Monday, January 10, 2011

Human Trafficking in Indonesia

I need to tell you about something that's going on in Indonesia that I haven't talked about a lot in this blog, but that is an unspoken reality for a lot of desperate Indonesians.
I've heard personal stories, and I've read stories on BBC.

The personal story I heard was in Lombok, two islands east of Java. The man I was talking to was the driver of a public van/bus my sister, friend, and I were riding. As usual I asked him about his family, his job, his story. I wasn't ready to hear his story, even though I should have been. I'd read about human trafficking and even started a chapter of the International Justice Mission on my campus (an organization that addresses justice issues such as trafficking). But there's something about hearing a personal story of injustice that truly awakens the reality to you, regardless of how many reports you've read and numbers you've seen.

Stories make a difference.

He told me he was a widower with two little kids. His wife's stomach became big and they thought she was pregnant but it was something else. She died from "water in her stomach" and 2 months after her death he left his little kids with his family and went to work in Saudi Arabia for two years. The kids needed food and they were approaching school age. Education here isn't free. He lasted only a year because the abuse was so intense the the pay so little that he escaped and came back to Indonesia with nothing but the clothes on his back. He told me some people get their lips cut off, because their bosses are mad that they can't speak Arabic. Now he works as a van driver and doesn't make enough to put his kids through school.

There are several things wrong with this picture. First, the health care system that made it difficult for his wife to go to the hospital before it was too late. Second, the fact that school is not free. Third, immigration services out of Indonesia didn't protect him when we went to work in Saudi Arabia. I want to address the third issue. Migration isn't the problem. People often migrate with no trouble. It can be beneficial for both the sending country and the receiving country. There are about one million Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle East. The problem is the lack of protection for the workers.

In November there was the story about the Indonesian maid whose body was found dumped in the street. In addition to gashes on her face there were cuts to her lips, which makes me think that she may have been punished for not speaking Arabic like the man I met on Lombok said.

Last month there was the story about the Indonesian employee who went to the hospital severely beaten and near death.

Her story ends differently.

She survived and amazingly her employer was "convicted under a new royal decree against human trafficking" and is now in jail for abusing Sumiati.
I ranted about it during college and I'll say it again. Human trafficking is real and it's a problem. Speaking out against it and sticking the stories and the statistics in the face of governments makes a difference. Telling people's stories makes a difference. Pushing for new laws makes a difference. There are people today living in slavery. Desperate conditions make them take risky jobs that land them in positions they can't escape from. Either work toward improving their initial conditions, work toward getting them out of the place of slavery that they are in, or work toward letting the world know that slavery like this happens, and it's not ok.

A better world is possible, but it's not going to happen with us sitting on our bums.

And in case you think this is a third world problem, look up human trafficking statistics for the US. You who are in bordering states especially (ie, Arizona....) The numbers are scary. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. There are chains to break, work towards breaking them.

Email me if you have an interest in the anti-trafficking movement in the US.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Christmas, 2011, life update

As I was browsing some friends' blogs and wondering what I should blog about myself since it's been about two weeks since my last post, I came across the blog of a co-volunteerer here in Indonesia and she blew anything I was thinking might be interesting to blog about right out of the water. She had dengue fever over the new year! And she very creatively described her symptoms and feelings to the point where I started feeling like maybe I might have dengue too. But no, I'm really feeling completely healthy (other than the 9 mosquito bites I somehow acquired overnight) and feeling a bit lame because I have no awesome dengue fever story to blog about. Although.. That's actually a blessing... I've been pretty sicky in the past four months so to be able to blog that I am healthy is actually news.

I'll update you on how life has been since my last post on the 20th. Christmas was interesting and not what I'm used to. Big surprise, right? I'm in a developing country. I'm in Asia, a world away physically and culturally from the US. But it still takes me off guard sometimes, that not everyone does what I think everyone should do on days like Christmas. There's no universal anything. What I mean by that is that eating and breathing is about the only thing I find in common with culture and life here and that in the states. While we know that life in other countries is different, nothing can prepare us for how different it can be. All these things in our life in our own culture that are a given... From having four seasons to gifts on Christmas to family meals and quoting sources on our university papers... Are simply not a given everywhere and that still takes me off guard. First I'm confused, like maybe I missed something. Then when it settles in that this is how life is here then I find myself getting resentful to the culture, then it's a battle to convince myself that it's ok and that they're not missing out on anything fundamental to life by not giving gifts on Christmas or eating as a family or any of those other things that I grew up thinking the whole world did.
I went to a couple Christmas services before Christmas. One was here in Kudus and the other in Semarang. (None were in my church. My church is very small and in a village.)

They were pretty westernish, though still different than my church back in the US. For example for the service in Kudus they hired three famous people to entertain. Famous as in, winner of Indonesian Idol... It was nuts because everyone in the audience was going crazy and obviously in awe over them while to Joel and I they looked like any other Indonesian... Just goes to emphasize that we as a collective society MAKE people famous. They don't naturally glow famousosity and fill everyone around them with fuzzy feelings of awe and admiration. We control who we make famous and it shows something about our culture, who we give famousness to. Anyways, that was a bit strange to me, to have pop stars as entertainers but then it would probably be strange to the people here if I told them that I never go to church on Christmas day and rarely on Christmas eve. I went to two services on Christmas eve and one on Christmas day here. I find that for Christians here, life revolves around the church. Your friends are mostly from there, you're there at least three times a week and every holiday, your outings are mainly organized through the church.. In the US I had a huge life outside of my friends and family at church. It was more than just a Sunday thing, but my life was definitely not as involved in the church as it is here. Maybe it's because this country is like 95% Muslim. I think of doing church as hanging out with people who love Jesus, and this is done in a lot of places in the States, because you can find Jesus lovers outside of your church. But here, you don't find that.

We did have a Christmas tree though.

I also baked Christmas cookies for my family and school.

But other than that and a few Christmas programs (and interestingly, they are still happening. I just got an invitation to a Christmas party on January 14th. Crazy! In the US Christmas parties really can't happen after the new year and ideally should happen between the 15th and the 24th of December.) Christmas was just like any other day. But a bit slower. I slept a lot. And then read the Women's Day and Real Simple magazines my mum sent me. I love American magazines here for some reason. I've ripped out several pretty pages and stuck them on my wall. I think they just feel like home to me. I stare at every page. Even the advertisements. I suck up all the Americanness out of them that I can. Sounds pathetic. I am so American! I don't mind it so much though, because yes I'm American but I'm challenging myself and my American ways by living in Indonesia for a year. Every person comes from somewhere and is saturated with that place's good and bad. When an Indonesian goes to America I'm sure they feel much more Indo then when they were here. I bet they go strait to a store and buy a rice maker and relish in the semi-Indo-like taste of ramen noodles. And that's ok. We're all from somewhere and we become so much more from that somewhere when we leave it. And we tend to embrace it more when we're gone from home. I push myself away from being American when I'm in Phoenix, but then it totally comes out when I'm here. From obsessive and picky coffee drinking to movie watching and a love for sleep, milk drinking, and cereal eating, I'm so American and I don't care who knows it. But other than for breakfast I love the food here and I love the greeness, and I find the people unjudging of my Americanness and open to get to know me. I appreciate that. I love their Indonesian-ness as strange and different as I find it sometimes, I'm glad to get to know it. It grows me in patience and open mindedness.

Shoot, another long blog post. I wonder how many people make it two paragraphs in and stop reading. I should really edit it and take out some of the rantings, but sometimes I think the rants have more substance than talking about my activities and schedules.
That said, I do do more here than just think and rant in my head. For example, on the 27th my friend living in the Philippines working with the Peace Corps came to visit me, and then on the 29th my sister did. What a weird experience seeing them here, so far away from the world I know them from. I was glad for them to see my life and my reality here, to hear their thoughts on the place and the people and to hear about their life and what is going on back in the US and their communities. They also kicked me in the butt- Jerica is doing development work and it's pretty hard core and she's working hard at it, harder than I am and it motivated me to seize these next few months and do as much in them as I can. My sister is a medical doctor doing her residency and works 90+ hours a week. That number in itself is a kick in the butt, as I sleep 9 hours a night on average and usually never work more than 35 hours at the school I'm at. Work is relative though. I feel like I'm always working here. Except when I'm in my room, I'm engaging this culture and my community and working through cultural differences and learning and being stimulated in a hundred ways, learning more of the language and sharing my story and hearing stories and teaching English and all of that in a way is my work here. Work isn't just at the school where I teach. My assignment here is to make life within a community, to engage them and to create relationships that will lead to eventual projects and development work. I feel like last year was largely the relationship creating part and now is the projects part.

We'll see. People aren't projects though, and I keep that in mind.

Pics from my sister's and Jerica's time here are soon to come, though most of you who read this are my friends on facebook so you can just see them there.