Traces

December 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I reach the slum at 8.30 today, I was surprised to see many children are already at the centre in the morning. And not just that, they look very nice! Their hair are still wet, most of them showered this morning! How unusual :D They’re in nice clothes, with T-shirt tucked in their pants, and uneven powder on their faces. I asked Kak Eja what’s going on, and apparently a magazine company is celebrating 2nd birthday and inviting the slum children because they’re going to be given free food and free milk. They’re asked to come at 11, but probably their excitement has brought them since 8 in the morning! We chat, play games, wait for each other, and leave the centre at 11.00 to go the the other centre nearby where the event is held (around 1.5km walk from our centre). There are 14 of us walking under the cloudy sky, wind brushes our faces, thunders softly heard. Passing through the narrow alleys, the boys are pushing each other and laughing, the girls fighting over holding my hand. We do not pass the market because we will surely cause a traffic jam in the narrow and super crowded place! The tutor walk at the front and I walk at the very back to make sure noone’s left behind. Suddenly all the children scream, run and disperse to many directions! There are three monkeys on the way (the ones that usually made perform with clothes and tambourine near the traffic lights). They laugh hard and laugh harder at the ones who are scared. We pass through houses, dirty rivers, we reach main road and crossover bridge. We pass through a very wide field that I’ve never realized was there before! It is more or less the size of football field, with a very brown slightly moist soil. In the middle, some children, including toddlers, are playing football, with few goats grazing right in the middle of the play. On our left side is slum housings bounded by a tall wall. Faded color roofs and the dome of a mosque are seen behind it. On the far right end is an area with contrasting green grass on the pretty brown soil, and few trees. From afar, two boys are chilling on a tall sloping tree. They rest against sturdy slanted branches, looking untroubled from anything. Their clothes are fluttered by the wind. I wonder how they see all of us from up there. The children discuss the weather. Nanda brings umbrella, they debate on what to do if the rain comes. Some want to find a shelter and some want to play under the rain. Tasya and Sevia, who are walking in front on of me, are jumping and stomping hard on the ground, to ‘splash’ the soil and sprinkles into the air. Not long after, we reach the other centre. Tarpaulin sheet is unfurled for the children to sit outside under the tree. From the other centres, only the children that have birthday between 1-10 December are invited to come. The boys, again, are playfully pushing each other roughly on the tarp sheet. We sit at the back. The girls hold my hands, comparing their fingers and nails with mine. They touch my hair, observe my pants and ask if it’s Lepis (Levi’s). And since always, they are always fascinated with my braces! Some even want to have braces now. I told them that they don’t need it because they have nice teeth. (The tutor told me that there are ‘toy braces’ sold for kids and one of our kids have that! Haha). Azis asked me, “Do I need one Kak?” I told him to show off his teeth, he grins to me. Few teeth are not in place, very slightly. But I told him, “No, you don’t need it”. Yes, Indonesians are not as obsessed of perfect teeth as white people. Nala said, “Ihh Azis gimana sih, kata emak behel itu untuk cewe doang!” (Please Azis, my mom said braces are for girls only!) Arif asks me out of the blue, “Kak, are you from England?” I laugh and said no. He asks again, “Then how come you can speak English?” I told him, I learn English since I was his age and he can surely speak English too if he continues learning! Event is starting. The ladies that come from the company look very kinclong“Cakep-cakep yee Kak”, said Nala. The lady from the company asks children questions, and they give out 10 books to those who answer correctly. A bag of T-shirt, book, wafer and milk are given to those who celebrate birthday between 1-10 December. Finally, all children are each given a box of meal; yellow rice, water, a piece of chicken, perkedel, and banana. Nala doesn’t finish her rice and said she will bring it home. I told her, “Why don’t you eat your banana?” She said it’s for her mom, who likes banana. When we’re eating from the boxes, a chicken runs long across our 10m tarp sheet and jump in and out few children’s food!! Everybody scream excitedly! Noticing the chicken jump in Rahma’s food, I, not being aware that instead of being clean, I might sound like a spoiled girl, told the tutor, “Kak, give Rahma a new food box. The chicken jumped in her food!” The tutor only laughs and says, Let it be Kak. Belum 5 menit!” Really? When I turned my face around, Rahma already continues eating. At 1pm, the event’s done. The sky is still cloudy and we walk with the children. The tutor tells me that we don’t have to send them all the way until the centre, just walk with them until the crossover bridge at the main road. The tutor walks with me in the back while children are walking and jumping around drinking their milk in front of us. Right after we go down the crossover bridge, the tutor says, “Okay, let the children go and we take the bus here.” We didn’t say goodbye to the children because they all have walked far in front of us. We watch them walk. The girls at the front, who suddenly realize that we are not there, look back. We wave to them as as sign that we’re not coming back with them. They wave back to us. One by one they realize, they stop, we wave to them, they wave back to us, and they continue walking. Kiki, at the back, who realizes last that we’re not coming, suddenly stops and from afar I can see him shouting to the other kids but I can’t hear what he said, probably telling them that we’re ‘left behind’. He just runs towards us while the others keep walking. I wave him to the left and to the right (as in ‘bye-bye-bye’) and Kak Eja waves him from the back to the front (as in ‘shoo-shoo-shoo’). Kiki stops and reads our sign language. After that, the thin and handsome Kiki with his oversized backpack turns back and runs to catch up with the others. As he runs, his backpack is flying up and down his skinny back. I can see him getting smaller and smaller from where I stand, until he disappears at a right turn..

Tak terasa sudah penghujung tahun… Langkah yang melompat-lompat riang dan tawa-tawa nakal, bukan hanya kenangan.. tapi sudah menjadi bagian dari diriku. Aku pasti akan kembali lagi.

 

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