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
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
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.