The day began with several hours of computer work and
email attempts at the Aceh Institute. We chatted with a very interesting
man who was researching and comparing the work of two different NGOs,
specifically with regard to how they rebuilt neighborhoods for people.
His name is Dr. Riwanto Tirtusudarmo from Jakarta.
We had some success and some failure with the internet
and emailing. After a few attempts we were able to send the first
journal entry although I was unable to send any pictures to my newspaper
for publication this week. (I did manage that task at 4AM on Tuesday
using the computer of the Oasis Hotel marketing manager, a Mr. Imam
We abandoned our computing and went to lunch with
Famelia and Jol at a restaurant featuring Indonesian fare. There were
piped in bird and waterfall noises playing from an illuminated picture
on the wall and we had a great meal of fried rice, meat and vegetables.
During lunch we talked to Famelia and Jol about their individual
experiences during the tsunami. We were feeling like we might be
invading their privacy by asking them so many questions. They said it
was okay and Famelia went on to say that one thing she (and other
people) learned through the tsunami is that life can be very random and
finite and can end in any minute.
“I know people who went back for their mobile phones or
their jewelry and they died. It makes us realize that we could die in
five minutes or in a day and that we must prepare or live our lives as
if we are ready,” Famelia told us.
We returned to the hotel for a brief rest before heading
to Saiful’s village of Punge Jurong. On the way back to drop Famelia off
at Aceh Institute she pointed out a government water tower that had not
been built properly and had had to be demolished for a cost of three
billion IR. This giant concrete wheel shaped remnant lies near the park.
PIC Punge Jurong
In Punge Jurong we met the village subhead Abu Bakar,
the village elder. We met him in the Ten Houses area, which is the name
the community has given the ARF houses. He and the rest of the
construction managers for the Aceh Relief houses were still on the job,
using one of the ten houses as an office and a base. He told us that
there is electricity in the houses since last week and said that water
would be connected at the beginning of August.
He said they were also drilling a well for non-potable
water uses. Through our interpreter Syahrul we learned that the houses
are expected to be done in September or August and that they have some
upgraded features such as tile floors and fencing.
The houses cost about $6000 or IR54,000,000 to build and
are six by six meters, plus a bit. They have a main room, two other
rooms plus a kitchen and bath. Blue doors were leaned, ten of them,
against a wall in the house we were in. They will divide the bathrooms
and kitchens in the Aceh Relief Houses. We learned that there are five
village subheads, each responsible for a district or environment of this
Six thousand people lived there prior to the tsunami.
Abu Bakar’s district/environment had 2000 people and now has 700. It
used to be the most populous in the village. Now the entire village
consists of 2300 tsunami survivors.
Many residents continue to live in barracks while
waiting for housing. The ARF housing is for non-landowners, only
renters. Criteria are being developed for how to allocate access to
housing. Faisal (government appointed village head who oversees more
than one village) works with various NGOs and government and village
subheads to determine how housing should be allocated.
They need 1000 houses and so far have 550 built by
Indonesian Red Cross (BM), 248 by Habitat UN, and 226 by BRR (Indonesian
Reconstruction Rehabilitation). If all the homes are built, then all
housing needs covered, Bakar told us through our translator.
At the same time they’ve been building houses, the state
is rebuilding infrastructure including roads, water and electricity
damaged or destroyed during the tsunami.
We asked who created the village plan and layout for
housing and learned that planners came from BMI and worked with a team
including Faisal and Abu Bakar and other village heads. They surveyed
housing foundation ruins and relied on older village members with the
most complete knowledge and the best memories to determine where houses
would be located.
Faisal, Abu Bakar and their collaborators looked at 5
models of housing offered by Habitat UN, letting the community select
the architectural style/model of housing that they wanted. We asked how
the architecture and quality of the homes compare from organization to
organization. Faisal told us that there were differences between the
various types of NGO houses and said that some organizations had as much
as IR 100 million per house while the ARF houses were being built for IR
The replacement houses generally do not compare in size
to the larger houses destroyed by the tsunami.
Faisal said that he and his team had maximized their
budgets by working with contractors and saving money where they could.
He noted that the houses will all be completed uniformly until keys
turned over to new owners. Then residents are free to make whatever
changes they desire.
We wondered if there was tension over who gets what
house. We were told that the village chiefs made lists of who needed
houses and before construction began, people had to sign agreement to
accept whatever house became available when their name came up without
complaint. This seems to have worked.
UN habitat houses are already completed in
region/environment one of the village.
Mr. Faisal explains the process of allocating housing.
In response to our question, “Is this level of cooperation in community
typical of country or unique to village?”, we were told ‘Before tsunami
it wasn’t like this. After it as needs increased people had to cooperate
and recognized that they need to hear each others’ needs and concerns.”
Syahrul translated “If the government had taken the
policy that all should be equal (in terms of distribution of aid), they
wouldn’t have needed to come together.”
Planning goes up to sub-district level, one level up
from Faisal whom we learned is a civil servant, appointed by the
government. In smaller, rural areas, the head of village elected by
community with rural areas being defined (at the moment) as less than
3000. In towns the leaders are almost like administrators and they are
appointment by the government. In Geuchik’s or small village, leaders
Touring the ten ARF houses we saw workers toiling on a
variety of tasks such as soffit work, roof sheathing, painting etc. Many
workers come outside Aceh, like those from Java we photographed who had
been there 2 weeks and liked Aceh they said. Some of the workers are
staying in the partially done houses, others are staying in wooden
Some pre-tsunami houses have been rebuilt at their former scale.
Abu Bakar told us that during the tsunami, water came from three
directions. The land is 1.5 kilometers from the ocean. Water came over
the tops of existing two storied houses and there are some previously
existing houses which have been rebuilt and are palatial compared to 36
As we walked to see the community center, we were passed
by a man with a trike which was funded by an ARF micro-loan. We also
passed a kiosk/store gathering center where sundries and snacks were for
sale and where people were gathered watching a television.
Abu Bakar took us to Saiful’s house/plot where his
mother’s relatives live in a small two story section. They came to the
door. There is a TV. We were told that Saiful’s mother is too afraid to
move back yet and also learned that some of Saiful’s family were saved
because they were able to run to the house across the street with a
sturdy upper level.
Abu Bakar told us that many people took refuge in the
Mosque which was damaged. It ended up with many bodies in it and help
was needed to move those bodies. It was prayer time as we walked up to
the Mosque and the Azan could be heard through out the village. People
were approaching on foot, by scooter and other means to pray.
The community center, built by ARF, APAS and the American Red
We saw the community center built by ARF, APAS and
American Red Cross and Abu Bakar said that IR 6 million was donated to
rebuild the water supply to the Mosque. He pointed out a building for
women where women cook and gather. It is better than was they had before
Abu Bakar said. While we were standing there a thin man, smoking a
cigarette, approached just listening to the conversation. Bakar gestured
to him, saying, “he lost 11 family members and is now alone. I lost 12.”
It was getting dark as we said our good-byes. On the way
back to the hotel Syahrul told us of losing his father and youngest
brother. He is the eldest of four brothers. His mother and father and
youngest brother were at the market and his mother can’t swim. And when
the water came she hung on to a tree that lifted her up until she came
to a bridge or part of its railing and she hung on, lifted her head up
to get air and then let the water rush over her. She did that several
times until she was helped onto the surface of the bridge and taken to
the hospital. Syahrul went to the Great Mosque, met his boss there who
told him he’d seen his mother at the hospital. Went there and found his
mom and two brothers, same afternoon. Father and youngest brother, 16,
were still missing. Syahrul has his mom living in father’s extra house
in village. He said it’s not great, but better than living in barrack
where he doesn’t want to traumatize mother further.