisher's results in a book thicker than all of Fisher's opus together. When asked if he had looked at Carmer's work, I remember Fisher saying ironically "Yes, now I know my formulas are right." He did not have the precious time and eyesight to read Cramer. .
He was past the age when he had done his original work, and did not even claim to understand all of it. In one of the lectures to us at Raleight he got stuck.. Cochrane, who had been a student of his at Rothamsted, called out a hint, so he handed the chalk to Cochrane with the words "You can explain this as well as anyone."
I remember talking to Fisher subsequently and put to him what I thought must be a problem for those exploring for oil--a problem in identifying the location of an underground deposit. It costs money to sink a shaft, so one wants do sink as few as possible. I said one would sink a coarse grid pattern, to get a first approximation to the boundaries of the deposit, and then sink further shafts along those boundaries, and perhaps sink a third set along the more refined boundaries. Doing all of this with the minimum number of shafts is a nice problem in optimization,. He applauded my (not very original) approach.
While Fisher is considered the founder of modern statistics, his range was limited. All he would approve was using a test of significance to find the probability of a result occurring by chance. If the probability was less than one in twenty the paper disclosing the result was worth publishing--if only one paper in 20 in a journal contained a non-significant result the journal would be better than most. Of course for Fisher the object of research was not to publish papers, but to produce a result that research workers, farmers and other honest people could use.
What Fisher didn't want, and carried on a lifelong campaign against, was any application of Bayes' theorem. The theorem itself is mathematically correct, a tautology. What is wrong, he said, is to use it to bring in any expectation one had in advance of doing the experiment (a priori). Does that not affect the meaning of the test of significance? The Fisherian answer was "no". Practically all other statisticians think "yes" . Fisher outweighed all the others and until he passed away Bayes' theorem stayed underground. Now it is in widespread use.
From what I knew of him Fisher's unspoken fear was that admitting Bayes' Theorem would open the door to some difficult mathematics. If he could no longer understand his own earlier work, what would he make of such a powerful generalization as statistical decision theory.
I came into the argument in a small way. At the Raleigh conference Jack Wolfowitz was prominent, and he could be taken as representing the opposition to the Fisherian view. I had the simple-minded hope that bringing Fisher and Wolfowitz together might help solve the controversy, and arranged a lunch in downtown Raleigh. It was a huge un-success. Fisher would not listen, was not even polite. In fact he said at one point, rudely and irrelevantly, that these East Europeans can't be trusted. Contrary to what one might expect, the man of East European ancestry outdid in courtesy the high-born Englishman.
Fisher was not unconscious of the honors he received. I remember a reception at which the irreverent Bill Hurwitz, side-kick of Morris Hansen, saying something like :"What is this nonsense about "Sir" and was overheard by Fisher. Most people would act as though they hadn't heard such a remark, but not Fisher. He charged in with a sharp rebuke.
Another way in which the Raleigh Conference set me off on a new track was meeting Sam Wilks. Wilks was writing a book on mathematical statistics, that would be the very first, and I was able to procure a type-script copy, typos and all. This book, whose mathematics required diligent reading but not any more background than I had, occupied my evenings and week-ends for more than a year after. One of its benefits came some years later: it underlay the theory on which I based my dissertation.
On a later occasion Fisher visited Canada, passing through Ottawa, and we invited him to have tea at our house at 5 Bristol Avenue. Barby, then aged about 2 and precocious, went up to where he was sitting, and climbed onto his knee. She said "I like you. You look just like my bear." Fisher, having five daughters, knew how to ingratiate himself with little girls. I made a good color picture of Fisher, with his signature beard, but alas it has been lost.
In the last phase of his life, Fisher took a job at the University of Western Australia. Figuring that the University of Toronto (arguably Canada's premier institution of learning and research) could more than compete with Western Australia, Dan DeLury, Chair of the U. of T. Statistics Department, invited Fisher to teach there. I applauded Dan; Fisher would raise the image of the U. of T. worldwide. The negotiations were well under way when the news came that Fisher had passed away at the age of 64.
That was just about as late as the romance of its past was alive in Burma and other parts of Asia. Norman Lewis, distinguished travel writer and close friend (see under People below) *said that in a quarter of a century all the romance would be gone. Development in its very nature has tended to destroy the traditional culture without establishing a modern one to replace it. Western influence has steamrollered over Asia. usually without enriching it significantly, yet making local cultures seem inferior. There are exceptions. Singapore, with its sturdy Chinese roots, has become a wealthy modern country without sacrificing its traditions.
On the other side came corruption arising from the incapacity of those affected by development to cope with the exigencies and follow the rules of a modern money economy. A trivial example: when a registered letter from abroad arrived for me in Jakarta I was required to pay a small bribe to the clerk behind the wicket before he would hand it over -- part of what Max Weber called "an informal system of fees" that was part of any contact between officialdom and the resident. When I expostulated on this being wrong to an Indonesian colleague I was told: "Wrong? He badly needs the money and it means nothing to you." Could that be a higher morality than our strait-laced observance of the rules?
So I did see the sights and hear the sounds of Kipling's East, George Orwell's East, the East of sacred pagodas covered with gold leaf, of gthe great temple of Borobudur..
Early in the year 1951 I was on the plane headed for Rangoon, and so was Norman Lewis, a travel writer just getting into his career.. He was going for travel and exploration; I, a minor bureaucrat, was on my way from Ottawa on loan for three months to help Burma take a census.
As the plane flew along, Norman regaled me with an endless series of stories, every one of them fascinating, especially those of his last trip, which was to VietNam. He liked talking, and I liked listening to this exceptional fellow-traveler. We got off, and headed for the Strand Hotel, where, since there were few choices in Rangoon, we were both lodged. In that not well preserved relic of the colonial period recently ended I was to stay for my three months, he for an indefinite period. That was our base, from which we went looking for entertainment.
How did I, of all people, get to be chosen for this very desirable assignment? An elderly Burmese, who was a high Government official, had been sent to Ottawa to arrange for someone who could help take a census of Burma. I remember little about him, except that we got to be friends, and with a little encouragement from myself he designated me to the Canadian authorities as the person needed for the job. I also remember that he was building a house back in Rangoon, and wanted it to have a proper toilet with toilet seats. And when I saw him off at the airport in New York he was carrying in his arms two toilet seats too large to fit into this luggage.
Commercial entertainment was fourth rate, but there was a kind of community fair, with stage and actors speaking Burmese, of course, and that had no meaning for us. But every now and again the play was interrupted, and the most lively and graceful dancers took over--young ladies cavorting over the stage. That we could watch for hours, and on several occasions we drove to different parts of Rangoon in search of these performances. (I had a car as a perk of office; Norman moved about by public transport, and several times I was glad to be able to lend him my car and driver.)
I was always restless, a frustrated anthropologist looking for native life. But let Norman tell you about me--perhaps it was more than what I was conscious of. In his book, Golden Earth about his trip to Burma he said that I was
"... a rare eccentric in matters of travel, was moved in all things by a single principle--a determination to get as close to the country as possible. With this creditable purpose steadfastly in view, he frequently traveled about Rangoon, clinging to the platforms of crowded buses, and sometimes arriving back at the Strand Hotel in a kind of springless pony-trap of the kind used by peasants to bring vegetables to market. He was also learning Burmese, wore the national costume whenever he could find an excuse, and finally moved out of the hotel and went to live with a Burmese couple he had persuaded to take him as a paying guest."
The Burmese couple in question was U Soe Hlaing and Ma Kin Gyi, he then a young man with whom I worked on the census, she a pious Buddhist and homemaker. When I moved my stuff into his house, he told me something about the premises. The center of importance was a Buddhist shrine, at which prayers were said several times a day, especially by Ma Kin Gyi who was very pious. Buddhism was the religion as far as the outside world was concerned. But there was another shrine, hidden away in a back bedroom, to tree spirits (nats) whose worship was already ancient when Buddhism entered the country nearly 2500 years ago. Tree spirits were especially helpful for the practical questions of life, such as whether a certain day was propitious for starting a voyage.
There were two bedrooms in the house. In an allocation that seemed to U Soe Hlaing fair, I was given one by myself, and all the others--husband, wife, and four children--the other; I protested, but without effect. We all used the one bathroom, for which U Soe Hlaing apologized. He was especially apologetic about the women sharing it; in Burmese culture women are contaminating. And when they had their periods doubly so. A student of Freud sees that folklore as the ideological support for making women subordinate in all the affairs of life--a subject I never broached. The anthropologist I imagined myself to be (I did have one course in graduate school) does not explain his subjects to themselves--if the explanation is understood their value as subjects is diminished. The observer would then be looking into a mirror that shows his own reflection.
The Burmese eat with their fingers. I would have thought that was wholly unstructured. Not so. One makes a kind of spade with the fingers and hoists the food on the back of the thumb. Or else, depending on the consistency what is on one's plate one can make the food into a ball about an inch in diameter, and toss it into the mouth. This latter is what the Burmese favor. One's plate arrives with rice plus fish cut into small pieces and a certain amount of oil. One is expected to mix all this together into a homogeneous mass. Noting my incompetence in this mixing operation U Soe Hlaing showed me. He put his hands into my dish, and squeezing the material repeatedly through his fingers, got it into consistency that lent itself to making into the required 1-inch balls. You will believe me when I report that it was very very difficult for me to swallow that food so processed. But I did nonetheless--I didn't want to break rapport.
Again maintaining rapport was difficult when it came to eating nga pi. This is a dish made of small fish and with spices thrown in, all placed in a crock and left for about a month in the tropical sunshine. At the end of the month the whole has rotted down to a dark liquid, the flies are skimmed off the surface, and the nga pi is ready to be boiled up and consumed.
Norman saw the romance going out of the world, that we are the last generation to be able to see strange cultures in their unspoiled condition. The world is modernizing, Americanizing, the enchantment squeezed out. That is good sociology; Max Weber spoke of the disenchantment of the world in his own day. Like the alienation that marks the modern workman as contrasted with the old-style craftsman, it is the price we pay for high productivity. I wouldn't give up the productivity, but nonetheless the price we pay should be recognized.
In the 50 years since I was in Burma a certain part of this has come true. Notwithstanding the attempt to disguise it as "development", there are not a few countries, of which Burma is one, Indonesia another, in which the main feature of development is the scrapping of ancient traditions, a scrapping often made visible by sweaters and denims that replace ancient colorful costumes. If Burma has been spared some of this it is at the high cost of a ruthless dictatorship that keeps it separate from the outside world.
Norman himself preferred to be alone. Once in London he took me to a cocktail party, and I could see that he was forcing himself to enjoy it. That is why I felt particularly flattered when he called me his oldest friend. I must have had something that made him feel comfortable..
He showed himself the born author in the joy he took in telling of his experiences in various parts of the world. That began in the Strand hotel, and I was a keen listener. I was fascinated both by the content and the accent in which it was spoken. I would have described the accent as cockney But what do I know about English accents?
Through Soe Hlaing I got to meet several interesting people. One (I have forgotten his name) was an astrologer, who could cast a horoscope and offered to do one for me. A horoscope works by the position of the stars at the moment a person is born. For that one needs to know just when he was born. I phoned my mother in Montreal, and all she could remember was that it was between 11 and 12 in the evening. But he needed to know the minute, without which he could do nothing. He played with the idea of casting for every five minutes over the hour, but in the end decided that this would not be valid. So I never got a horoscope.
I was also taken to an alchemist. His wife had insisted that he take those smells out of the kitchen, so we met in the back garden, the site of his operation of turning lead into gold. He had not achieved this so far, but he knew what to do. Everything centered on getting the lead hot enough, and that in turn depended on having a crucible that could stand the heat. So at the time I visited he was doing research on various materials that would resist heat. That is a genuine scientific problem, and chemistry apparently developed out of alchemy by such a route.
I had heard of geomancy, and wanted to meet a practitioner. This is the locating of the places where we pray, work and play, in such fashion that people will be in harmony with their environment. (The nearest we come is a surveyor--but our surveyor pays no attention to spiritual values.) I wanted to meet a geomancer who would give me training in this field, but never succeeded in finding a real professional like my alchemist and astrologer.
Burma was never peaceful after the British left, and at the time of our visit the country was in an uproar. The Karens in the northwest were especially difficult. But the Shan States of the northeast might have been peaceful enough to conduct a census, and the government asked me to go out and see. So I went. By plane of course--road or rail would have been much too dangerous--to Taungyi in the Shan States. I was received with the honors due a representative of the Government by the local Commissioner, who showed me to a room in his comfortable house.
My two days were spent driving around with a military escort and talking through an interpreter with some of the local residents. On the afternoon of the second day I went out to the airport for the return trip. There I found the plane at one end of what amounted to a grassy vacant lot that served as the local airport, but the engine wouldn't start. The pilot, who was the entire crew, was standing on some boards piled on a truck backed up to the plane, and just able to reach the engine, working away with a pair of pliers. By now it was dusk, and after dark the rebels would surely be active. Moreover the airport in Rangoon was unlighted, and could not be used in the dark. I was the only European among the dozen or so passengers, and began to wonder if I would ever see my family again. However it was still not quite dark when the engine sputtered and then started; we quickly climbed aboard, and an hour later were in Rangoon.
At the Strand Hotel I found Norman, and for once was able to take the conversational initiative with my account of Taungyi.
In due course I completed my work, typed up a 30 page report to the Burmese Government, mostly saying that it was going to be quite impossible to take a census outside of Rangoon, and went home. Norman stayed on. I arrived back in Ottawa with various gifts, especially colorful Burmese costumes for Barbara and Robert.
U Soe Hlaing did not write to me after I left, but Ma Kin Kyi, his wife, did write. When Soe Hlaing retired he became a Buddhist monk, donned the yellow robe, and carried his begging bowl from market place to market place. He simply disappeared socially-was out of touch with family and friends, just as though dead. His children grew up, and one of them, Ni Po, made a rather mean livelihood as a tourist guide. Ma Kin Kyi wrote me, asking whether I could find a job for Ni Po in Canada and help him to immigrate. I had to reply that I was in no position to do this.
Over the succeeding years Norman proved hospitable indeed. One time when Beatrice was with me he entertained us for a week in his centrally located apartment on Baker Street, just opposite the Selfridge Provision Store, and around the corner from Selfridge's Department Store. We were just a couple of streets from 22A Baker Street.
Neither of us will ever forget going up to the roof above Norman's apartment for a barbecue. It was raining, and Norman was cooking a paella with one hand while holding an umbrella with the other. On another occasion I was alone, and he put me up in a comfortable bedroom. In an adjoining room, connected by a door left ajar, was a presentable young lady who had been introduced to me as a friend. I have no idea how far the hospitality was intended to go, but I closed the door and went to sleep alone. Just another opportunity lost.
The following material from his biography gives an idea of the intensity of his life in the active years. It also shows his sympathy for the native peoples trampled and forgotten in the West. Genocide in Brazil revealed to the world the systematic robbing and murder of the native people by the officials whose job it was to protect them. Published in the Sunday Times in 1968 it aroused outrage everywhere, and led to change in the Brazilian law related to the treatment of Indians. The Volcanoes above us shows Central America in revolt; no fair-minded person can read that book without feeling strong sympathy and admiration for the Indians.
Over the 51 years between our first meeting and now I have seen Norman many times. In the last few years his home has been in the village of Harpenden, in Essex, and there, says his biographer "he has lived with wife Lesley and his children in introspective, almost monastic calm".
For the past two or three years Norman has not been well. His hearing went (it was impossible for me to have a phone conversation with him), and then his brain started to go.
We had the news of Norman's death, announced on July 25, 2003 in the New York Times under the heading of "Norman Lewis, 95, known for exotic travels." He described the world he saw before the proliferation of Club Med and McDonalds. As a professional literary traveler he was unsurpassed, being able to write about the back of a bus, Cyril Connoly observed, and make it interesting.
"He journeyed to exotic, even sinister, places, and conveyed their nature in a subtle style of detached irony as he successively transported the reader to from Indochina to India, Indonesia, and Burma, Latin America to Spain and Sicily."
The London Telegraph of Sunday 27 July 2003 carried a long article on Norman Lewis that can be read on the Web:
"Norman Lewis, who died yesterday at Saffron Walden aged 95, was perhaps the best, and certainly the most underrated, English travel writer of the 20th century.
"He was particularly drawn to traditional societies on the cusp of radical, often violent change, a phenomenon that gathered pace during his lifetime and of which he became the recording angel.
"Three books in which he captured age-old ways of life under siege have already become classics: A Dragon Apparent (1951) is the finest record of Indo-China before the devastation wrought by the Vietnam War; Golden Earth (1952) relates his adventures in a turbulent Burma; and the elegiac Voices of the Old Sea (1984) tells of his years in a Spanish fishing village after the war, just before tourism changed the Mediterranean coastline forever.
"His toothbrush moustache gave Lewis the air of an inoffensive school handyman rather than that of an inquisitive travel writer, and he prided himself on this necessary ability to blend unnoticed into exotic surroundings. Yet for one so self-effacing, he had a knack of gathering about him the extraordinary, testified to in the autobiographical Jackdaw Cake (1985, revised 1994 as I Came, I Saw), his description of his eccentric upbringing and his subsequent wartime service.
Accordingly, he initially wrote to preserve experiences that were fading in his memory, though he adopted a more overtly political stance after 1968 when, for the Sunday Times, he uncovered the genocide being practised on Brazil's Indians by the government agency assigned to protect them.
"Lewis considered the ensuing article, which prompted the foundation of the charity Survival International, the most worthwhile of all his endeavours. The obliteration of many of the societies he had seen led him to believe that "in the face of such calamities it is not possible to keep silent, to remain a perpetual spectator".
This change of heart supplied his later writing with controlled passion and gave him new reasons to travel. These he stated towards the end of his life in a credo born of righteous anger: "I am looking for the people who have always been there, and belong to the places they live. The others I do not wish to see."
At the time I met Norman he was getting to the peak of his fame. Read what Auberon Waugh says of his Golden Earth, reporting on what he saw in Burma-some of which I also saw, but just didn't have the talent to describe:
"An extraordinarily enjoyable book by any standards....Norman Lewis remains the best travel writer alive"
As in the case of Burma, about 1952 the government of Indonesia wanted (among other experts this time) a statistician who had worked on population, and I was designated and stayed in Indonesia for a year. That was a great time; it was three years after the Dutch had formally left, the country was not yet rotted by corruption and not yet overrun by tourists.
Have the 50 or so years of "development" that have passed since left it better or worse? That is a question I do not dare to answer. The following segment traces a part of that time.
In 1952 it was decided by the United Nations that Indonesia needed a panel of knowledgeable foreigners to decide what aid it ought to have. Three years earlier, the Round Table Agreement of 1949, negotiated under the United Nations, was signed by the Netherlands creating a new country in the South Sea Islands.
The founding President was Sukarno and the Vice-President Hatta. I never got to know Sukarno, but Hatta I visited many times, and admired his judgment and soft-spoken gentleness. It was too bad for Indonesia that he never had the real power.
Benjamin Higgins, a Canadian economics professor was named to the United Nations panel and asked to name the eight other members. Each was to stay in Indonesia for a year. One was to advise on agriculture, one on industry, one on the national income accounts, and myself on population.
And one was to advise on inter-island migration. Most of the 3,000 or so islands of the archipelago were sparsely settled but Java was one of the most densely settled rural areas of the world, and this mal-distribution was seen by the Dutch, the United Nations and ourselves as the major population problem of Indonesia. The Dutch had tried moving people to the Outer Islands, in a program called transmigration, but never succeeded in significantly reducing the difference in density. One of the experts was to advise on transmigration, and he was constantly frustrated by the fact that Java, especially Jakarta, was the place in the new republic. where things were going on, where the action was. And people feared that if they were far from Java they would be forgotten. It is the same dynamic that populates the capital cities of less developed countries far beyond the useful employment they offer..
When the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, in which I was then working, informed me that it could not turn down a UN request, I was delighted, There would be new work in a new environment, and above all two new languages to be learned and used in a living context. Beatrice and I did not wait to get to the site; we started language study right there in Ottawa. It happened that the Bureau had a Javanese intern; Wija Wawaruntu, and we invited him to live with us on Hillcrest Avenue. And through a friend of a friend we found a newly married war bride, whom we paid to give us lessons in Dutch..
Ottawa and Jakarta were almost exactly opposite one another on the globe. We decided to travel eastward, i.e. going over the Atlantic and at the end of the year returning over the Pacific. I went by plane, Beatrice and the children followed on the Queen Elizabeth to England; then took the Willem Ruys to Indonesia. On the boat Beatrice met Margaret English, whose marriage had broken up, and they became good friends. Her husband had left her, heart-broken and penniless, but her story ended well--in Indonesia she met a man somewhat older than herself, well-off, and they were married and lived happily together. A very fine person, I thought; Beatrice and I met her several times while in Jakarta, but then lost touch.
We were met at the Jakarta airport, given the car and driver that were to be our means of transport for the year, and taken to the Hotel des Indes, that quite possibly was a luxurious resting place for officials during Dutch rule, but was now a tired relic. We soon left its cockroach-ridden quarters and miserable imitation of Dutch cooking to take up a small house that we were given temporarily. After a month or so we moved to a large and very comfortable house in a development built for the United Nations team, and there we had our own cook and ate well.
It has to be said that our children, Barbara then about age 7 and Robert about 4 did not share our enthusiasm for this year abroad. To them it was nothing more than separation from their school and their friends, from the neighborhood in which they were growing up. I have to confess that we parents made a mistake. We did not sufficiently consult with the children before leaving home. I now believe that if we had told them what was ahead--new friends, new school, new languages, all-in-all travel to an exotic part of the world that their friends would be excited to hear about on their return; admittedly also some disadvantages but these more than offset, they would have been happier about the whole project.
However while in Indonesia both children made the most of their stay, Robert, aged 5, to whom languages come easily, would go up and down the row of houses and act as interpreter between the experts' wives and their servants. Beatrice and I well remember the arrangement of the houses--ours, then the Usshers' and then the Decks', both Americans helping to train airplane pilots, then the Lacroix who were French, whose work I do not recall. These were in a row; behind them were another four houses, On one occasion Robert was sent for urgently to a house on the back row, out of his usual path, where he found the the mistress, mother of a baby a few months old, distressed because her nursemaid never washed her hands. She must at least wash them before giving the baby its bottle. He said something like "Tjuji tangan sebulumnya bottel" and the problem was solved.
One of the first social events to which we were invited was at the house of the senior Wawaruntu and his charmingly plump Dutch wife. Wawaruntu was a medical doctor with a fairly wide knowledge of the related biological sciences. But what especially interested Beatrice and myself was his skill in water-divining. In a party at his house he carried a stick he had cut horizontally, and the stick seemed to be pulled irresistibly downward whenever there was water below. He then handed the stick to Beatrice, and asked her whether she did not feel it turning down-and so strongly that she would not be able to hold it. horizontal. It did turn down, for Beatrice but whether from an external force or her own volition she never said. We had no way of verifying that there was or was not water under the house where we were being entertained. .
We typically had a housekeeper and a cook. At the start a cook named Koki, who was so incompetent and so unsanitary that we let her go. She was succeeded by Inam, housekeeper, and Ibu, as we called her--I have forgotten her name--who was the cook.
Relations between the foreign experts and their servants varied. One of our neighbors noticed a moving object on his dinner plate that on closer examination proved to be a beetle. He called in his cook and complained, when it became clear that she could not see. He, generous American, got her a pair of glasses, of which she was very proud. In fact so proud that she didn't want to wear them cooking, but saved them for more refined purposes.
Since our return neither of our children ever recalled our stay in Indonesia. It was otherwise with the family of Professor William Sewell of the University of Wisconsin. On a mission similar to ours, he took his two daughters to India, and that marked the rest of their lives. One of the daughters became an expert on Indian music, and herself played several Indian musical instruments.
I can be brief on our work in Jakarta on the assignment I was given. There was none. Without someone to tell them what needed doing for the Planning Bureau to be useful, the members of our team idled away the time, always having the satisfaction of spending their generous per diem and knowing that their salaries were being banked back home. (Paid twice in fact--the first payment mysteriously went astray. There was no enquiry about who had taken it--the Indonesian Treasury just sent a second payment wired directly to our bank.) Ben Higgins and Doug Deane, neither having a wife present, would go out at night seeking Dutch-Indonesian girls; about what the others did I recall nothing, but imagine that they killed time waiting for their year to be over. .
Within a month or two of our arrival Beatrice was seized with intense pain somewhere around her lower abdomen. We found a doctor (our local Italian Doctor) who diagnosed the pain as due to stones in the gall bladder, that tried vainly to force their way out. An operation would be necessary, something beyond his competence. He referred us to Dr. Sukario, a well-recognized surgeon of long experience and now approaching retirement.
Beatrice and I followed up his recommendation, not without some trepidation on having surgery so far away from home, and by an Indonesian however experienced. The hospital was scattered over a considerable grassy area, a collection of small bungalows under thatched roofs, with unscreened windows open to the elements. The whole scene worried Barbara and Robert terribly, and I had to console them with assurances that I did not wholly feel.
The operation took longer than it normal for the weight of the stones was such that they stretched the bladder, and it was some 9 inches below the normal position and out of the range of the X-ray.. But Dr. Sukario found it and removed the bladder along with the stones it contained, Beatrice still has to be careful about eating butter and other fats, but otherwise there have been no ill effects. Except a conspicuous scar that disqualifies her for work as a chorus girl. And a great loss of weight, that was made up during a lengthy convalescence, first in the hospital and then at home. At last her recovery was complete, and I could go on with my work without further worrying.
Being left on my own in the offices of the Biro Perantjang Negara I could satisfy my penchant for research. I explained to the Indonesians in charge of us that my work on their population problem would benefit from on-the-ground study of how the especially dense population of East Java were living. For that I needed some help. For one thing many of the peasants did not speak Indonesian, essentially Malay, the lingua franca of the islands whose usefulness is reported by Magellan in his voyage around the world, and which Beatrice and I found it thrilling to learn and speak.. They spoke Javanese, which I never learned. Clifford Geertz, since become one of America's most distinguished anthropologists, and a great social scientist, happened to be present in Indonesia also gathering material for his Harvard dissertation and he had learned to speak Javanese fluently. Like myself he was a member of a group, his studying East Javanese village life--I believe in a project sponsored by MIT. We saw him several times, and also encountered several members of the MIT team, I always trying to pick up some crumbs of the methods they used. My ignorance of proper research methods was a constant embarrassment as I worked with the peasants of Balearjo.
Having, as I say, no clear-cut assignment in Jakarta I gathered a number of of students who would work together documenting an East Javanese village. The one who even as a student among other students showed exceptional qualities of leadership was Widjojo Nitisastro, a brilliant young man with an extraordinary career ahead of him, and with whom I have been in touch ever since. (To whom in fact I intend to e-mail this memoir so he can vet it for errors.) Traditionally Indonesians have had one name only, but in modern city life they find it convenient to add a second name. When a student he was just Widjojo; when a Minister of the Government years later he was Professor Widjojo Nitisastro. European naming followed the same evolution--when the social unit went from the village to the city, first names were no longer adequate to idenfity individuals. The familiar address showing respect and closeness is Pak, literally father.