Journal from the Ground
by Mazalan Kamis
Visiting Saifulís family
We spend the whole day today visiting several places in Aceh. Our first
stop is at the house of Saifulís mom. Saifulís mom is staying with three
other families (Saifulís sister and her family, Saifulís aunt and her
family daughter to the tsunami, and Saifulís uncle) in a house belonging
to Saifulís in-laws. They have all lost loved ones and houses to the
tsunami. Saifulís mom is yet to visit her destroyed village as she was
overcome with emotion when Saiful first attempted to take her there.
Now, she is contemplating going back, but is not quite sure about the
best time to do so.
Saifulís mom (left) swings her
grandchild to sleep. Saifulís aunt and her husband are also
there to welcome us.
Visit to IPDs Barrack
We finally have a chance to visit a
barrack - the housing scheme built by the Indonesian government used to
temporarily place IDPs relocated from camps and shelters. We visit the
barrack occupied by people from Saifulís village. The conditions at the
barrack are appalling: each tiny room-less unit (4 x 6 sq meters) is
meant to fit six individuals, the walls separating each unit do not
reach the ceiling, the community toilets are not functioning, and the
water supply has long drained out. The living arrangement is supposed to
meet international standards, but what I see is simply inhuman and
outrageously disrespectful to the Acehnese culture.
All of the people shown in this photo have only themselves; they have lost their spouses and children to the tsunami. The living arrangements at the barrack further aggravate their suffering.
The wall separating each unit in the barracks stops short of reaching the ceiling. One can easily climb from one unit into another.
This lady is the most jovial of the IDPs
in the barrack. She jokingly said to us that all of them are now Ďsingle
and availableí again. Amidst the laughter, she suddenly stopped and in
the next moment is seen looking far ahead to the horizon with tears in
her eyes. She lost her husband and all of her children to the tsunami.
Visit to Baiturrahman Children
The Baiturahman Children Learning Center (BCLC) offers after-school
programs for children in Banda Aceh. The center used to register more
than 1000 students before the tsunami. Now there are only 200 children
in attendance. The administrator of the center has no exact figure as to
how many of the children perished in the disaster. The Principal of the
center and his family remain unaccounted for until today.
I sat at the back of a class
observing the children attending to their lesson.
At the end of the class, the
children say thank you to their teachers by shaking the
teacherís hand and bringing it to touch their foreheads. The
lady teacher seen in this photo (in yellow dress) lost her only
child (a baby) to the tsunami. The tsunami pulled her baby away
from her grip as she was escaping from it.
Visit to the Aceh Market
Aceh Market is situated next to the Baiturrahman Mosque (Masjid Raya
BaiturRahman). The market used to be the major thoroughfare for traders
to trade their wares which ranged from salted fish, clothes, jewelry,
etc. Most of the villagers from Saifulís village conducted their trade
here before the tsunami. I am dismayed to discover that after nearly
four months, nothing has been done to clean the place. Rumours have been
flying around that a big conglomerate plans to set up business on the
site, a highly strategic location in Banda Aceh. By not cleaning the
market, the authorities effectively prohibit the surviving small traders
from returning in favour of the conglomerate.
The famous Aceh Market is slowly
Visit to an orphanage in Banda Aceh
As a closure to todayís activity, we decide to return to an orphanage to
visit the orphans I met when I first arrived. A teacher/caretaker takes
us around to visit various facilities at the center. The orphanage is
funded by a foundation set up by the previous Indonesian president. I
can see that the children look like they are happy with their new living
Some of the orphans playing in