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02/11/05 12:00AM
Total Collected:
US$ 69,122.10

Journal from the Ground
by Saiful Mahdi

Wednesday, January 5, 2005


5:45am Left Ithaca. It was snowing along the way to Syracuse airport. I did not sleep at all last night. After last minutes shopping with Mas Yoyok, just to supplement things already donated from Aceh Relief Fund, and a quick briefing on maps and satellite images prepared by Zevi and his wife Yuni, I was busy packing with Dian, my wife, until dawn. At some points, I was thinking whether I can take this huge undertaking…to go back home and do something in destroyed Banda Aceh. But the support I get from my wife, friends and the community, especially in Ithaca, keep erasing my own doubts. To think about Aceh is to think about my own kids, Saifan, Bila, and Mia, who might seem too young to grasp what is happening in Aceh, but keep asking deep questions about it. Saifan was surprised to read the Ithaca Journal article saying that ten of our family members are missing. Then he asked me to help him clarify who they are. One of them is his aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a great grandmother ….and as I keep counting our missing family members and reach ten he interrupts by saying: “But you said they are ten of them, Baba. Why you keep counting….?” Well, my son…we might have missed some of our family in initial counting. I forgot to include my other cousins, my other uncle’s or aunt’s family. In short, we counted that about fifteen family members on my grandmother side that are still missing, including one of my sisters, brothers, a niece, brother-in-law, and grandmother.

7:20am. Arrived at the airport. Checked in and paid $129 for excess luggage containing medicines and supplies donated from Aceh Relief Fund. I feel good to be able to bring all donated items. Malaysian and Indonesian folks in Syracuse came to the airport to show their support. What an amazing friendship and brotherhood we have!

9:05am Departing Syracuse for Detroit. I fell asleep right after I get to my seat. Woke up 30 minutes before landing in Detroit when a steward offered me a granola bar. The flight was for 1 hour 40 min. It was a short but sound sleep. Even a granola bar is a very good meal!

10:40am. Arrived at McNamara terminal, Detroit Metro Airport. As and Indonesian passport holder who must comply with special registration, the first thing to do when leaving the US is to report a departure. I have only about 2 hours. I rush to find the US Customs and Border Security reporting point. I find the empty booth with a speaker wall-phone that the Northwest ground officer told me to locate and called to let the UCBS officer know of my presence. Somebody from the other end of the phone tells me to wait and that somebody will come up to meet me.

11:05 Still waiting...a guy…seems to be a student from SE Asia, also uses the phone to call and report. He was asked to wait, too. He told me that he has been there before to report but nobody showed up. I asked him where he is from and whether he is a student. He is coming to the US for a graduate school interview and he is from Singapore. Hmmm, I do no know that Singaporeans have to report their exits from the US too.

12:03pm Officer Nam from UCBS came out from a nearby elevator, opened the booth, and took a laptop from a drawer. Then he started my exit registration. Luckily, he is a nice officer, friendly and helpful. This time, no finger printing and picturing.

12:30pm Boarding NW flight 11 to Narita, Japan.

12:55pm Not departing yet, something to do with weather and security (I might be too sleepy to listen all the announcement).

2:35pm At last…departing Detroit. Waiting is torturous at this time…

5:50pm (local time) arrived at Narita and had to rush again to catch connecting flight to Singapore. We arrived late already at Narita. Last calls for NW 11 enroute to Singapore are heard already. And arrggh….another screening line! We did not get a chance to go anywhere after landing Sirs!

6:10pm On board for Singapore