Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ciah and Agosto


I stopped off in Bogor, and, having collected hospital receipts from tubercular Asep, took a walk through some woodland beyond Bogor Baru. There were clusters of dingy wooden houses, steep ascents and descents on narrow paths, smelly goats in wooden enclosures, clumps of bamboo and occasional clouds of mosquitoes. The people here looked undernourished and were dressed in patched and tattered clothing.

Outside a cobwebbed wooden hovel, shaded by dark trees, sat a middle-aged woman and a boy aged about twelve. They gave me a tired but friendly smile and, intrigued by their appearance, I decided to introduce myself. The woman, whose name was Ciah, was yellow skinned and had the shrivelled look of the poorest of the poor. The boy, called Agosto, had a purple scar on his thigh and a sad look on his face.

"What do you do for a living?" I asked Ciah.

"Wash clothes," she replied in a weary voice.

"How much do you get?"

"About thirty thousand rupiahs a month." This was less than ten pounds sterling a month.

"Does you husband work in the fields?"

"My husband’s dead," she replied, smiling an embarrassed smile.

"My mother is sick," said Agosto.

"I get very tired," said Ciah.

When I suggested a trip to the hospital for a check-up, Ciah agreed immediately.

At the Menteng Hospital, the doctor diagnosed hepatitis and Ciah was admitted to the third class ward. Agosto sat by her bedside. He had a handsome little face but there was a look in his big dark eyes that spoke of lost hopes and despair. Not for him fishing trips with dad or games of football at school.

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