Table of Contents

2007 Jan • Indonesia Peace Team, N Sumatra


January 21, 2007

The next morning I left very early for Jaring Halus. Putra escorted me. It was not really necessary, but it was polite and gave us a chance to talk. The group of AVP facilitators felt that if we were to support a person part time to help arrange and organize AVP workshops and keep the records and contact lists, it should be Putra, because he does not have other work. I told him that I would not support that. He did not have his feet on the ground and needed to plant himself somewhere. His family is still in Pidie. He has a new baby. He has no steady employment. He did could not rely on AVP and needed to establish himself somehow. He agreed and said he was looking into becoming a distributor of computer supplies such as inks and USBs. They are small and easily managed. He could work half time and spend the other half time doing humanitarian work. He has a friend from elementary school who is distributing these materials nationally and would supply him for East Aceh if Putra wanted. He just needed ten million rupiah to get started. His father was trying to collect it for him, but he wasn’t sure when the family could put that kind of money together. He understood, though was disappointed that I would not rely on him to organize AVP workshops for the time being.

I met the Al-Munawwarah teachers from Jaring Halus in Stabat. Wati is the Director of the preschool and is an elementary school teacher as well. She is doing a great job as the Director of the school and is responsible for the religious education and Readiness Center at the school, although now she has added a teacher, Eli, to assist with the Readiness Center. Wati is going to school in Medan for religious studies in an intensive weekend program. She goes to the city of Medan all day Saturday and Sunday.

They said they were really hoping that Eli could go to school with them as well, but weren’t sure if I could find one more person to assist Eli with the costs of college.

Ririn is a staff member of YSKD and has been the major community organizer from the beginning to support these teachers and their schooling. Ririn is going to school in Medan also for psychology in an intensive weekend program. She lives near the city of Medan and goes to school all day Saturday and Sunday.

Nur Aida was not with us in Stabat because she had just given birth. She runs the Art Center at the school and works on structured construction with the children. She is going to school at the University Budidaya in Binjai, closer than Medan, for language studies. There are no early childhood degrees in Indonesia, so they take what classes they can and get what training opportunities they can, but the degree will be in language studies. This is the case for all the following:

Ratna is responsible for the Dramatic Play Center and understanding social development, Muna is responsible for the Block Center and structured construction play as well as micro play, and Imah is responsible for the Natural Materials Center and sensorimotor development. They work together on understanding the developmental needs of young children and supporting each other in their college studies. They carried themselves much more confidently than I had seen in the past and they spoke much more easily in public.

They had come to the mainland to see if they could get their grades for the past semester to give to me, but they had not been released yet. The branch office near the mainland for them had just been closed down. The government says there will be no more use of branch offices. So, they have to go to the regional office, which is two hours for them. They clearly saw this as an added burden, but it didn’t seem to hang them up at all. They were clearly very engaged and enthusiastic about their studies. They said they used to get very tired, but they didn’t get so tired any more. I explained that the brain was a muscle and it was like learning to run a marathon, they had to work up to it. They laughed and said that was what if felt like.

Six of the teachers (Nur Aida had just given birth and was not with them, but Eli was with them) and I went to a kitchen/household supply store. They had said they were not using a sand table because they couldn’t keep the cats and animals out of it. But they have a whole beach. I asked if they had sieves. They said no. So we went to look for a sieve. When we got to the store, the only “sieves” they had were tea strainers. But I looked around and saw many plastic basics and other items that could be used as sieve, although not “official sieves.” I began with the Socratic method. Asking them questions about what they might use from the store and how, how many they would need and why, what colors they might choose and why. We spent three or four hours in this very cramped store talking to the teachers about the stages of development of young children and how to support them. The family that owned the store was very interested. And customers lingered and listened in on the lessons. It was great fun and they learned a lot!

We then went out to Jaring Halus. Al-Munawwarah Preschool looks to be in very good shape, well used and not needing a make over to pretend they’re doing things they’re not. That evening the parents and families of the teachers going to college all came to the school to say thank you to us for sending a family member to college. They never imagined that would happen in their families. It was nice to meet their parents. The teachers all wrote letters and sent pictures of themselves. They all said that English was their hardest subject. I suggested that Ririn from the Village Enlightenment Foundation (YSKD) teach them to use email and I could look for correspondents who would write no more than two sentences and they could respond with no more than two sentences. That way it wouldn’t be overwhelming. They were ecstatic.

January 22, 2007

Ririn, Sisto and I left early. We took a boat out of Jaring Halus and Pak Pri met us at the dock. We drove up into the mountains of Langkat where the head of the flooding started there. I asked them who was logging so heavily and replacing the forest with palm oil. There was a murmur. “It’s better if you don’t know. … We shouldn’t tell her that. … It won’t be safe for her. “ They were quite concerne3d. It turned out that one of our friends with a friend of his had tried to expose illegal logging activities, but after they got one article in the newspaper his friend was found dead in the river and he went into hiding for over two years. As opposed to Tamiang, the names of Andri Tanoto and Acang did not come up. The names that arose in North Sumatra were from the military command, Pak Anip, who used to be the military commander and now is the Director of PERBAKIN, the Association in Indonesian Snipers, in Medan. He runs PT. Anugrah Langkat Makmur. Also the Batak, Pak Lintong of PT. Rapala and a Chinese man behind PT. Karimun were mentioned in conversations as behind much of the logging in the area. Signs entering most of the palm oil plantation areas confirmed the PT names.

We arrived at the most remote camp. People were all over in tents. Food supplies and water were coming in, but again, only at the camps. If people went back to their villages, it took awhile to walk and if they were not present at the distribution in the camp, they did not get any rations. Also the wells had not been cleaned at the villages, so there was often no water.

We hiked up the mountain to the most remote villages—Aras Napal Kanan and Aras Napal Kiri—and went to the church where a couple hundred villagers had climbed up into the open air rafters and hid from the water. Children, elderly, everyone climbed up twenty or thirty feet and spread boards between the rafters. It looked terrifying. They were up there two days and two nights. These two villages are fiercely independent and don’t want to ask for help, but the men say that want to rebuild homes so they can leave their wives and children safe and can go down to work. It will be several months before they can work their fields again—the sediment will have to harden some. All the fields have three feet of sediment covering them. It has dried out the chocolate plants and killed the fruit trees. If their families are safe, they can go to work to replace the things in their homes. They are scavenging for tin for roofs and have found a lot, but not enough for all the houses. They have lumber—they looked to the river and all around them where the illegal logs were jammed and strewn around. They are cutting lumber, but they need nails. Aras Napal Kanan has 68 households and Aras Napal Kiri has 94 households. Amazingly, no one died in the flood, but there are 162 homes to rebuild. This would take about 20 million rupiah for nails for 150 homes. They also estimated that they need about 30-50 million rupiah for metal roofing, depending on what they can scavenge. They also said that if there were some funds for ten carpenters for forty days (40,000 rph or $4.50 per day) to help them, the job would go so much faster, but that would take about 16 million rupiah.

Items Rupiah Dollars
Nails 20 million $2,250
Tin 30 million $3,400
Carpenters 16 million $1,800
Sch supplies 5 million $550
YSKD 9 million $1,000
Total 80 million $9,000

I left 10 million for the nails and said I would try to collect some more. Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting offered another $1,000 upon my return and I sent $1,280 immediately upon my return. This will go along way in rebuilding their homes. I wish we had the $ 9,000 to meet these minimal needs that would make their recovery so much swifter, but we use what we have. That’s what they always say to me, “We use what we have.” I smile, “Yes, we use what we have.” They clearly said, though, that the most amazing thing for them was that I came to their village and walked all the way out there. I had been to the church that sheltered them and kept them alive in the rafters. They said their county officials had not even come to their village. No one had, except us. This meat a great deal to them. They said, “Imagine, even our own village head has not been out to the village since the flood. Imagine how we feel. Have we been completely abandoned?” But they were in great spirits when I left them and were hopeful that they could get to work and rebuild their lives.

As we came off the mountain and drove to Medan, we talked about many things including Quakerism. We talked about the work we are doing in the US around the School of the Americas Watch, conscientious objection to military taxation case of Dan Jenkins, the exploration of a group legal action, considering the revoking of the personhood of corporations. They were fascinated by all these things, but mostly wanted to know if we could do a workshop on Quakerism when we returned.

Friends in Aceh had asked for a similar thing, but in the form of a workshop on discerning conscience. We discussed the conscience work and the possibilities of opening a Conscience Studio in East Aceh. They mentioned that the leading military general running for office was just announcing a Conscience Party. I remembered my friend, Mia Shargel in Tallahassee Florida who says words are like dirty tea cups, once used for coffee, the tea is never the same. It’s a shame when words are used contrary to their meaning. We decided it was okay to go ahead using the language since it was what we actually meant.

A schedule might include:

Time Indonesian Lit Translation English
2:00-4:00 Musyawara Terbuka Open Dialog (Claremont) Worship Sharing
4:30-6:00 Kelompok Teman Sejalan Companion Groups Spiritual Friendships
7:30-9:30 Komite Keperjelasan Clearness Cte Clearness Cte
Next day
8:00-10:00 Rapat Keputusan (dok) Decision-making Mtg Meeting for Business
10:30-12:30 Saksi Umum (penerbit) Public Witness (pub) Witness
1:00 – 4:00 Makan Bersama Eat Together Dinner Gathering