Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Treasure seekers: a day in the life

Back to complete my report on the visit with the “newcomers” at the Bantar Gebang Landfill. I’ve had a pretty full plate the last several weeks, and I type sloooow, so let’s just make this a photo essay. We’ll start with a day in the life, and move on to my visit with the kids while Jonathan talked water quality with one of the family leaders.

In a previous post I included a picture of a man with a green basket strapped to his back. What he and hundreds like him will do is climb one of the active hills of trash and fill this basket. Once the basket is full he (or she) will walk down the hill to a wheelbarrow of sorts and unload the basket. Lather, rinse and repeat until the cart is full. They then take the whole thing back to their shack and unload, sort and bail the plastic to sell to someone that I never saw. Below is a row of these home made carts being filled at the base of one such hill.
This was pretty interesting. On this hill a dump truck was unloading at the base as a line of track hoes moved the new trash incrementally up the hill.

Now check out this shot taken at maximum zoom from the same location. You probably can’t tell on this shot that was compressed for the web, but there are over 30 people visible in this picture of the middle track hoe (from the shot above) waiting for the new stuff to make its way up the hill. The track hoe operators went about their business as if no one was around. The responsibility to not get injured rests completely with those on the ground sorting through trash as it is passed from one track hoe to the next up the hill.
All day, every day, for $0.02 per kilogram. Anything that these people can do to save money is worth trying. If Jonathan is successful in bringing clean water to these people he will not only immediately improve the health of these families, it will give at least some small hope to Mr Pak that his daughters will be able to get an education and make better lives for themselves than what he is currently able to provide.

Pak Misnan is one of the newcomers who appears to be respected among the people of the encampment where we stopped. Jonathan met him, I guess, a few months ago and they have developed a pretty good rapport. He is just barely getting by, but he is doing all he can to keep his daughters in school. In the shot below Jonathan (blue cap on the left) and Jason (the other white guy) talk with Pak Misnan (red and black shirt on the right) about...well I'm not sure what. I don't speak Indonesian.
When we arrived Mr. Pak invited us to have a seat and Jonathan gave him a bag of dried beans that was immediately given to Mr. Pak’s wife, and each child was given a small container of Milo. This is some sort of vitamin drink for kids. I think it’s chocolate flavored, so that was a big hit. I was a little nervous about breaking out my camera, because although I was sitting in the middle of a landfill I was in someone’s home, but after a few minutes, I guess Jonathan asked permission and then told me that it would be ok. It turned out to be a blast for everyone. While Jonathan talked with Misnan and one of the landowners I began taking pictures of the kids, who immediately began mugging for the camera.
The younger child on the left is a real ham. He made sure that he was in every single picture.

After each shot they all clamored around to take a peek at themselves on the LCD.

The kids were great, and so very happy. I’ve found that wherever I go people are people, and of course, kids are kids. These children have no regard for the living conditions that they are in. This is all most of them have ever known. They run, play and laugh just like any kid in the states would do. Sadly, most are malnourished. Notice in the picture below that the little girl on the left is beginning to loose her hair. A few others were missing teeth.
Although it was a seemingly small gesture, the dried beans and Milo may save a life out here. Clean water definitely will. But you wouldn’t know it from the faces of these children. They were so happy to have a new person to play with, and to have their picture taken. What a joy it was to spend an afternoon playing with these little ones.
I finally realized that I was once again spending all my time behind the camera, so I finally turned it on myself for a parting shot. Of course my little ham had to join in as well.

Before putting this one to bed, I'll throw one more shot in for the cause. If you would like to contribute financially to Jonathan's work in Indonesia, I invite you to visit my May 16th post for instructions on how to do so.

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