Rebuilding Banda Aceh

A photography expedition

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Rice, kites and coconut juice

It’s difficult to describe the incredible chain of events that just took place.  While on the front porch of Becca’s homestay attempting to make sense of our budget, we were approached by a group of curious Indonesian children. Having a difficult time understanding what they were asking, we pulled out the trusty pocket Indonesian phrasebook. Before we knew it, a group of about 10 kids were looking through the book trying to help us learn different Indonesian sayings, offering us clove cigarettes and inviting us to go watch them fly kites. 

Fast forward to a rice paddy filled with children, mostly boys ages 3 to 18 taking a break from their Ramadan preparation (cutting stray vegetation with barangs which are long, curved knives) to fly their homemade kites. The kites are basically rectangles formed with sticks tissue paper and attached to HUGE spools of heavy duty fishing line. When we walked with them to the fields, a group of kids that knew we were from the USA, ran up with an american flag kite. For the entire two hours we were there in the rice field, it was like a scene from a movie. The combination of unbelievable lighting and the reflections off of the flooded paddy, as well as the generous hearts of the kids, left us both speechless.

By the time we left, it seemed as if the whole village had emerged from their houses to give us a wave and “hello mister”. We were then escorted back to the homestays by several of the children; some on motorbikes and bicycles, while others simply danced all of the way back. No longer than two minutes after returning to the porch where we started, one of our new friends shimmied up a nearby tree to grab us a couple coconuts to drink.  

"Full" is the only word that describes both of our emotional states as of late. Others include: surreal, grateful, uncomfortable, challenging, and lethargic (which we attribute to the addicting, cheap, and possibly illegal Acehenese coffee…). 

Before the night was over, we revisited one of the photo locations hoping for a night shot of a mosque top. After floating two kilometers from an adjacent village during the 2004 tsunami, the locals fenced the 12 ton mosque top in the middle of their rice paddy. We had met Wan, a villager who kindly showed us around the artifact, and his son the day before. Before arriving for the night shot, we took it upon ourselves to print and frame three photos to give to Wan as a token of our gratitude. Upon receiving the gifts, his face glowed as his eyes filled with tears, nodding in our direction in absolute happiness. In that moment, we realized that such a small gift would be treasured and boasted about for years to come. Our fullness continues. 

Learning to fly a kite proves more difficult and painful than one would imagine.

A local villager rides through the kite festivities.

A post-flying drink!  

Flying kites is pretty exciting!