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02/11/05 12:00AM
Total Collected:
US$ 69,122.10

Journal from the Ground
by Lisa Loomis and Sorayya Khan



Wednesday, May 9, 2007

¬[05/08/07] [05/10/07]®

We began the day with a meeting with Mrs. Nora at the Baitul Qiradh Baiturrahman (BQB) which has an office in the Great Mosque. BQB is one of the micro-credit facilities that ARF uses in order to manage its revolving door loan program. Mrs. Nora has an economics degree and has worked for BQB since it was first established in 1995.

BQB is a banking facility in that it collects funds from the community and loans out specified amounts. Typical loan amounts vary between 500,000 IR and 50 million IR $50 and $5,000. In general, the recipients are 60% men and 40% women. The loan amounts that are offered to customers on behalf of ARF are far smaller.

With regards to ARF, BQB has had mixed success in loan repayment. In 2005, ARF loans were offered to Meuraxa subdistrict (of which Punge is part). Most of the loans were repaid according to terms initially agreed upon or terms that were later renegotiated. In other cases, repayment success was more limited. While the loans were used for the purposes intended, some customers preferred to think of the loan as a “grant” or handout rather than an amount that needed to be repaid. BQB has had meetings with those customers to impress upon them the need for repayment and while that has changed some perception, it hasn’t been able to persuade everyone to begin repayment. In many cases, though, terms have been renegotiated to allow for a far slower repayment rate, but a repayment rate nonetheless.

In 2006, in conjunction with ARF, BQB decided to only make ARF loans to existing BQB customers. The return on these loans has been much better.

Mrs. Nora said that repayment is difficult across the board. It is hard because first, after the tsunami there are less customers for businesses, and second, customers have less money to buy goods.


A look back at the Great Mosque as we walk toward the market in an adjacent area.

After meeting Mrs. Nora, we walked across the street to the busy market area. The shops and stalls were crowded close together, much of them covered with tarp or aluminum sheets to keep out rain. We passed every type of shop, from jewelry stores to clothing stores to shoe stores to cd and dvd stores and a vast array of vegetable, fruit, and spice stalls.

The market near the Great Mosque is alive with activity and loaded with a variety of goods.

In the bustling market, we met several recipients of ARF loans. Two shopkeepers sold children’s clothing and women’s undergarmets, one sold produce, his brother in the stall next to him sold bulk spices in a beautiful display, two or three others were food vendors and/or restauranteers. Some of them make timely repayments, some pay regularly, but less than the terms of their original agreement, and one, a restauranteer, was still sheepishly stuck on the idea that the loan was a “gift” that didn’t need repaying. We were accompanied by Nonong, the ARF financial manager, and a BQB representative who accompanied us on our visits. The BQB representative knows the recipients because she routinely checks up on all of them, even those who haven’t begun to repay loans, continuing to encourage them to do so.

A Banda Aceh shopkeeper who is a recipient of ARF’s microcredit program with BQB.


A Banda Aceh restauranteer who is sheepish about his understanding of his loan, but has no problems understanding how to cook a wonderful meal.


A Banda Aceh fruit and vegetable vendor who makes daily payments on his loans.


Around 4pm we made our way back to Punge Jurong with Jol, our driver, and Syahrul, our translator. Three women were already waiting for us in the community center where we’d conducted interviews the previous afternoon. They’d come back to tell their stories to us, as we hadn’t had enough time to speak to them our last time in Punge. It was raining lightly and no one liked the rain. It reminded them of the Tsunami. While the sky had been a perfect clear blue when the Tsunami hit, late in the afternoon it had started to rain. Below are the stories of three women survivors.


Linda, 40, her husband, three children, and mother who was preparing to go for Haj, were gathered in the house the morning of the Tsunami. They heard people shouting that water from the sea was rising, and they joined everyone else outside and started running. Linda tried to help her 80 year old mother who kept telling her to go on without her, but Linda would not. Their plan was to go to a mosque, but before they got there, they were struck by the water and separated. When she was struck, she didn’t really realize what had happened. The water swept her up and moved her about 200 or 300 meters. She held on to a pillar and stepped on something hard. Later, when the water receded, she saw it was an car standing upright on its back fender. When the second wave struck, the car shook and was unsteady, and she asked two other thin people from above to help her get to a higher level of the building. She saw a part of an air conditioner jutting out and grabbed hold of that. But she was too heavy for it and fell into the water.

Linda is a great swimmer. She was the coach’s assistant in senior high school. She swam into a building, saw stairs, and got to the second floor. She thought it was the end of the world. In her Islamic studies classes in previous days, the class had spoken of the Final Day. One of the signs was that the sky would fall down. But the sky above Linda was clear and this gave her spirit and hope.

On the balcony of the second floor, two or three people were working there and they opened the locked door for her. They offered her food, a kind she didn’t usually eat or particularly like, but she ate it for power and asked the men to help her go down. She left the building and after walking for about ten minutes, found her sister. She came close to the mosque to which she’d originally been heading and reached the second floor when people started yelling that the water was coming again. It didn’t.

In the afternoon, the two women left the mosque, trying to get back home. They found Kartina’s brother-in-law on the roof of a house and he joined them. Her sister has a big wound, they see a helicopter, and ask for help. In the morning, the marines take her sister to Kesdam hospital. The chief in the hospital tells them to spread the word that the priority is the wounded, not the bodies. People come to the hospital looking for their relatives.

The next day, around 5pm, she goes to the Great Mosque and she hears her husband call out her name, “Linda.” Her husband was not at home when the water struck. He’d taken his motorbike to check on his mother after the earthquake. Later, he’d jumped into the water to save a two year old girl. A journalist caught a photograph of the father and girl, but when it was published the caption said it was a father and his daughter. They have since tried to correct the mistake, but without luck. The photograph won an award for one of the best photos of the Tsunami. In fact, later her husband was flown to Taiwan for an award. The mistake hasn’t been corrected, though.

Linda looked for her mom for four days, but never found her. In fact she never found the bodies from anyone in her family. She left for Siglee, a village about 100 km away.

She hates the sound of airplanes because it reminds her of the trauma of the Tsunami water. The Tsunami sounded like the roar of an airplane when landing: low and loud.

Linda and her husband have taken out an ARF loan with BQB. As grateful as they are for the loan, they think the terms are hard. They have heard of people who do not repay the loans. BQB has hurt the feelings of villagers and blemished the village’s reputation by saying that Punge residents are “cheaters.”


Warni, 30, was with her son, 4, watching Power Rangers on television that morning. Her husband was in Simalu Island where he worked. When the earthquake happened, she took her son outside, close to the electricity pole. Others told her to move, that being so close to the pole was dangerous. She took her son to her mother-in-law’s house, where she saw her brother-in-law and asked him to check on her husband’s computer in her house which she’d seen shaking and moving. She heard that stores had collapsed. She knew her husband’s office was only one story tall and so she wasn’t worried for him.

Warni, 30, lost her 4 year old son during the Tsunami. 

A girl began to shout, “The water is rising!” She knew that rising sea water was connected to the Final Day as described in the Holy Quran. The neighbor asked them to make their way to the mosque. Before they got there, at an intersection and at the corner of a street, she could see the water. It was high like a coconut tree and the water was black. She held her son to her as tightly as she could. She was swept up with the water, but not too high. She could see a car up ahead with a very confused driver, and the girl who was warning people about the water standing between the car and the water. The driver in the car drove straight for the wall of water and struck the girl as well. Warni thought it was the end of the world, she was so afraid.

When the third wave came (really one of the waves that was receding rather than a new one altogether), a mattress floated by and she put herself and her son on it. On the fourth wave (another receding pull), the mattress flipped and both she and her son were underwater. Her head covering was over her face and she tried to move it away. Just at that moment, her son slipped from her arms. She clung to a passing piece of wood and suddenly she was near the BPM office, the same place that Linda had found. (They didn’t meet up.) Only her head was above the water, there was wood everywhere. She saw a couple clinging to a tree and asked for their help. The man tried to pull her out. She suddenly remembered that her son had been on her left side. She looked to her left and saw her son bobbing up and down in the water, but he was already dead. She wanted to reach him and pull him, but the man told her that he was already dead and she must save herself. She tried to make peace with what she saw. She invoked prayers, telling God that the child belonged to Him as well, and if that is what he wished, then she would accept it. Right after she had those thoughts, the roof of a house fell down on her son and sunk along with him. The man put trees/wood together so that she could get out, but her leg was still stuck in the water. She tried to go up. But her skirt was up to her knee and she was shy to come out of the water like that. Then she saw a snake nearby and quickly went up. The man in the tree had a watch on which indicated it was noon.

When the water on the street receded to below the height of her knee, she saw some military people and asked for help to retrieve her son’s body. They say it is impossible. She prays to God: “He’s yours.” She went to the Great Mosque for the night. She then leaves Banda Aceh for her parents’ home in the highlands where she is safe. She had difficulty getting there because no one in her family or among her relatives has vehicles. She stops a minibus driver and tells him that she doesn’t have any money for transportation. He agrees to drive her for free.

She heard from police that Simalu island sank. She says she’ll believe it when she sees her husband’s body. She remembers his cell phone number and sends him a text message from the satellite cell phone of a doctor, telling him that she is still alive. He answers immediately. They meet on the tenth day after the Tsunami. She goes to Simalu with him, she learns she’s pregnant in March, and her beautiful daughter, Putrinurmala, 18 months and playing with all of us during the interview, is born. Warni is pregnant and her new baby is due in July.


Putri Nurmala, 18 months, is the daughter of Tsunami survivor, Warni, 30. She played and entertained everyone during her mother’s interview on May 9th.


On the morning of the earthquake, Kartini, 45, was staying in Tanswe, Siglee, not Punge. She heard about the earthquake and came immediately with a private car to check if everything was okay. She has six children. One is studying in Medan. Two are with her in Siglee. Three were in Punge prior to the Tsunami. Her husband is a trader and was working in Lammo. It is very difficult to reach Banda Aceh. At 10 pm Kartini stops her attempts and takes a rest at Makampahlawan mosque. The next day her brother deposits her in Lumbaro where dead bodies are being collected. She comes back to town to search and thinks she sees her son, but it’s not him. She meets up with a boy who tells her that her village is flattened and he hasn’t seen her family.

Kartini, 45, lost three of her six children during the Tsunami. She also lost her mother, Cut Maya, 60.

It took her husband three days by foot to get to Punge. Prior to the Tsunami, it was a two hour journey by road. When he arrives his pants are ripped and all that remains of them are tattered shorts. When other villagers see him they are a bit afraid and think he’s crazed. The ages of her lost children are 24, 18, 15, and her mother was about 60. The three children who are still alive are 29, 24, and her youngest, 12.

One of her children, Muslim, 14, had been friends with our translator, Syahrul. Another of Muslim’s friends who was with Muslim holding on to a fence during the Tsunami, had a dream later in which Muslim comes to him and tells him, “I’m in school.” Kartina thinks her son means Lumbaro, where dead bodies are gathered en masse in a large grave. On the 100th day after his death, Kartina dreams that her three sons come back in formal clothes, blank pants and white shirts, to ask her youngest son to a party. Kartina forbids her youngest to go with them, says that he doesn’t have clothes that nice and isn’t as nicely cleaned up as they are. The three boys leave, then, and Kartina follows them in her dream. The place looks like Lumbaro. When she gets close, they disappear. She feels her sons are buried in Lumbaro.

¬[05/08/07] [05/10/07]®