Journal from the Ground
by Mazalan Kamis
Meeting at SMA 1
A meeting has been arranged for me and Saiful to visit Sekolah Menengah
Atas 1 (SMA 1), a public high school in Banda Aceh, in the morning. The
purpose of our visit is to make the necessary connection with the school
community for a possible sister-school linkage with a school in the US.
The school lost 230 students and 23 teachers to the tsunami. The school
now has more than one hundred orphans, with a third of them having lost
As it is customary (though not necessary) to bring a gift, I inquire
from Pak Din who is also a teacher in the school, about what is most
urgently needed by the school. The Principal requests a megaphone to be
used in the school’s daily morning assembly. The authorities are yet to
inspect the electrical wiring in the tsunami hit school, so the school
is functioning without electricity.
The principal of SMA 1 Banda Aceh
(middle) is happy to receive a megaphone from ARF. Looking on is
Pak Din (left).
I request a tour of the school from the principal. He asks Pak Din to
accompany me. In one classroom, a teacher invites me in and requests me
to say a few words to the students. The class is equivalent to a junior
class level in the US. The students are all eager to hear about how they
can get connected with school children in the US. I also tell them that
many schools in the US have been very active in helping to collect
donations for tsunami victims. I ask them to write letters or messages
that I will bring back to the US to share with school children. Before I
leave the class, the teacher asks me whether I want to talk to one
tsunami survivor in the class who has been badly traumatized. He
privately points out a tense looking girl sitting at the back row of the
class. Upon learning how she survived (she found herself on top of a
coconut tree), I decide not to proceed with meeting her.
These high school children are
eager to be connected with concerned high school students in the
Looking out from a window of the
school library. Most of the houses around the school are gone,
and those that remain standing are no longer habitable. Two
schools next to SMA 1 were completely destroyed.
In the evening, I accompany Saiful to attend a meeting between leaders
of civil society movement and three prominent community leaders. The
meeting is to discuss the recent blue-print for Aceh’s recovery produced
by the Indonesian government. I feel fortunate to meet with the “who’s
who” of Aceh.
Late evening I go with Saiful to meet his mom, his auntie, and his
sister and her family. They are staying in a village not very far from
Banda Aceh, but since the road leading to the village is in bad shape,
the journey seems very long.
At night, an amateur Australian documentary film producer who came to
film the workshop at PBLC yesterday calls me and requests an interview.
He arrives at around 9 30 pm and we quickly get to the interview.
Another long but fulfilling day for me.