Rituals of Religion

I woke with the sound of azan, the first call to prayer in the muslim world. I had slept on the cool tiled floor on a small rug with a thick woolen blanket to cover myself. Just days before Mujemal had worryingly shown me the cracks in his recently built shack at the river side. Nevertheless he had invited me to join him and his village for the Idul-Adha festivities. For me it was a great honour. Idul-Adha or Id is the most important event througout the islamic calendar. Defined by the month of Dhu l-Hiddscha it reminds of the prophet Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah.

The sun hat risen slightly over the rugged huts on the outskirts of Mataram on the Indonesian island of Lombok. Mujemal hurried through the narrow alleyways and quickly found a water tap. With expert strokes he spilt water on his face, hands and feet and hurried on towards the mosque. The sun hadn´t reached it´s full potential yet as I walked on towards the villages main square. Three cows stood, attached to some trees, chewing on lousy patches of grass. Further apart another set of four goats rested in the shade. Considering their fate, the herbivores didn´t really seem the care about their last meal.

Scavenging the Seas

Those riches lie deeper than the horizon that I set my eyes on. The dust settles behind us as the driver comes to a halt. I get off the his scooter and with an instant a few hundred eyes turn on me. I´m far off the main tourist beat in Indonesia, in a small village on the coast of the Indian ocean called Selong in eastern Lombok. There is nothing here, nothing to see, nothing to do, except a big local fish market, were a big, white, beared European will cause some stir.

Fishing is still one of the main sources of income for the seaside dwellers. And their valuable catch needs to be distributed. Daily, starting from dawn, the men and women gather at the shore and bargain their way through tunas, snappers, goupers, mahi mahis and other. More disturbingly on regular basis the hard working men of the sea will bring forth huge mantas, sharks and turtles. The gruesome practise of removing the sharks fins for soup and throwing the living remains back into the sea is taken for less than collateral damage.


Of course my presence wasn´t too welcomed. A foreigner intruding into the darkish trades with overfished big fish, sharks and endangered creatures of the sea. With a camera. It´s difficult to unterstand the long traditions of fishery, but it is well known that Indonesian fishermen feed large demands for shark fin soup, manta rays and turtles in wealthier countries like China.

As global population inches toward nine billion by 2050, the requests for seefood and fish scores new heights. The latter can quite often be bred in aquacultures but weird fetishes like shark fin, mantas must be soothed by wildcatch.

I stumble through the market with open latrines, men cutting up big tunas and women yelling and selling.

Laos to the Limit

The connection to Laos, for the Schoeffls came over a decade ago, when Volker came to Southeast Asia originally for sportsclimbing. Since then, after countless hours of work and time spent in different regional hospitals across the country the two doctors settled for the Khammouane Provincial Hospital in Thakek.

For a couple of years now, they have been working there building relationships, improving the infrastructure and educating the local doctors. Follow us on a deeper insight into medical aid in this fascination country.

Although the economical growth in Laos is constantly shooting upwards, still a majority of people live on basic agriculture and forestry. Due to a largely unskilled work force, being landlocked and having a bad infrastructure, Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.

Chinese scooters are flooding into all parts of the country and bring with them curse and blessing to the people. While the motorisation increases mobility, a main part of injuries seen in the hospitals are from motorbike accidents. Volker and his team mend plenty of trauma forms like soft tissue trauma and a lot of open and closed fractures caused by motorbike crashes.

Time often seems to stand still in Laos. While neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam have a powerful economy, Laos slowly tumbles toward the future.

Luckily time also improves the situation in the hospital. Volker Schöffl remembers when all he had was a old handheld drill left over from the Vietnam war. Now the hospital in Thakek is able to perform sophisticated endoscopic procedures and the flat screen TV in the OR often gets used to surf for Youtube Videos.

A house by the road

A mini series of photos on the small houses that one can find all along Cretian roads. Tiny rememberances for dead family members.