Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

his time-filler feature on BBC World, jogged my memory the other day. We were upcountry on the homestead, when I caught the reminder: "This week in 1998, Pol Pot died in a remote region of Cambodia." I remember watching the Indonesian state broadcast service coverage of Pol Pot's death at that time, watching it together with my friend Uddin at home in Tapaktuan. I actually think it was the last week of April though, because I left there on the afternoon of the 30th, arriving in Medan on May 1 (a day of big student demonstrations there, just weeks before the fall of Suharto). That was to be the last time I saw friend. He was abducted by persons unknown about 18 months later.

I returned last week from spending time with some of my Tapaktuan family in Jakarta, but didn't really have the time to update the blog right away. There are preparations going on here, for in about 10 days time, S. will be entering the monkhood. His sister flew in from Europe for that; we picked her up at Don Muang and then drove home to the "province of sweet tamarind". A visit to the temple at which he will be staying, and some planning with all the aunties at home rounded out preparations, so now I'm home again for a while.

I had a wonderful visit with Ibu in Jakarta. It's really been too long since I'd seen her, and of course the visit was quite bittersweet. Agam had come too late -- Bapak had passed away in that very house, just weeks earlier. But it did feel nice to be able to make her smile, and laugh again. She wanted to cook, to make all the dishes that I like (basically, all of them!) which she used to make for us in Tapaktuan. Ibu is happiest when she has work to do -- at least that's what she always answered when I asked her to take it easy and relax. When she was upstairs in her son's house, ironing clothes for his family (three kids, one on the way), I would sit with her and we'd remember Bapak, tell each other stories of what we'd been doing, including her and Bapak's haj in Saudi Arabia two years ago. I'm so happy that they were able to do that while he was still strong enough. She misses him terribly of course, but I know I was able to lift her spirits, and I'm thankful for that. I tried to spend all my time with her, or as much as possible -- but I know she was still "belum puas", not quite satisfied, I had to leave too soon. She's anxious to get home to Tapaktuan, and probably will go with her son later this month. I promised to meet her again there, as soon as it seems likely that I'd be able to enter the province without so much probability of being turned back by the security forces. Everyone is hoping for a peace agreement between GAM and the government in the next few months.

Brother A's project for building fishing boats for the fishermen who lost boats in the tsunami, is proceeding well. In one of my only excursions away from the house, I made my way one day over to the office where this is all coming together. Abang A was out having meetings and didn't return until late afternoon, but all the people working on the project are also Tapaktuan folks. So there was lots of great conversations about people and places we all know -- it was almost like being at home in the Naga City! That evening a few of us went to Tanjung Priok to survey the loading of emergency aid bound for Nias and Simeulue Islands. One of the friends -- the elder brother of one of Uddin's best friends -- was to travel with one of these three Indonesian Navy ships bound for Sinabang, the main town on Simeulue, and he would disembark when it called in afterwards at Tapaktuan. The ships were loading food and building supplies.

A few days before I left, Bang A. and the Tapaktuan crew had a meeting with some bigwigs at the Department of Oceans and Fisheries, to present their project proposal for the fishing boat project. I had looked through the thick binder containing the documentation and blueprints for the ships. They would be built at 8 - 10 different locations along the Aceh coast, so the project itself will be creating many much needed jobs in many areas. I had done some research by internet when he first told me about the project last month by phone, and so I brought with me some .pdf files with diagrams and specifications for the models of marine diesel engines they wanted to use. These were included in the presentation at the Department -- I was asked to attend if I wished, but I felt like it was better to spend the time with Ibu at home. The presentation went well, the project was approved, and will be getting underway over the next month or so. Five hundred new fishing boats will be built in this undertaking.

That's all for now, I'm tired from a long drive today. The usual opinionated ramblings will resume shortly.

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