The Last Day
January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
This is my last day teaching in the slum. I woke up at 4am in Bandung and leave for Jakarta at 5.30 am. I reached the slum at 8am. It is a sunny day, the lights are coming down through narrow spots from in between the house roofs. In the front area, some doors are still closed, few are outside, sitting, cooking, sweeping, or just getting out from the public shower. The wet market however, is already crowded. While walking and halted every few seconds, I realized that within 50cm radius, there are many activities happening. On my left, the vegetable seller is negotiating with potential buyer in front of me, so I had to wait, because, on my right, there’s an old man with his bicycle, who is stopped because of the narrow space where there’s a musician with a guitar, who is singing for three ladies, who are drinking jamu*, from the seller at the right side. Underwears are sold next to vegetables and dirts are swept next to a frying pan. Is it weird that I find this place so fascinating?
I can feel my sweat flowing from my forehead down my cheek.
I walk to the back to the centre. The door is still locked. The old lady who lives at the side was sweeping the floor, I asked if I could sit on their bench while waiting. She welcomes me.
“Kak Arian!”, Naya greets me cheerfully, with Zahra they both sit with me on the bench. Their legs are hanging and swaying. Zahra looks pretty and fresh, apparently she showered this morning, unlike the usual, where she always shows up with tangled hair and swollen sleepy eyes. Naya bragged about the perfect score she got for her group work at school. I asked her why hasn’t Ali been coming. She told me because his mom is “gone”. What do you mean gone? I asked her. “Gone, never return”, she answers me. This information is later confirmed by the tutor. Ironically these things commonly happen here for various reason. Somebody said that this slum is a “children depot”, I can understand why it’s called that, since wherever you go, you will see children in every corner. People have sexual intercourse without contraception, sometimes for the sole pleasure. Sometimes that’s how people are called “husband and wife”, because they already make a family, without marriage or a legal paper. Sometimes one of the spouse just simply go away. Sometimes it’s the teenagers that start the family. For Ali’s case, it was money that cause the problem and the separation. “Gone, never return”. I was appalled by how familiar that concept is to these children. “And why hasn’t he been coming? Is he supposed to help his father work or taking care of younger sister or something?” I asked Naya again. “I think he misses his mom”, she told me. Ali comes today, he’s acting playful but rude towards his friends. He made Naya cried. Kak Eja thinks that he’s been acting out since mom left. I shudder thinking how hard it is for a child like him to be able to understand and express his feelings.
The kids are happy with the materials I made. “Cakep ye kak?”, they commented. They immediately play with it, but… uh-oh….!! When you attach the tags to the pictures, and when you try to detach it again, the velcro is off!! So I am not only giving them materials, but also I’m giving kak Eja an obligation to fix all the tags to re-glue it with better glue. I used ‘Fox’ glue instead of UHU because it was cheaper. Kak Eja told the kids that they may look at them and find the answers but don’t use the tags for now.
And so they did…
Naya likes the transportation board while Ali likes the occupation board, he takes it again and again and again.
For this picture, which supposedly to be “journalist”, Kak Eja thinks the children in La’i will say this is a busker x) As this is how some buskers in Indonesia are, they carry their own speaker and microphone, they usually sing dangdut.
Our final lesson
Niar and Amel, discussing the rainforest. They say, the monkey is Ipeh’s brother. And Ipeh’s perfectily happy with it.
Syarif asks me, “When will you come back?”
“A year from now”
Kak Eja asks, “Do you understand? So how long is one year?”
He shrugs, “Until we become old”, he said. Kak Eja laughs and said, “One year is 12 months. This is January 2012, Kak Arian will be back in January 2013”. But Syarif still looks confused.
I told him, “Okay, how bout this. You’re in second grade. I’ll be back when you’re in third”.
“So you mean once I got my report card and then you’ll be there right after?”
We laugh again and told him, “Well, not exactly. In January. During..hmm..second semester of third grade” I told him, as our Indonesian education system starts in July.
“Check the calendar”, kak Eja told him. Syarif and Kiki walk towards our 2012 calendar and they point and “discussed” it. Kak Eja found another comparison and asks him, “Okay how about this, when will you be circumcised?”
He told kak Eja, “When I’m in 5th grade”.
“Well Kak Arian will surely be back by then. Nevermind” Kak Eja said.
Then, as if Kiki has found a brilliant idea, he told Syarif, “Oh, I know! Why don’t you get circumcised tomorrow so Kak Arian will be back tomorrow?”
I feel so humbled that the kids have accepted me, even Kiki, who was quite resistant and cold at first. How much I have learned from the children, from this little room where there is never enough space.
bye bye place..