Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Selamat Datang (Welcome) To The Jungle

Selamat pagi!

Now you know I love you all but I think my current two best friends are Valium and codeine. Oh, the muscle-relaxant too. I'm healed, hallelujah!

Healed and high. Now I know what it's like to be Kristine, hopped up on 5 Ativans just to take a flight. Yesterday, halfway from Bali to Jakarta, the meds completely kicked in. I just gently interrupted Anne and said, "I think I have to stop talking now," and folded my hands in my lap. I couldn't quite lean back as my neck still hurt but I was feeling nice enough to just completely phase out anyway. I wasn't at the passing-out-in-the-middle-of-drinking-a-full-glass-of-water or seeing tracers in the airplane meal placemat (now there's your shout out, Kristine) but I was definitely flying high in the clouds, both physically in a plane and on that other plane - in...my...mind.

And now here we are in Jogja. This is probably the single most beautiful location we've been to thus far. The city center is just so pretty, Mt Merapi (an active volcano!) looms in the distance.

Jogjakarta was hit by an earthquake on May 27. It registered 5.9 on the Richter scale. 350 000 homes were rendered unfit to live in. Homelessness on such a massive scale. It's kind of hard to fathom.

It's also difficult to see at first. The downtown streets look untouched although the Sheraton hotel down the street is permanently closed due to structural damage. To see the full extent of the damage, however, doesn't take much. We drove out for about half an hour and it was just rubble, rubble and more rubble. It's frightening, thinking of what the sounds must have been like, with the ground underneath rumbling and the very building that you call home starting to crack and crumble around you. Many shells of homes have tarps thrown over the top. There are also many tents. Chairs, tables, doors. They all just kind of rest against trees, sit on the side of the street. Window panes with the glass broken lean against chicken coops.

Amidst all of this, we entered a woman's temporary shelter to do an interview. When we walked in, I immediately noticed that she had placed a beautiful tapestry on her table (the table and chairs, as well as a hot plate on the ground and a bicycle, were the only things in this room). The table was laden with a massive bunch of mini-bananas, snakefruit and four large plastic containers filled to the brim with snacks and sweet peanuts.

After the interview, she insisted that we have a snack. In fact, she insisted that we take the snacks! She literally screwed the tops off all the jars and dumped all the contents into plastic bags for us to take with us! She had just finished telling us about the food voucher system and how she doesn't have enough to afford brown sugar and she was giving us all the food on her table. Us! I've been eating better on this trip in Indonesia than I even do at home! I have two desserts a day! I live so decadently here, it seems, and there's a certain guilt knowing that the meals that are cheap to me would be out of reach to the people we visit every day. And then there's this lovely lady. We couldn't refuse the gesture that makes her who she is - so generous and kind. So Indonesian!

While I shot b-roll, Aly-Khan had the presence of mind to go down the street and buy her 2 kg of brown sugar. It cost 12 000 Rupiah (about a dollar and a half). He said that she was surprised and so very grateful. What she probably doesn't know is exactly how much she gave us. I'll never forget that kind of unthinking, selfless generosity.

She had made the snacks herself. We munched them all day in the car. Very yummy. We drove a lot today and I, tired from the meds, spent the whole time reflecting on recent interactions with the locals. The amazing part is that we have communicated so little verbally. But sometimes the most important human interactions are conveyed by gestures anyway.

Riding around all day I just wanted to jump out the front seat window of the CARE minivan and into the impossibly lush countryside. I have never seen fields like this before in my life. It's like I've never really seen the colour green before. Rice paddies, peanut fieds, corn fields, green, green, green. These fields look like they are literally about to burst. They are so lush that I want to jump into them and make a rice-paddy snow angel. Not that I would, I don't like getting dirty. But that's what I did in my mind.


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