A Light of Hope: An Essay about Orphanage


I visited an orphanage last week and discovered a new piece of information about that type of institution in my country (Indonesia). Quite a trip, actually. Enough to make me wanting to write about it.

It was on a late afternoon. Not my first time to visit the orphanage, but during this second visit I was able to see and learn a great deal more about orphanage in general. My first visit was a quick one on one early morning about a month prior. It was to help an internal staff meeting for the orphanage, and during that first visit I did not get a chance to interact much with the children.

On my second visit last week, which was also accompanied by the same friend who introduced me to the orphanage and accompanied me on the first visit, we took with us four students from the class that we co-teach together. We wanted to get the students the first hand experience from the field about societal problems, and this orphanage happened to be on our list of possible sites. The students seem to get the lessons we intended them to learn on that day, but they weren’t the only one. I too got a few new lessons as well.

First, I found out the differences between institutions that provide social services to children in Indonesia and the ones in the U.S. Not surprisingly, social services in the U.S. are more organized. Services for children and teenagers are also more organized, but it does not mean that the system in the U.S. is without flaws. Even within a very organized system, flaw exists. Anyway, I’ll try my best to describe what I know about the two places, and hope I’m close to accurate.

Orphanage in the U.S. are meant typically for children who lost their parents. Children in that institution therefore usually do not have parents or know their parents. In the U.S., however, the system of keeping them under one roof in a residential place is fading away and replaced by a system that allows children to live in a family structure and environment. The goal for all children who are being helped by the Children Social Services in the U.S. is to find a family who will raise them as one of their own family member. This type of family is called foster family. Thus, less and less orphanage type of residential housing exists nowadays in the U.S. If there is such thing as a residential place for children and adolescents, they tend to be divided by its purpose.

For example, there are residential places for immigrant children who are caught being smuggled into the U.S.; I used to work at one of them. There are also residential places for older children and teens who have committed some kind of criminal activities, and this type of placement is usually divided again into what type of level of security needed to control the children. Usually, the more serious the criminal activities (i.e., gang-related, murder, serious type of assault, firearms-related assault) are given a higher level of security and treated almost like a prison. Children/teens who have committed less serious criminal activities or only juvenile delinquency type will be placed in a less secured place that looks more like a house than a prison. The type of intervention given to each place will also be different, of course. Based on its purpose, orphanage in the U.S. therefore, if it still exists, is truly made for children who do not have any parents or family members anymore who can take care of them and orphans are given services that fit them. Their living environment is also unlike the residential places for children with a history of juvenile delinquency.

Now let’s compare the description above to what I observed and learned last week. First of all, there are still a lot of orphanages in Indonesia. Secondly, not all of those children in the orphanage have lost their parents. Many of them still actually have their parents around, who for one reason or another, could no longer support and raise them. The main reason that made these parents finally gave up their parental support and rights of their children, as you can probably guess, is poverty. However, there are also special situations where the parents did not completely give away their parental rights. Instead, they made an agreement with the orphanage so the children can live and go to school there, with the tuition and living costs paid somehow by the parents (a very considerably low rate and sometimes subsidized by some kind of funding) while the parents live somewhere else in the city, work full-time to get income for the family and save some money to get a living arrangement in the future. These kids will get a chance once a week to see their parents for a day and then return to stay at the orphanage again.

Then there are situations where the children were uprooted from their family due to violence in the family or living conditions that are just too poor and unbearable for their health and safety. For example, there have been some children, where in some situations there are perhaps siblings, who used to live on the street with their parents, working as beggars. They are usually known as ‘street kids’ or in Bahasa Indonesia, anak jalanan. Some of them already have a history of minor criminal activities, such as pickpocket or stealing, taught by their parents or other adults. These children are taken from the street due to the dangerous and dire living conditions on the day to day basis, but because the country has no system of housing specially made for these children, they’re then put inside an orphanage. Indonesia also does not have a foster-care system. Hence, orphanage becomes the only institution to house and serve all types of children with nowhere else to go.

The organization already has a pretty good system of placement. It is run by a private funding and there is no governmental involvement or funding. It does still lack a great deal of services; one of them is psychological or mental health services for the children. The children already has a good school system because the organization is connected to a school ready for them with a curriculum that follows the national education standard. The orphanage itself also has a pretty adequate facility for the children to live, study in the evening, play and run around, a chapel, a computer room, and so on. They also have a futbol field. Overall, the place is adequate enough to live. It provides safety and comfort for the children.

The orphanage I visited, however, is considered a pretty good orphanage compared to some of the other ones that are run with less funding and staff resources. In the same city where I live, there is another orphanage located close to the ‘red light district’, a very well known place for sex industry. An unquoted source told me once that this red light district has just recently been described to have the highest number for HIV/AIDS cases throughout the whole Indonesia. Children in this orphanage mostly were born from mothers who are part of the red light district industry. This particular orphanage is funded by private funding. It is not a compound like the other orphanage nor it has facilities like the other one. It consists of a two-floor building only that is attempting to accommodate way too many children. The bedrooms don’t even have beds anymore for a reason. Children sleep on mattresses on the floor, laying next to each other, in order to be able to accommodate more bodies. I have not been to this particular orphanage, but I may check it out myself in the future. It is not clear to me what services these children receive other than to cover their basic needs, such as food, drink and shelter.

In a quick capture, I attempted to share some of my new experience and knowledge about orphanage and the lack of an organized social services for children in my country. I am aware of the fact that this essay has not captured a comprehensive view of orphanage system in Indonesia, but only about the few ones in the city where I live. I’d like to mention that there is a third and bigger orphanage in the city that houses children from babies to college-age young adults. The college-age young adults have the responsibility to provide some care for the younger children in the orphanage. The college-age ones are also given scholarship to attend college, and one of those young adults is actually a student of mine. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be one particular rule about how orphanages work in Indonesia. Each runs by itself, probably with very small control or influence from the government, and each makes its own rules on how to use its funding as well.

I realize that my country still needs a lot more to improve in terms of services for children, but I am happy to see that attempts have been made by some responsible individuals and organizations to provide the best care possible for the children. Things are not perfect and may never be perfect, even in a developed country like the U.S., but striving for better is the message that I try to convey to my students. Perhaps in the future, these students are the ones that will think about new ways, new interventions that work. Let’s always stay hopeful.

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2011 in Review, part 2


An Attempt on a Year-End Reflection

I started this post yesterday but couldn’t finish it. Actually, I couldn’t even start it. I tried at it again earlier today, stared and stared at the screen, and still nothing happened. The problem is, I don’t know what to write. Unlike my last post for the year 2010, which was a year-end reflection like what I intended to do, I am kind of stuck right now, mentally blocked on what to write.

The truth is, and probably why my mind couldn’t come up with any words of reflection, I am tired. Tired, tired, tired. Mentally exhausted. I’m tired of everything. There had been times throughout this year that I actually thought of giving up. Whatever that means, I’m not too sure myself because I don’t think I can actually do anything to harm myself. In clinical psychology there’s a name for that thought, but let’s not go there. Truthfully, if the world ends in December 2012, there’s a small part of me inside that may actually let out a relief sigh. I’m tired, fed up with everything. In Bahasa Indonesia, this feeling can be loosely translated to jenuh. Some Indonesians may translate jenuh back to English as feeling bored, but I think jenuh is more than bored. It’s closer to the feeling fed up than bored. Maybe that word jenuh can summarize my year. There, that’s my piece of reflection for this year.

I thought twice about writing my piece of mind in the paragraph above because I don’t want to alarm anyone, especially some close friends who may be reading (emphasis is on the word ‘may’). That’s why sometimes it’s easier to write poems than essays like this, because I can express myself more freely in poems. I can go into the dark side in poetry without maybe alarming anyone. But no poems tonight. I’m just feeling too tired tonight to create anything. Even if something comes out in writing, I’m afraid it may be too dark and it won’t be appropriate for the end of the year. I think people expect to read something more festive, cheerful and hopeful around this time.

But even with my mental exhaustion, I don’t want to forget to wish everyone a Happy New Year. My hope for all of you is that the new year will bring you wonderful things. My hope for me is that…. I don’t know what, really. I’m afraid to hope. Just one day at a time for me. There! That’s my second piece of reflection for 2011, that I’ve been going through the year one day at a time. It has been helpful and I plan to continue it. You all have a peaceful New Year’s celebration. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t cause havoc. Be nice to each other. I, on the other hand, for once I truly, truly, truly want a glass of wine. I haven’t had any wine, or alcohol in that matter, for months. I’d like to get drunk on a new year’s eve, but I also know very well that thought will just stay as a wishful thinking. Because it ain’t gonna happen due to many circumstances. *sigh* I’m tired.

Stumbling Upon a Surprise Gift


It’s been so long since I last wrote an essay for this blog. I checked the date of my last entry, and to my surprise, it was two months ago. Shocking! To think that about 5 or 6 months ago I used to have a daily entry. What happened to that habit?

Well, many things have happened since that time. Too many and long to put into one blog entry, but I will try my best to say something here. Ever since I arrived in Indonesia 4 months ago, I’ve moved around a lot. Way too many times for my comfort. I was sick and tired of packing and unpacking. Until now I still feel like I’m living my days out of a suitcase. I’m currently on my third city in Indonesia called Surabaya. It’s on the east part of the island Java, also known to be the capital city of the East Java province. I did not fit in with the other two cities, Makassar (my home town) and Jakarta, which is why I’m trying to make it here on my third try. I like it so far. I have a bigger support system here, but still manage to keep a sense of independence and privacy, unlike in my home town where I felt there was very little privacy sometimes due to the tendency of people there to gossip. Small town is equal to easy access to information, which leads to you-know-what. And Jakarta? Well, Jakarta is completely the opposite. It’s just too big, crowded, hectic, chaotic, and expensive. Anyone can easily get lost in that big city, especially if you live alone.

I’m in the process of securing a job position in this city too, teaching psychology courses at a small private university. The interviewing process however, is taking a long time and involving many steps, not to mention the time it’s taking for the paperwork to go through and the tests I had to do. I’ve been in this city for almost a month and I probably won’t even start until another month, if I get the job of course. Hopefully I can get the answer sooner than a month, but I won’t hold my breath for it to be sooner. It’s okay, though, because I can continue with my own process of healing and bouncing back, which is really why I come back to this activity that I used to enjoy doing tremendously, and still do, WRITING.

A topic has been tickling my brain since last week that prompted me to finally type http://www.wordpress.org on my internet browsing this morning. The idea has been itchy to be expressed, so here it is. During one of my interviews last week (I’ve had two so far and maybe two more to come), somebody said a sentence to me that resonated something in my heart and memory. Before I tell you what was said, let me lay out the setting a little bit first. The interview was a group interview where about 10 psychology “dosen” (from the word docent, the term more commonly used to refer to university teachers in Indonesia) were present. I was asked to make a presentation, followed by a Q&A. The whole thing took 2 hours. I don’t know how I managed to get through it because it started before and throughout lunch time and everybody was eating except me. One person kindly kept telling me, “Eat, eat,” and I responded back, also kindly, with a nod and a big smile, but how could possibly anyone in my position digest food at a time like that? The questions that were asked were not only about my presentation and academic/work background, but towards the end, they were going towards the direction of more personal. I tried my best to answer those questions without jeopardizing my privacy. To a certain degree, I could understand and accept the more-private questions because they were wondering why I made the decision to come back to Indonesia at this time in my life, which required me to reveal some information about me on a personal level. I was prepared, though. I knew those questions were coming, and I think I handled it well. If anything, I later found out that my answers sounded existential.

The whole thing went very well. So well that somewhere in the deep unconscious part of my mind, something kept asking me if the whole thing was real. It was. I did fine. Actually, I know I did well. It’s just that it’s been so long since I felt good about my ability and performance, hence the gnawing self-questioning. It probably went so well that two people happily stayed behind afterwards to accompany me and chit chat while I packed my laptop and belongings. Not that I minded their kind gestures, but by that time I kept taking a longing peek at my lunch box from earlier. The ‘pangful’ realization of how hungry I was just hit me then. Being a good person who’s trying to get a job, I of course had no choice then to entertain the chit-chat. And then suddenly, I heard ‘it’. One of them said the sentence that made me decided to write again.

*drum-roll please*

She said in Bahasa Indonesia that I translated here to make it easier, “Your life story reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love.”

*a pause…in silence, please. thank you*

Yes, I had a smile on my face then and an ever bigger grin right now. I felt like the dog in the bacon-doggie-food commercial where the dog runs around the house following the smell of bacon when the owner opens the food bag, panting with its tongue probably hanging out while screaming in human’s voice, “Bacon, I want some bacon, give me, give me bacon! Bacon, bacon!” No, I didn’t have my tongue out in that room in front of the two nice ladies, but I sure felt like I was the dog for a few seconds. Instead of jumping up and down, though, I politely said, “That book changed my life.” Now, you may say that I just made a boring and anti-climactic answer, but what do you expect? I was technically still in an interviewing process. As un-politically correct I would like to act sometimes in this world, my parents’ way of raising me always wins over my wishful conscious passing desire. Bummer.

Anyway, so there it was. It probably doesn’t even make any sense for some of you unless you know how much I LOVE the book. If you haven’t read it, please do find a time to read the marvelous book. If you loved reading memoir, if you are at a junction of your life where you are interested in the existential questioning of life, then you’d love this book. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, told the story about a part of her life when she made a life changing decision to stop everything in her life at that moment and made a journey to three different countries that would forever change her. I won’t bore you with information regarding the book. I’m not paid to promote the book anyway, as you can tell by the fact that I’m still looking for a job. It has also been made into a movie by Hollywood, which by the way doesn’t do justice to the book. Better yet, you can summon your uncle Google to give you more detailed information about it.

I still remember when I first read that book and how it made me feel. I said the ‘first time’ because I have read it many times. I have even bought a few more copies and gave them away as a gift. The original book is still with me, of which I will never give away due to the many creased corners, underlined words, side bar notes, and even some coffee or chocolate stains here and there. See, I don’t come across that many life-changing books, so I kind of act like a book-dork around them when I come across them.

But it wasn’t just about the book that prompted me to write again. Maya Angelou, one of the few respected female role models I adore and idolize, once said and of which I have quoted many times, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What I felt at that moment when I heard the statement about my life experience was a simple…validation. I felt validated, confirmed, heard, and understood. I felt like I wasn’t judged, that I wasn’t making up stories, and that what I went through was real. It was a powerful moment. I’ve learned from my education in psychology how powerful validation is, more so than being heard, and that validation can come in many forms and ways that surprise us sometimes. Well, it came to me. The gift of validation came to me practically from a stranger, in a simple and short sentence, and during the time that I would not even expect it to happen. On that day, the power of that gift lies in exactly all of those elements of surprise.

My life experience wasn’t even that unique. Many people have gone through a transformation of some sort in their life. Many have moved to a far away place, a different country, and started over. Many have done things that cause people around them to raise their eye brows and ask why. Worse, sometimes they skipped the why question and simply said, “Are you nuts?” I know about that last part because I too have asked it…to myself. In terms of validation, I have received many. They have come from family and friends. I have never in my life before felt as supported as I have been in these past several months. My family and friends have been there with me throughout the ups and downs in their own ways. Some listened, some gave advice, some make me laughed, some asked me how I was doing with a genuine intent to want to know the answer, some said things that woke me up, and some gave me space but never strayed too far. Support comes in many forms. I appreciate all of them and feel validated by them. So what’s special about this particular sentence?

Not to undermine the support from family and friends, however, the surprise gift of validation from a stranger added another layer of support on top of the ones I have received so far from my loved ones. It’s an icing on a cake.

And I tell you what, an icing on a cake as powerful as that one truly DESERVES its own blog entry. Another thing, do you think it’s a good idea to take this as a sign that I may get the job? Is that too much to hope for? I sure like the atmosphere and chemistry I felt in that room on that day. If this is one of those signs that God and the universe is trying to tell me, then my eyes and heart are open. I’m listening with both. Keep ’em coming, please. 🙂

Namaste.

‎”Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.” – Charles F. Kettering

 

 

A Thought on Friendship for Pink Saturday


 

This is my first time joining Pink Saturday, and it happens to be their third anniversary conducting this Saturday routine. I’m happy to join the party. My birthday wish goes out to Pink Saturday for their 3rd birthday. Please go to How Sweet the Sound blog to see more participants and blog entries for this celebration. Some of them actually give away gifts 😉

The challenge for me is that I don’t have a lot of pink stuff. I don’t normally like pink that much and I rarely got myself pink items. I do have this one t-shirt I bought last year that I wore so many times during my trip to my home country, Indonesia, in January this year. It’s probably the only pink t-shirt I got. Ever since I got back from the trip, I haven’t worn the shirt because I’m still WAITING! for the right weather to wear it. So far, we haven’t had the same nice, warm weather here in northwest Indiana, as in Indonesia. Therefore, I haven’t been able to wear it. One of these days, I will wear it again. It’s one of my favorite t-shirts actually.

So, here’s to the wonderful, warm memories I’ve collected with that t-shirt and many more to come. I miss my home town, I miss the close friends and family there, I miss everything there, but I know the time will come. Patience is a virtue. In the mean time, I want to share a picture of me wearing the shirt and a friend below and remember the moment. I apologize for not being able to share more than this, but this was taken during a meaningful time and trip that I thought would be appropriate to be remembered on Pink Saturday’s birthday. I also share a 5-line poem, a tribute to all of my friends, where ever they are in this world.

On Friendship

no changing of season

nor distance and time

can wither it, if

we hold on, to

those moments

innocence


Photo taken at Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. In the background, the Lokon volcanic mountain.

~~~~~  ٩(●̮̮̃•̃)۶  ~~~~~

sounds of innocence

mingling with bird songs

within this serenity of greens

teasing the giant volcano

in their backyard playground

~~~~~  ٩(-̮̮̃-̃)۶  ~~~~~

some eat Happy Meals while playing

some make sand castles or snowman

these here,

dance along

to sounds of nature

~~~~~  ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶  ~~~~~

you fierce giant

be their angel

watch over the innocence

don’t hurt them

’cause they’re yours

~~~~~  ٩(-̮̮̃•̃)۶  ~~~~~

never before

have i seen

fierceness and gentleness collide

a beautiful scenery

a magical moment

~~~~~  ٩(×̯×)۶  ~~~~~

***  I took the picture above when visiting the location in January 2011.  This particular picture has left such a mark in my heart.  After I took it, I knew that I would have to come back to it again in the future to be blogged.  So here it is, the picture is back in my life.  Above are four separated gogyohka poems. For more info regarding gogyohka, please see an earlier post I wrote about gogyohka (click the link here: About Gogyohka).  ***

This post is part of:

What’s The Oldest Thing You Own?


Plinky.com asked this question a while ago, but I just saw it yesterday. If any of you were familiar with plinky, then you would know that it is a website that provides prompts for bloggers. Bloggers do experience a block sometimes, not knowing what else to write, although lately I seem to be experiencing the opposite of that. The ideas keep coming and I’m not sure how to stop them. Help, I’m developing OBD (Obsessive Blogging Disorder)! But hey, I’m thankful for websites like plinky because I do like some of those prompts, and one apparently caught my eyes.

So what is the oldest thing I own and is currently with me right now?  Okay, that got me thinking. I racked my brain yesterday trying to make a mental list of all old belongings I have, including the ones stored in the storage. This is harder than I thought because I have lived in two countries, thousands of miles apart, and some objects that I thought I had with me turned out were left behind when I came to this country almost 21 years ago. I specifically remember this one t-shirt, white in color, that my high school gals and I bought one time. Each one of us bought one of the same type t-shirt, same color, just probably in different sizes according to our body size. I still have a picture of all of us together wearing our shirt. It’s too bad that I apparently left the shirt behind, which I’m sure it’s nowhere to be found now.

After a few hours of thinking, I finally got it. There is one item now that I remember dragging it all the way from Indonesia to here. How could I forget it? It’s a guitar. My roommates in college probably remember this guitar. There’s a story behind the guitar, which will probably shed some light as to the reason why I dragged a guitar across the ocean, and mind you, I have moved around I don’t know how many times in this country…with that guitar in towed. How many places have I lived within the past 21 years, you ask? Let’s see…give me a minute here…(2-3 minutes passed)…I think I have lived in approximately 14 places, which means I have done 13 moves. Yikes!

About the story behind the guitar… The guitar was actually bought by my parents not for me. It was for my older brother. It’s a Yamaha guitar, a typical guitar for a beginner. The age of the guitar is probably close to 30 years old, granted that it was brand new when it was bought. My brother took a guitar lesson after the guitar was bought, but if my memory serves me right, I believe he only took about a few months of guitar lesson before he gave up. He then neglected the guitar. It was laying around in the house for another 4 or 5 years before it traveled around the world.

I didn’t take guitar lesson with him at that time. Instead, I was enrolled in another type of musical instrument lesson. Over there, we called the musical instrument “organ”. No, not the big organ instrument that you can typically find in some churches in this country. The organ instrument I played then was a Japanese made. It’s much smaller in size.

As in many, if not all, cases of the extracurricular lessons I was enrolled back then, they were not my choices. At least, I didn’t feel like they’re my choices. Somebody else usually made the decision for me, and I went along because… *shrug* because I thought I should. Anyway, before I started writing this post about the guitar, I started to ask myself why in the world did I bring the guitar with me? I came up with two answers.

The first answer is very obvious to me. It was the only reason why I decided to bring the guitar with me back then, because I couldn’t trust that the guitar would be in the house for long (aka. forever) if I left it there. You have to know my mom first of all in order to understand that statement. My mom has a tendency to throw away old things, except old pictures (thank goodness!). The second reason just came to me last night.  Well, apparently I harbored a secret desire to want to play guitar at that time, instead of the one I was enrolled to play. Yup. And ironically, ever since I left home to attend high school, I never played that musical instrument anymore. I can probably still play it now, but I’ll be very rusty for sure.

So when it was time for me to leave my home country, I decided to rescue the guitar. It has stayed with me loyally too and never broke, even after 13 moves from one city to another, from one apartment to another, from one airplane to another, from one moving truck to another. I probably should give it a name now since it’s been a part of me from the beginning of my life chapter here in the U.S. If anyone has a suggestion for a name, please share.

Now, after everything I have told you here, there’s a catch to this story. I have one more important disclosure to make, and it may surprise you (or not). For those of you who know me well, it may not come as a surprise, but here it is anyway. Ready? Okay, drum roll please…..

I don’t know jack about guitar, including how to play it.

I know, that’s okay. You’re not the only one. I don’t understand me too sometimes  😀

Bolangi Cemetery, The First Cemetery Visit In a Long Series, Jan ’11


          Cemeteries in Indonesia tend to be divided based on religious or ethnic groups. On my first week in Makassar, I went to visit the cemetery where my paternal grandparents were buried. It’s called Bolangi, an ethnic Chinese cemetery, located outside of Makassar in Gowa. It took us about an hour to get there by car. It’s located in the middle of nowhere that on the way there we passed through fields and fields of rice paddies.

        The driving there was horrible. The first town that we hit after we left the city border of Makassar was Sungguminasa. In Sungguminasa, the street condition wasn’t bad, although some parts of the street already shows sign of deteriorating condition due to the current rainy season. Once we turned into the street that took us away from Sungguminasa to Bolangi, the fun started. Streets were very small for both ways, and they have many pot holes, some of them were so big that it was dangerous for cars to go through. We also picked a wrong day to go in terms of the weather. It was raining ALL day long, non-stop, but we decided to keep going anyway instead of trying our luck in another day. Also according to my father, to cancel the trip means bad luck, so we persevered.

         We got there in one piece, but we almost cancelled it at one point. About only 5 minutes away from the Bolangi cemetery, a big truck with one missing tire was sitting on one side of the road.  Because of its size, it took over almost the entire road. To make the situation worse, right next to the truck on the other side of the road, there was a big gaping hole on the street. It looked dangerous enough for any car to go over it. My father who was driving the car decided at first to not drive through the hole and turn around. However, he then saw many other cars, even trucks, managed to drive through from the other side, and so he decided to turn around again to try his luck. With a very slow and careful driving, we made it through. Meanwhile, the rain had not let up yet. Even with an umbrella for each person, we still got wet. 

                I remember a little bit about the cemetery from when I visited it once in 1994. It was a pretty new cemetery location at that time because the whole cemetery was moved from its old location in Makassar. At the old location, people can now see the provincial gubernatorial’s office. Needless to say, it is rumored that it is haunted. Hoki (Indonesian’s word for luck), I guess. Huh! Anyway, going back to the topic. When we got to Bolangi this time, what I saw was exactly as how I remembered it in 1994. We had to climb up a bit because the cemetery was built on a small hill. Because it was raining, it made the ground a bit slippery on that day. Worse, cows apparently tend to run loose in the area because we had to walk carefully so not to step on some of their “leftovers.” Anyway, it took us about 10 minutes to locate my grandparents’ tomb because it has been about a year since the last time my parents visited. Both my grandparents were buried in one tomb. The tomb was surrounded by twines and some kind of ivy plants, with thorns. Some big plants have even decided to grow on the top of the grave itself. It was obviously not taken care of by the caretaker, a problem that is unfortunately very typical in Indonesia. Unless my parents go there once a month, the cemetery caretakers don’t usually do what they are supposed to do, which is to clean the tombs and graves regularly based on the agreement between caretakers and the relatives/famiilies of the buried ones. Here in Makassar and other places in Indonesia, the tradition is that the caretakers are paid directly by the relatives. The only problem with this tradition is who can monitor the work when the cemetery is located so far away from the city? Fortunately, there is one day every year when the cemetery is crowded. Based on the ethnic Chinese culture, there is one day every year when families/relatives come to give their respect to their loved ones. Usually about a week before this day, all caretakers suddenly get very busy in doing their job. 

                It was too bad that the tomb was not clean and cleared from plants. I took some pictures, and it looked sad. Because of the condition and the rain, it made me lost the sentimental feeling I was expecting to have. It’s another tradition here in Indonesia to pour flowers and small pieces of pandan leaves on top of the grave. Well, we couldn’t even get to the sides of the grave to pour the flowers and leaves, so we could only throw them from the front of the tomb. We then said a quick and short prayer, I said hello to oma and opa when I threw the flowers, and that was it. It was over so fast, but we were soaking wet by then. I was and AM happy, though, that I could at least visit my oma and opa. It was my second time visiting the grave, but the last time I was there, it only contained opa, whom I never met. It was, however, my first time there since oma died in 1996. 

                Overall, the mission was accomplished. We had so many factors that tried to stop us from accomplishing it, but we persevered and made it through. My memory of my oma will always stay with me, in my heart. Whether I felt that feeling that day while I was there at the cemetery or not, the point is that I was there. May they continue to rest in peace. In the mean time, I do strongly believe that cows should not be turned loose in cemeteries. Try to figure your way around their droppings when the ground was soaking wet with running water and I bet you’d agree with me. Ugh.