Journal from the Ground
9:00pm. Eko and I were already at the bus station. We were departing for Banda Aceh. This time I am better prepared with all the gear and supplies. My surviving sister was already in Jakarta with my brother. I can work more for others and not worry about my family anymore. Of course, when I go around the camps in Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar delivering aid supplies with my friends, I can still search for my missing family members.
We are not renting a minivan anymore as we have set-up networks of distribution from Medan to Banda Aceh and along the way between the two capitals. So people and volunteers can now travel by bus or other means, and our purchased supplies in Medan and elsewhere can be trucked to Banda Aceh separately. We now can just call our friends, the local networks in Medan, to buy needed supplies for us based on our assessments on the ground in Aceh.
Bus departed at 9:46am. It was full and we got seats in the last third row at the back. Acehnese buses traveling the Banda Aceh – Medan route are famous for their convenience. Their best new buses were directly bought from Germany by Acehnese famous bus liners. The only problem one might have in non-stop buses might be the smoking habit of Acehnese. Air-conditioned bus will not stop the Acehnese smoking habit!
11:05am. During the bus ride, Eko and I exchanged our memories about friends and places. Eko was excited about going back to Aceh. Actually, he just visited Aceh three months ago. He told me about one fundraising event he and his friends did in Munich, Germany. He showed handy-cam pictures they’d taken to German audiences and compared them with the pictures they got after tsunami. Many people cried to see how beautiful Aceh was before and how it looks after the disaster. Some told him that they are sorry to know about Aceh’s beauty only after the quake and waves. The Acehnese student and Indonesian communities in Germany have been doing all kinds of fundraising, including asking for donations on subway stations. And Eko brought some of the donations with the planned two week visit he was commencing right then.
2:15pm. From the bus, I point out IDP shelters along the way as we enter East Aceh. Eko was especially sad to see IDPs around his college in Buket Rata, near Lhokseumawe on North Aceh. He tried to picture the shelters and scenic views of Aceh which appear repeatedly along our way to Banda Aceh.
4:10pm. My cell phone suddenly rang when we were approaching Bireuen, a new district which was part of North Aceh. Syaukani, my colleague studying in Japan called to let me know that he was transferring 400 thousand Yen to my Medan’s bank account. The fund was collected by Acehnese, Indonesian, and Malaysian students in Japan. Syaukani is also teaching at the same university, Universitas Syiah Kuala. He and three other colleagues, all are lecturers from Syiah Kuala are coming back to Aceh at the beginning of February. We had agreed with them and with other Acehnese students all over the world that fundraising needs to be done continuously so our networks on the ground can work without worrying about funding. My task is to ensure networks of funds, purchasing, warehousing, trucking, and deliveries of supplies until the beneficiaries, i.e. IDPs and victims of the tsunami, are working on the ground. I believe I am engaging in a useful pioneering trip to set-up such networks for my colleagues and friends.