Updated: Sep 26, 2019
The first thing I notice when I wake up is the stench. The smell of sick is unmistakeable and so strong I swear I can taste it. I pinch my nose between my fingers as I make my way to the bathroom. The door is locked and I can hear Quentin moaning. I decide to quickly get dressed and use the toilets down at the restaurant instead. Once again Aunt Kathy stays at the suite with Quentin, while Uncle Peter and I head down to have breakfast. Uncle Peter has a very weak stomach and can’t stand the smell of sick, or the sounds coming from the bathroom. Aunt Kathy suggests that Uncle Peter and I go out for the day, while she volunteers to stay back and look after Quentin. She explains that she can get room service for anything she needs.
When I feel unwell I like to be alone and I get the impression Quentin is feeling the same. Uncle Peter and I don’t require any convincing. Within fifteen minutes, we are both down in the front lobby waiting for a taxi. As much as I care about Quentin and feel bad for him being so unwell, I know that Aunt Kathy will take good care of him.
The taxi driver we get doesn’t drive nearly as fast as the last one and I feel a little safer, even though I am sitting in the back on my own, while Uncle Peter rides in the front with the driver. I sit in the middle, so I don’t feel as close to the other vehicles on the road and look through the windows. We move slowly through the mass amount of traffic and I am able to get a good look at the scenery. There are people walking along the sides of the road carrying cane baskets on their heads with fruit and vegetables in them. I spot one man walking along with a goat, tethered to a leash, with fabric wrapped around its middle and over the top of its head.
There are women with babies strapped to their backs and small children dressed in school uniforms, with their socks pulled up high, wearing collared shirts and ties, even the girls are wearing ties and blazers. They look very smart in their uniforms, almost as though they attend private school. I like their uniforms better than my ow school uniform.
I spot some men working on a building that is three stories in the air. They are shirtless, with bare feet. One man is standing on a wall, hovering over the edge, as he hammers nails into the wood beneath him. He swings the hammer high in the air, then brings it down quickly, between his unprotected feet. I gasp and point it out to Uncle Peter, he explains that Indonesia doesn’t have safety laws like we have throughout Australia. I worry for the workers, but uncle Peter says they are used to it and it’s their ‘way of life’. I watch the men through the back window of the taxi as we continue on through the heavy traffic.
The trip lasts forever and by the time we arrive at our destination I feel slightly car sick. A young lady with bright red hair and an English accent comes out to the taxi to greet us. She tells us that she has volunteered at this orphanage for the past eight months and she has been trying to teach the children how to read, write and speak in English. I look at Uncle Peter in surprise when she tells us where we are. In all my concern for Quentin and our leaving him and Aunt Kathy behind, I’d not thought to ask where we were going.
We follow the lady into a small office, with a dirty cement floor and a few plastic chairs. In the centre of the room there is an old desk with a guest book, which she asks us to sign. Uncle Peter writes his name and hands me the pen to write my name underneath, then we follow the red haired lady back outside so she can take us on a tour of the old orphanage.
We walk past a large tin fence with pictures painted on it and hand prints in bright colours. The lady, who tells us her name is Johanna, explains that the orphans painted the fence and the grounds themselves. The orphanage has 120 children, ranging in age from as young as 8 months right up to 17 years. She talks about the schooling for the children and I zone out for a bit as I take in the details of the place. It’s basically just a few cement buildings placed close together, with no air conditioning or heating. Johanna shows us some of the bedrooms, which consists of a square cement room with four bunk beds against each wall, allowing 24 children to sleep in one room. I try to imagine what it would be like having no space where you can be alone and constantly having to be around other children. I think I would go bonkers.
The bathroom is simply a large open, tiled area with tiny shower heads pointing out of the wall on either side. It reminds me of a show I saw on television of a prison, where people had to shower in the same room, but even in prison they have a divider between the shower cubicles. Not here, here they all just have to get naked in front of one another and scrub themselves. I shiver at the mere thought of it. There is no way I would be able to live in a place like this.
Johanna explains to us that not all the children that live at the orphanage are without parents or family. Some of them still have family, but their family is unable to look after them, or they maybe don’t have enough money to feed and school their children, so they have to let their children come and live here instead. I suddenly realise just how lucky I really am. I’m an orphan too and just like these kids, I have to live with other people and sometimes other children too. What if I had been born in Indonesia instead of Australia? I could have been living here, surviving on donations and hand-me-downs. Never owning anything for myself or having any privacy.
I can feel my eyes welling up and I blink a few times to try and stop myself from crying, as I watch Johanna pick up a little boy who is frighteningly skinny. He smiles at me and holds out his hand, offering me a taste of the small piece of watermelon in his hand. I smile and shake my head, then turn away so no one sees me wipe away the tear that’s sliding down my cheek.
Uncle Peter and I stay for most of the day, playing with the children of the orphanage and trying to communicate with them, even though most of them can’t speak much english. We draw pictures with them and run around with them, playing some game that seems to be a cross between soccer and football, the ball is flat and impossible to play with properly, but it’s all they have, so we make do.
Before we leave, Uncle Peter donates some money to them and one of the little girls comes running over to give us a hug, then hands me a picture she has drawn. In the picture, there is a little girl holding hands with two people, one is wearing a red shirt, just like the one I have on and the other person has sunglasses on top of his head, just like Uncle Peter. I realise it is us in the drawing, holding hands with her. I smile and give her a huge hug, then hop in the taxi and watch all the children as they wave us off. I don’t look away until they’re completely out of view, then I unfold the drawing and stare at it throughout our silent trip back to the hotel.
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