March 29, 2006
Time passed very fast, and it had been my thirtieth day in the NGO camp in Noorasery. I was reading some printed material from Andreas Harsono blog (andreasharsono.blogspot.com) which explained about some basics of journalism. This weblog was recommended in the photographer website. It was indeed enlightening. The posts were mostly in Indonesian, and the articles about investigative journalism, how to write in English, some basic elements of journalism, the narrow Indonesian nationalism in tsunami disaster, and the literal journalism were very well-written that I thought deeply about my country. He was right, Indonesia, our country, was full of problems. It was not difficult to see injustice, suppressed people, poverty, mysteries, struggles, and so on. I felt that somehow I wanted to dedicate myself deeper to the journalism world. But I still had too much to learn, as my educational background was not exactly fit with this new life I am trying to start.
Reading the articles in Indonesia made me really homesick. I dreamt about Indonesia, and somehow wanted to be there soon. I missed the food, I missed the atmosphere, I missed the language, I missed the smell, I missed the problems… And that day when I woke up, I felt that my mind was somewhere else. The other guys in our team noticed this, and suggested me to go back to Muzaffarabad for Internet connection. They also supported me by insisting the meaning of friendship in our team.
I didn’t go back to Muzaffarabad. Instead I walked around the village, visited some schools. The emergency situation forced the students and teachers to study under the open air. It was a hot day. Summer would come soon. Spring had just come, and the grass turned green. But the heat came a little bit too soon. The woman teacher of the women school near our camp was little bit worrying about the photos. The school was only for female students. There was no coeducational, as they said for schools for both boys and girls, in Kashmir. But the young boys below five years old were also permitted to study together in this female school. The Madam said that she worried that if the pictures were shown, it would give image that the Pakistan government didn’t do anything, so that they were still studying in tents. I said no, instead it would show how the government concerned about education; even though the condition was very poor, but the education had to go on.
Later on that day, we were invited by the Vicky’s family to have lunch to their house. The duty had almost come to an end, that many of the guys in NGO were preparing to leave for good. Mahmood, the coordinator of the team said that he would leave tomorrow. I felt unprepared. The time passed very fast here, and I was still not prepared for such sudden farewell. I started to love this village, I started to love Kashmir. When I walked around the village, the boys and girls yelling my name, “Augustine… Augustine!”, even the old women in houses know my name. I loved their hospitality, and I liked the colors of their live.
I went down to Pathika, which had the main bazaar. The trip was down the hill, two or three kilometers far through the main road. This was the place where people of the surrounding villages do shopping. Vicky had a CD shop here, and I would like to visit him. I went there with one of his brothers (he had 4 brothers and one sister) and a cousin. Many of the shops along the main bazaar had been turned to rubbles. It reminded me to some scenes in Kabul. But still, the economies of the little towns had to proceed. The owners of the being-rubble-shops displayed their commodities just on the rubbles. It was the same scene in the capital city of Muzaffarabad also. The photographer of an AGFA photo shop showed me his ‘ghost’ shop. Only the main gate of the shop left. Now he became a shop owner without shop. He sat on a bench in front of the rubble of his shop, waiting for photography order there. Another shop owner, a shoe seller, now was still searching shoes of his shop under the rubbles, to be cleaned and sold again. It was a hard work, as the buildings in this area were mostly made by heavy concrete stones.
Vicky (his real name was Vakash) can be considered lucky. His shop didn’t collapse. But it was cracked. He was still playing with his luck. Another shop nearby, even didn’t collapse in the earthquake, but completely swept by the landslides some months later. The landslides were also getting closer to the life of the people in this area.
Counting the days, we were almost to an end. In Muzaffarabad, the tent cities also started to lose their inhabitants. The refugees staying in the tent cities in Muzaffarabad mostly came from the hilly areas. And the deadline of the government had almost come, and these people had to return back to their original homelands.