I am Alda and I live with my mother and stepfather in Pasar Ikan, a historical building in North Jakarta. I am twelve years old. The area where I live is sinking fast and has many floods. They say I’m bright; I like to go to school. My great-grandmother is over a hundred years old. I love to visit her. When I am older I hope to become a policewoman.
The Old Days
I love it when my grandmother Halimah tells stories about the old days.
She tells me that there was a famous amusement park called Otorita, where a big mall is now. People used to come there to relax. Couples would have dates there, families would bring their kids. You only had to pay Rp 50 per person, and unlike a mall, you don’t have to buy or eat anything.
Famous musicians such as Rhoma Irama and Elvi Sukaesih have performed there, and there was a crocodile park, where people would watch the crocodiles being fed. She is a genuine local, so she knows about these things. Have you ever been to my neighborhood? I live next to the Maritime Museum and my nan in Muara Baru. There are a lot of historic buildings, I live in one of them. My dream is to have our neighbourhoods as pretty as it used to be. Then my children can enjoy it like my granny did.
Evictions: we will find a place
My grandmother Halimah has been moving all over Jakarta. It is not that she likes to move from one place to the other.
We had to move because the government made us pack our things. Her mother was born in this area, in Gedong Panjang.
Her family was evicted during the Soeharto era. She remembers her father was only given a piece of land somewhere far away, perhaps in Cengkareng, when he was evicted. He didn’t have enough money to build a house, and he had so many children.
He ended up renting in Gang Kelinci, across from here, not the famous Gang Kelinci in Pasar Baru. The family got evicted so many times but always remained in the same area. I have only moved 2 times in my life. So I am a happy girl.
Water is expensive
My neighborhood in Pasar Ikan gets flooded, although not too badly and my house is not really affected. I am used to it by now. At least that is water we don’t have to buy! Ha ha. My mother says that we spend quite a lot of money on water. For example, we buy three buckets of water every day. Each bucket costs Rp 2500 and we also need to buy a gallon of drinking water for Rp 6000 from time to time.
When it is raining we have lots of water for free. We catch the rain with buckets for cooking and washing, so that is cheap. But to walk in the dirty water in the streets, is disgusting. You can say that there are always two sides of the same coin. Each disadvantage brings a benefit and every luck can make you unhappy at the same time. It would be a miracle if one day we have a tap with running water. I am looking forward to that day.
The school is closed: no holidays
My school, a Madrasa (Islamic school) is in Luar Batang area, just a walking distance away and I have lots of friends there.
I go there in the afternoons, and the classes last until 4 p.m. My favorite subject is art, especially drawing. I don’t like maths, because I think it’s difficult. When there are floods, the school is closed, sometimes for a whole week. I do not like that.
You know why? Most children cannot get to school, not even the teachers. I do not feel happy when there is water everywhere and I get wet and it is smelly.
My mother is so proud of me. I can go to school and want to go no matter what happens.
My mom never went past first grade, but managed to learn how to read through watching other children learn when she sold food in the school. My grandmother in the past worked in many places, including as a cleaning staff in a company. She was able to sustain her four children from it and even bought this house she is living in. And me, I want to become a policewoman. To have a uniform, help people and control the traffic. When I look at the photos of my mother when she was young, I really like them. The stories of grandmother and great grandmother are amazing. The women in our family are strong and get old.
As a police woman I can keep an eye on the city. And I will have great stories to tell my daughter one day. Photo credit: private material Alda
Hope it will be a baby girl!
My mom is pregnant. I really hope it is going to be a baby sister. Then at my mother’s side we will have 5 generations women alive in my family. Look at the picture of my mother when she was 15. I really love to see the pictures when my mother was young. I cannot believe when my grandmother was young there were monkeys and jungle on the same spot where her home used to be. And the harbor next to her house was already very old. My great grandmother Anisah still remembers that the fish market in those days was very busy. When I am grown up I want to have children myself. And it would be so great if it were to be a girl.
The old Fish Market
Our house is just big enough for a bunk bed, a television set, a dresser and a fridge. It is more of a room, one of the many lined up side by side in this old structure, which used to be a fish market. The houses all share bathrooms but we have our own little gas stove in front of our door and a rice cooker too, so I guess you can say we have our own kitchen. Nowadays there’s only one person selling fishes here. Instead of fishes, we have ducks and chickens roaming around the place and children, like myself.
Some fishermen still store their equipment here. It looks like it used to be quite a nice place, with the high roof and all, but now it’s basically falling apart. The tiles are falling off and there’s a lot of rubble. But I am happy to live here with my mother and my stepfather, who is a fish seller at the fish auction. I love the fish cookies my mother makes.
I wash myself and I still smell
Our house in Pasar Ikan is high and almost never flooded. At the other side where some of my friends live it does flood and the water stays there for a very long time. All the garbage and the ‘stuff’ from the public toilet floats in the water. Sometimes it stays there for 2 weeks.
I still have to go through the water. And then my feet itch and everything smells.
If I come to my granny, I have to wash myself and I still smell no matter how much soap I use. Then I hate the water.
My friend and funny faces
My best friend is Munir. He lives across from me. His mother is the sister of my stepfather, so he is sort of family. If it is raining and wet, we like to listen to music on the radio. I know many songs by heart and like to sing along. Pasar Ikan is a great place to play. You can climb stairs, play hide and seek, do gymnastics, roll the hula-hoop and there are so many playmates. It would be a shame if they destroy Pasar Ikan.
The other day there were a lot of machines coming to dredge the water and dig out the earth.
The funniest thing I like to do is pulling faces with Munir. I would not like to miss him for anything in the world and I am so glad he is my friend.
School, homework and Facebook
Every morning I make my own noodle soup before leaving for school. I like school and have many school friends. Last year, we had an NGO coming to educate us about what to do when the floods come. We got lessons about clean water and sanitation through subjects such as social sciences and culture. The worst flood the head master told us, happened in 2000, when the water reached 1 meter in height.
The floods usually come twice a year. After school I do homework before playing. Sometimes I go to the internet café. They teach me to use the computer and are very nice. I still have to set up my Facebook account. I will let you know when. Then you can see the photos I have made of my class mates.
My great-grandmother is the oldest woman in Jakarta
When I am with my mother’s family we always enjoy ourselves. My great-grandmother Anisah is now very old, over 100 years, but she is still quite independent and wants to do many things by herself. She remembers a time when Jakarta was still a jungle and a forest and everything was green. The city is now big and crowded. When I go to Muara Baru, I want to take care of my great-grandmother. She used to take care of me when I was still a baby. Do you have any members of your family who are over 100 years old?
They must have seen so many things in their lives. I love my great granny very very much. She can’t see or hear anymore but can feel me when I am with her.
Yes I can swim, can you?
Hi it’ s me; Alda, together with my family – I have the green skirt on and the red funny t-shirt. We live close to the sea and a river. I am proud to say I can swim. I get lessons at school. The funny thing is I certainly don’t want to swim in the ocean or river nearby. It’s disgusting, it smells, and the water makes me itchy. Do you think that it’s funny that me, a seaside girl, has to go to the pool each time I want to swim? Do you think one day I will be able to swim in the clean Jakarta sea? What about you?
Do you have clean water to swim in near your house?