terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Meulaboh, Part 9


Day 2 Baker
I have become accustomed to the flies around me. They don't bother me when I am having my MRIs, taking a smoke break or while at rest.

While recovering from the shock of Pak Ali kicking over what we thought was a body, I notice the graffiti on the desks for the first time. It's funny how, despite the distance, the different standards of education and subjects taught in the classrooms, some things remain the same everywhere. The graffiti is, at times funny, poignant and more often than not, someone professing an undying love for another teenager. Some, in poorly phrased English, speak truths more painful than their young writers had anticipated in light of recent events.

Meulaboh, Day 2 #5
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Meulaboh, Day 2 #6
Originally uploaded by Terz.

We are tired, drained by the heat and our back-breaking work - and we seem to be getting more injuries. I had torn the skin off my left arm earlier today from a fucking stupid lapse. As I rested in the classroom, Kim suffered his first injury - a gash on his arm. His second, a near-miss, was a nail that had penetrated his boot, but did not get through his socks. Samuel had earlier stepped on a pair of nails he knew was right in front of him. We're losing our concentration and falling prey to fatigue - physical, mental and emotional. The heat beats down upon us all unrelentingly and I'm amazed to realise later that, despite drinking more than three 1.5l of bottled water, I have not once perspired.

Meulaboh, Day 2 #8
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Meulaboh, Day 2 #9
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Later, we recover a teacher's desk with still-damp textbooks and students' records with photographs in one of the drawers. There are exam or test results, written in the teacher's flowing handwriting, and comments in Bahasa Indonesia, which I do not understand. Each record is painfully neat and obviously written with much care. Among the items recovered is also a photo album of her students. In some photos, we see the school in better days. We are glad for it, because it gives us something to aim towards.

Meulaboh, Day 2 #7
Originally uploaded by Terz.

While this is happening, the work in the orphanage next door goes into high gear and more bodies are recovered. Seven in all, by the time we load up the SAF vehicle, done for the day. We are no longer sickened by the thought and the sight of rotten corpses don't hold the same fascination they did the first day. I do not take any more photographs of corpses.

We have learnt to ignore some things. But not the smell. As we pull away from the school, I violate SAF standing regulations on travelling in military vehicles and light up another cigarette.

(To be continued)



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