My name is Ibu Sarmini, and I like to think of myself as an entrepreneurial woman. I live in North Jakarta with my husband and 3 boys. I’m pregnant with my fourth child, and hope this one will be a girl! Every day I ride my motorcycle to sell Jamu at Tongkol. Our house is built on the edge of Waduk Pluit. Will I be able to stay there or will my house be demolished in the near future? Only time will tell.
Where to go when there are floods
Photo credit: private material
The neighbourhood was flooded again. I had to evacuate to the Rumah Susun, where my sister now lives, after she was evicted from her house. Her house was close to mine. I feel insecure with the rumah susun’s renting system. Living three or four stories above the ground, I cannot imagine how that is. Do people know their neighbours? Do they care for each other when you are not family? If I do get evicted, I hope that the government will be compassionate enough to provide us with compensation and assistance. Not just tell us to leave.
Yes, we are building a public toilet
Our neighbors make use of our toilet because many of them don’t have their own. They pay RP 1000 each time they go to the bathroom. Five families make use of it. During the last eviction they also demolished the public toilet. In the neighborhood we have gone around to collect money. To build a new public toilet together. The foundation is already there. That is what I like about this area. People care for each other and even in the worst possible times, we help and care and look after one another. Because people here do have a heart and are passionate.Photo credit: private material Sarmini
Do you like cock fighting? A lot of people do, and they like to bet. Now you wonder if I can help with my Jamu to let cocks win? I cannot tell you all my secrets, but I can tell you that cocks need to be treated as kings. Daily they are being washed, their cages are built or hung half a meter above the ground so they do not drown when there are floods. I have clients who own a good cock fighter worth 20 million Rp. Yes, the owners know where to find me before a fight. No, I do not bet, it is not in my nature, ha ha.
Kids get sick!
Last month 80 kids came to the health center. But now in the rainy season there were 120 kids sick because of the floods. They play in polluted water, they literally swim in the dirt because all the garbage, public toilets stuff and old food is floating around. The children have dirty running noses, skin diseases and diarrhea. Clean drinking water is important for mothers feeding their children and pregnant women. I help out as a volunteer in the center. But I also notice that people need a special mix of Jamu for resistance and strength.
My feet under the water
Video private material Sarmini
The neighbourhood was flooded today, and the water got up to my waist in some parts. Even in the house we had water. Which make it impossible to cook, prepare Jamu and go out to sell. I am calling all the time to hear from my sister how she is doing, what roads are blocked. When there are floods, prices of all products go up. Everything is expensive. Also the price of clean drinking water. Just imagine that. As if liquid money is running over my feet, but I cannot catch it.
Welcome to my kitchen!
I was taught how to make Jamu by my cousin (Mbak ponakan). My father wasn’t keen on selling his land to pay for my education, so I only have elementary school education, but at least I managed to finish a sewing course. I actually left Solo, my hometown, to work in Jakarta as a seamstress in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta. Tired of applying for jobs, I learned how to make Jamu and ended up becoming a Jamu seller like many of the women in my family. Every morning I rise at 3.30am to make Jamu.
And yes I drink it myself every day to keep me young and healthy.
Passionate about garbage
Photo credit: private material
One cause I am passionate about is garbage. I admit, sometimes I would throw my garbage into the reservoir behind my house, like most of the people here do, but it’s not like I condone that. I don’t like any mess or uncleanliness. Aside from making things dirty, garbage also causes floods. For a long time, I have been wishing that the government would give us some sort of garbage collection facility. I am sure that the local residents would be willing to pay Rp 10.000 for garbage collection service. I certainly would. Here you see me standing to meet Pak Jamal who buys plastic garbage for recycling. My late sister used to actually go around hunting for these sort of garbage and she was able to get enough money to buy milk for her children.
I would like to show you around our house in Muara Baru, which is about 10 meters away from the Waduk Pluit reservoir. I bought this land for Rp 7.000.000 without any legal documents, unfortunately.
Then we built this house bit by bit to this point where we are able to rent out five rooms upstairs and build a toilet for the renters to use. When we first bought this land, there weren’t many other houses near us.
Also the houses looked much better. The locals pitched in to build proper roads for the neighborhood. That is roughly how this neighborhood near the reservoir came to be. Recently, though, the two rows of houses behind us – the ones closest to the reservoir, were demolished, and the owners evicted. We hear, we have to go through the same ordeal as well.
A better life than mine
I have just got back home from my night shift of selling Jamu for the truck drivers.
It’s almost midnight now and I am very tired. My husband is already asleep but at least I get to see my second eldest son, Rama. He is watching over the filling of the tanks with jet pump water. He needs to make sure that the water doesn’t overflow, and that the neighbors get enough water for tomorrow.
Hopefully, my children don’t have to go out and sell Jamu at midnight like me. I will try as hard as I can, while also hoping for the best, for myself, my family and this neighborhood. Through my own ways. But for now, I need to rest. Sleep well!
Just to be safe…
This is Tongkol where I sell my Jamu at night, starting at 8 p.m. The customers are mostly truck drivers. I would ride a motorcycle here and go home at around 11 a.m. It may sound like a rough area, but thank Allah I have never experienced anything unpleasant. From when I first started selling here as a 15 years old single girl to this day, 25 years later, as a mother of three. Admittedly, when I was still single, I told my customers I already had a husband. Just to be safe.
My husband and my kids
My name is Hendri and I have three sons with my wife Sarmini. She is pregnant with the fourth one.
Our oldest son, Dandi, is in the second grade of high school, and he lives in Solo now with his uncle.
So he is not in the photo. I work in the Fishery Company as a mechanic. In the past, I have worked as a bicycle and motorcycle taxi driver, a parking attendant, and a security guard. These days, I work in shifts. It can be tiring, so I have to watch my health, and my food, because I am diabetic. I have problems with my lungs too, so no more cigarettes for me. But I am getting better and I am glad I can still work, because it keeps me busy and fit. My wife takes care by cooking healthy, low-fat food for me with lots of vegetables.
I have hobbies, such as collecting coins, collecting newspaper clippings, and taking pictures with analog cameras. Do you like my hobbies? I am so lucky to have a wife who can make Jamu and keep me healthy.
Because I want to get old and see my sons grow up.
Water is bloody expensive
Excuse me while I do my washing. It’s a bit of a complicated business in my household because I have to use different types of water. At first I soak the washing in the water we buy from a pushcart: Rp 10.000 worth of water to use for one day. Then I rinse the washing using ground water from a pump. For the third and fourth rinse, I use the bought water again. Why? The ground water is not always clear. I don’t even use it for bathing because it makes my body sticky. It makes the clothes turn yellow in color as well. That water is usually clear only after it rains. Actually, I think rain water is cleaner at times. I would love to have piped water again. We actually paid someone Rp 4 million to get piped water service but that only worked for one year! They again pay Rp 500 thousand. It worked for a while, and then it stopped again. Do you think we have been tricked!