Nice, Miss ... It's Refreshing ...|
Oneday we were invited by Gramedia (a known large publisher in Indonesia) to participate in
their book fair annex exhibiting some photographic work of our organization. We took
the invitation as a chance to collect as many donated (used) books as possible for
the promotion of our program "happy reading" for the children who lived under
the bridges which was our working field. I was at the book fair with two volunteers
and three of our foster children from that specific under-the-bridge area.
At Bentara Budaya building, we were placed next to a photo display
to distribute book donation leaflets. On arrival at that building the three children took off their shoes spontaniously
and put them under the table. These children are not used to wear shoes,
and the floor tiles seemed too clean and shiny for them to be soiled by their shoes. I was quite
surprised by that, but it was not all. Not too long after that, a
security official called me.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but it was you who take those children along, right?", he pointed
at two of the three children.
"Yes, that's right, but what's the problem?" I asked.
"If you will come along with me, please," he answered, this time pointing into the direction
of men's lavatory.
"See it for yourself inside and please let him know that he has to go out of there at once ..., "
I was a bit confused as it was men's lavatory and women are not supposed to be there,
but the security official assured me that he would posted himself outside the door so that
nobody could came in when I was inside. Oh, my G ...!!! I could not believe what I saw. One of those three
kids was there, in kneeling position, busy dipping his head inside the bowl of the water-closet which
was covered with water!
"Nice, Miss ... it's refreshing ..." he motivated excitedly when I asked him - still shocked - why he was
doing that. I became more confused, yet at the same time I painfully realized that clean water at
his living place is hard to get or has to be paid for. Those children
take their occasionally bath in the nearest blackwater river so it is understandably that the "clean" clear
water of the water-closet is very much tempting! I thought I knew their way of living very well after assisting
them to school education for 3 or 4 times a week at their place for so many years. It was after
this incident and after I heard their comments about the luxury they saw at Bentara Budaya building
I realized that I can not fully understand the real meaning of poverty these kids
are living in.
On another occasion I was in the middle of a group of fishermen's children to break the
fasting together. It was Islamic fasting time. The group was invited and treated as if
they were members of an exclusive Executive Club at the Niaga Tower. The children went
in turn back and forth to the lavatory, assisted by one of our volunteers. Everytime they
came back from their lavatory visits, I noticed they had their sleeves all wet. As it was the case with
the other kids from under-the-bridge, the clear clean water from the taps in the lavatory was the
main attraction for these fishermen's children, too.
"Well .. it's comfortable, Miss. The water runs hard and it gives hot water as well,"
explained some. Later on, a couple of the children were still not back from the lavatory visit
for quite a while, so I had to go after them. I found them in front of the big mirror behind
the sink, dancing. It was a big fuss in there.
"It's fun, Miss ... the image is big and everything is visible," they explained with happy
Teluk Naga, a fishermen's village where these kids came from, suffered from shortage of
clean water. The place is known for its drought and poverty. The children are not used to take
a bath and they have dirty hair as well. Imagine how excited and happy they must have been while dancing with
their own images in front of the big mirror, or playing with the taps of the hot water they had never seen
before. Everything seemed magical for them. Their joyous feeling has touched my deepest emotions which
will motivate me to teach my own children to be thankful and to appreciate for what they have in
This article was written by Monica Ginting in July 2004. First published in Sprice-Online edition 9 of December 2004.
Translated from Indonesian into English by Jim Rais. Re-edited in February 2007.