terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Meulaboh, Part 12

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Day 3 Baker
At lunch, I take another walk through the neighbourhood with some of the guys. Because of the rumour that we were pulling out, the people from the other NGOs have dumped all their rupiah with Eddie and he's been asked to buy cartons of Marlboro Reds for them for the return journey.

We walk through the neighbourhood where people are preparing for Hari Raya Haji, in two days. There seems no reason for SAF's paranoia about safety; everyone is smiling, glad for our presence, and neighbourhood men are falling over themselves to have their pictures taken by me.

The market is busy, though the mood is muted due to the TNI soldiers, loaded for bear, patrolling the streets. But the noise of the market is already different from the deathly silence along the coast and we welcome it gratefully. Some boys follow us all the way to the first store where we buy up the entire stock of Marlboros, much to the consternation of the stall keeper. The boys don't say much, but they do pose enthusiastically for the camera whenever I lift either to my eye. We go to another store and, all the while under the watchful eyes of the TNI, empty its stock as well. By the time we spend all our rupiah, we've bought 16 (or more) cartons of Marlboros.


Meulaboh, Day 3 #4
Originally uploaded by Terz.


Our shadows follow us back to the Sekolah Muhammdiyah where we learn that they are actually enrolled in the school. Pak Ali spends a quiet moment asking after their families. Sham gives the bravest of the group several bottles of mineral water to bring home. Photos are taken, and, for the first time all afternoon, the boys put on a show of gravity. They are then told to expect to come back to school the following week.

By the time we're ready to go in the afternoon (and as it turns out, the other groups did not make an appearance), we have cleared two pathways (christened 'Mercy Road' and 'Relief Avenue', respectively, for the students' use, and reinforced the sides with wooden planks to prevent the mud from sliding back onto the path should there be rain (unlikely, since it is the middle of the dry season. The temperature today was 41°C).


Meulaboh, Day 3 #5
Originally uploaded by Terz.



Meulaboh, Day 3 #6
Originally uploaded by Terz.


At the end of it, this is the most fulfilling day of our time in Meulaboh. And tiring as well. As I write in my journal at 2000 hours back on the Endeavour, Tahar, Imran and Samuel are already fast asleep on their bunks.

(To be continued)

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