The Door

August 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

I started working as a volunteer teacher 3 weeks ago in an informal settlement in Jakarta. I am supposed to tutor them with some homework and teach English every Saturday to the children there with the age range 5-8 years old. This will be my first experience working with underpriviledged children and I didn’t know what to expect. This is my first day story

I left my place at 7am and took the bus Kopaja no.502 to Kampung Melayu. Kopaja is the old rombeng bus that snorts black clouds of smoke. From there I take Metro Mini (another old bus) no.52 to Pasar (=traditional market) Gembrong (the place is supposed to be ‘behind’ this traditional market). When I reach there, it is pretty dense and I don’t know how to go ‘behind’ (the street address is not on the GoogleMaps). I ask a toy seller and he points to a door and told me to ‘enter’ from the side of the door. I confusingly go to find the ‘way’ and right next to the door, there’s a really narrow alley that is not visible from the main road. I go in and immediately find stairs and stairs to go down, just to find that behind (and below) this market, there is a microcosm hidden from the main road. There are houses, narrow streets, warung (small stores), people, cats, chickens, birds, and ducks too. A road could only be passed with one bike. Some houses are illuminated by sunlight and some are cast by shadow. The address given to me was RT04/RW02 and I start to ask around. People directing me here and there, somehow I feel like I was in a maze. But I really enjoy the walk as it opens a door to an unknown to me. Boys gather around in circles holding a bird and discussing what kind of bird is it. A teenager who dressed trendy sits with (probably) his mother together peeling baskets of onions, a child being showered with a hose on the street, the crowded trading activities in the market. It is so packed that people don’t care anymore if we bump or even push someone gently to make way…not like in the mall when someone bumps you, you’d be like, hey watch it man. Somebody directed me waay back to a cemetery. I reached there and found goats and sheeps eating the grass around the burials. Ask another person, and he directs me to go back in to the market… Finally I reach RT04/RW02 but nobody around knows about the children learning centre. I finally make some calls to find out that apparently they gave me the wrong address number, it is on RT01/RW04. A mistake that I am grateful of. A fascinating walk it is! I finally find the place with the help of the whole community :) I think it is obvious that I am an outsider, everybody asks me where I am going and everybody helped me. I finally meet this young guy, and when I ask about the address he immediately says, “Oh tempat les anak2 ya? Sini saya anterin mba, ntar nyasar!” and I laugh and tell him, “Emang udah nyasar dari tadi!”. When I go back people ask me “Ketemu mba tempatnya?” :)  (Did you find the place?)

The learning centre is very small, it is appx.2.5-3m x 3m with 14 children inside and 2 adults! Fortunately they are very receptive of me and so fun to be with. They are very uninhibited in answering (albeit almost always wrong :P haha) and very lively. I can’t help but to compare them with my rather wealthy students in where I teach on daily basis (but this probably deserves another space of discussion). We make arts and crafts with tissue paper, and the tutor already prepared a drawing of hearts & stars for them to stick crumpled papers on. They said they want the ‘lo-ve’ (read:lo-vai) and ‘ilapyou’ (I love you) paper :P

I teach them some songs in English and to answer simple greetings like ‘Good morning’ I feel so at ease with these children. After singing songs with them, talking about some stuff, they go home. I too, excuse myself. Since I have been going around in circles, I lost orientation, and got out on the other side of the market! The market activity on the main road is just as busy. I look to my bus no.52 but I feel like walking. I finally walk to Kampung Melayu with the sun stinging right above my head. The sun is burning and the air is full of old buses’ polluted clouds of smoke. The road ascending and descending as I go up on the bridge and down in the tunnel. I feel tired but energetic, so dehydrated yet so alive.


Raga: “Kak..giginya kok ada dua lapis gitu kak”

Niar: “Itu namanya behel tau! Lu mau juga pake? pake aja kawat jemuran!”


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