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

Journal from the Ground
by Saiful Mahdi

Friday, January 14, 2005 - uploaded 02/08/05 06:00PM

¬[01/13/05] [01/15/05]®

8:30am. I went out to find money changer. Bringing dollars always gives one an unexpected headache. Indonesia is a place of many idiosyncrasies. If you want to exchange your US dollars to rupiahs, the money changer will not accept small bills. They usually prefer hundred dollar bills. If the bills are wrinkled, folded, dirty, marked, then the exchange rate will decrease. If the exchange market for US $ 1 = IDR 9,200, then wrinkled bills might be valued at IDR 9000 only. That is not all. Certain series of the bills, older series maybe, might even be rejected at outright.

10:05am. I went back to the guest house to help clean and do last minute packing. We need to be at the airport at 11am as my sister, brother and their family’s flight is at 12:35pm.

11:20am. We arrived at crowded Polonia airport in Medan. The airport had been overcrowded before the disaster in Aceh and is now overwhelmingly more crowded. But that was not a big deal at all compared to the uncertainty of the flights themselves. Delayed and cancelled flights are unimaginably high. And what can be worse in that situation than traveling with kids and baby? My sister’s flight was delayed thrice. After waiting outside the departure hall until 2pm, we decided to move into the hall so the kids could get cooler air. It was hot and humid like usual outside. And people were smoking everywhere.

2:45pm. Knowing the flight was delayed again until an “unspecified time”, I decided to go out from the airport to take care of some banking arrangements so that Aceh Relief Fund can wire the funds more easily. I went to the same bank we opened our account in in Ithaca. There, however, the service and paper work was not as simple. The biggest problem is my Indonesian address. As my mother’s house has been destroyed, I do not have a permanent address anymore! And again, I could not deposit all the dollar bills I brought from Ithaca. The bank did not want “bad” bills and rejected certain series of the bills! While I was at the bank, my brother called to let me know that the flight was leaving at 4:35pm. It was scheduled for 12:35pm!


My surviving sister and family were waiting for the flight to Jakarta in Medan’s Polonia airport. I used to write essays on Aceh’s IDPs. Now, my family members and I are all IDPs. Although not in nearly as bad condition as the IDPs at the shelters. Many of them are not as lucky as us to have such generous and kind support from CNY communities. Thank you!

5:10pm. Eko Fariadianto, my boy scout teammate during middle school years in Banda Aceh called to meet. An Acehnese student studying in Germany. He arrived in Medan last night from Jakarta after flying from Munich, Germany, Singapore and Jakarta. I asked him to meet me at the bank and then decided to go to KKSP, our Medan partner for supplies and volunteer deployment. KKSP stands for Kelompok Kerja Sosial Perkotaan (Working Group on Urban Social). It has been working for street and abandoned children in Medan since 1973. Still well known as KKSP Foundation, its name was actually changed in the 90s to Education and Information Center for Children’s Rights. The Center has been working with many Acehnese NGOs network.


KKSP Foundation office in Medan. The Foundation has been helping our networks on the ground by purchasing and trucking supplies to our posts in Aceh and help deploying national and international volunteers to work in Aceh.

Eko is a great friend. He is so very positive and passionate about everything. Cheerful and is willing to do anything to be useful to other people. Just like Eko I remember when we were at SMP 1 and SMA 3 Banda Aceh 1981-1987. He is now studying in Germany. He is coming home to Aceh to bring relief supplies and funds donated by Munich communities.

With donated money from Munich, Germany, Eko bought supplies in Medan with KKSP helping with the shopping and trucking to Aceh.

10:30pm. I was in one of the internet rental stations near North Sumatera University when I got a call from Eko saying that he was still at KKSP office making sure all the supplies he bought are in order to be transported to Aceh’s PCC post.

It was almost midnight. But Eko, an Achense student studying in Germany is as hardworking as I remember. He was observing the transfer of supplies from KKSP’s shopping pickup truck to one of the trucks heading to Banda Aceh. The supplies will be unloaded in the Banda Aceh PCC command post and Eko wanted to deliver them directly to IDPs.

Having Eko home is re-energizing me. And I am expecting more of my colleagues will be coming home soon to mobilize local participation in the relief work.

¬[01/13/05] [01/15/05]®