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Bandung, Indonesia - Sep 09

Bandung, Indonesia - Sep 09

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Published by Loh Jian Hui

An impression of my trip to Bandung, Indonesia, to visit my domestic worker's family.

An impression of my trip to Bandung, Indonesia, to visit my domestic worker's family.

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Published by: Loh Jian Hui on May 06, 2010
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09/17/2013

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Visiting Bandung, Indonesia
Singapore is known for its large migrant population, of which about 170,000 aredomestic workers. According to the terms of their contract, they are entitled to areturn trip to their home country once every two years.My domestic worker is only 2 years older than me and has been working for my family for nearly 10 years. She has two teenage children and a deceased husband.She is the sole breadwinner for her family, including her parents. She was my tour  guide and interpretator. I visited her when she was back in her country in Sep 09. Below is a recorded impression of my trip.
Bandung is a city of 9 million people and growing. It is a sprawling urbanmass spread across a huge mountain plateau 750m above sea level andsurrounded by mountains. The buildings are low in height by developedcountry standards, and you will seldom see a building more than 3 or 4storeys high. I'm not sure if it lies in the earthquake zone, but that wouldexplain the lack of towering skyscrapers. The first visual impression I had of Bandung was when my plane was about to land. The ubiquitous orange clayroof-tops were very distinctive. Sporadic patches of cropland dotted theurban landscape
Aerial view of part of Bandung My domestic worker and I having Sudanesefood 
From what I read from the internet, Bandung is one of Indonesia's intellectualcapitals, with many universities and schools. It is also known internationallyfor its cheap fake branded goods as well as authentic local fashion designbrands not found elsewhere. Many tourists come specially to shop for shoes, jeans and jackets produced in factories around Bandung. Jarkarta residentsare also known to drive 2 hours to spend the weekend shopping and eatingthere.While many people are poor, the streets are not filled with beggars like whatyou see in India and a few other developing countries. From fly-byobservations from my rented taxi, the people seem contented with their lot,and get by with simple trading of goods and services. Bandung feels like oneof the most peaceful places I've been to. The people seem happy.
 
 
Tea plantation 2000m above sea level One of the many roadside stalls. Deliciousfried beancurd, banana, and vegetables inflour. Served fresh and piping hot.
 Bandung is blessed with rich natural resources, such as plenty of clean freshwater from the mountains, fertile land for growing crops from volcanic soiland just plenty and plenty of space. Not to mention hot springs, naturalscenery and volcanic geographical features.I visited during the fasting month of Ramadan, so the city was much less busythen usual, because many of the city residents have returned to their homevillages and towns to fast and spend time with their families. On the day of Hari Raya Puasa, there would be festivities on the streets, people would dressup in their finest clothes and visit their relatives.Her family lived in Garut, a small city an hour’s drive from Bandung. When Iarrived at her house, I was surprised to find that it has all the modernamenities such as a television, a fridge, fresh water from the tap andelectricity. The cost of living there is so low that a Singaporean domesticworker's wages is comparable to that of a public school teacher, which is thesecond highest paying profession after being in the police force. Speaking of which, the police force demands at least a S$1000 bribe to just secure aninterview with the police force, after which if accepted, the candidate is set forlife, with monthly wages of more than S$1000 that is a cause for envy andpride locally.
The centre yard of the family compound
 
Rice field in Garut
 
 
A resthouse in Garut, my domestic worker'shome town an hour's drive from Bandung.The wall is made of handwoven bamboo.
 
House in Garut belonging to a 'haji' family.'Haji' is a derogatory term for rich people, asthey can afford the pilgrimage to Mecca. Thehouse belongs to someone in the teaching profession and took a number of years to build. 
My domestic worker's family stays in a compound that included severalhouses that accommodated members of her extended family, includingaunties, uncles and cousins. I really envied their communal way of living, aluxury ill afforded in Singapore with its lack of space. The back of hercompound gives way to a stunning vista of rice fields and cropland thatextends all the way to the distant mountains.
Deepak, her adopted son, 18 months old, anddevilishly adorable.From left - my domestic worker's mum, sonand aunt

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