Monday, September 27, 2004

Iqbal Farabi’s (KONTRAS Aceh) Visit to Canada (2 of 2)

Sept. 18-19, 2004. Iqbal had the chance to enjoy his visit in Toronto. From a walk in the city, practicing drumming with the African drummer, to a sightseeing trip to Niagara Falls. He loved the Falls and couldn’t take his eyes off of the mighty but beautiful Falls. He said that during the days he liked to observe children going to school—it was so peaceful looking at the children who can go to school without having to fear for their lives or their families’ lives. He has two little daughters, “Billy” who is almost 5 years old, and “Joel” who is 1.5 years old. He admitted that Billy Joel is one of his favorite singers. Of course, those are not his girls’ real names. *smile* Wind surfing is one of his favorite pastimes when he needs a rest from the stress of his works. He would go for wind surfing to a remote island off eastern Aceh’s coast. There he said, he doesn’t have to think about the cruel life in Aceh, but can immediately immerse into the beauty and peace of nature… and there he has only to worry about how to get safely from the ocean to the land. *smile*

Sept. 20, 2004. Iqbal had the chance to meet YCAR (York Centre for Asian Research), among others Judith Nagata and Peter Vandergeest. Unfortunately because of time constraint there was not enough time to promote this program. But, Iqbal told me that the meeting went well and that Judith will ask her network in Penang to help Aceh refugees there.

Sept. 21, 2004. KAIROS and Iqbal had their time together to pondering on what they can do to the betterment of civil society in Aceh. It would be his last program and last day in Toronto. So, Nancy planned a get together to have a good time with him. Nancy told me to inform Eric Li (CCEVI) about this gathering because Eric conveyed his interest to meet Iqbal before he returned to Indonesia.

Then, that night, we had a warm informal dinner in a Thai Restaurant downtown. We joked around with him… I asked whether he had tried Canadian beer. *smile* Of course he had! He told us that he had a palm tree on the back of his mother’s house in North Sumatera. People take the juice out of the fruit and leave it for three days. And, on the third day you can drink it… and oh, it’s so heavenly a drink. That’s what he said. *smile*

You may think that the people of Aceh never drink alcoholic drinks. You’re wrong! Nancy told us Judith’s (Nagata) experience when she invited a number of people from Aceh to her house. She restrained herself from offering alcoholic drink to her guests. However, after they finished their dinner, the guests kept looking at her “alcoholic display.” Probably after a one or two agonizing minute the guests asked to try those drinks on display. Well, you can imagine what happened afterwards. *smile*

I believe Iqbal really likes Thai food… he ate his dinner with his hand, like most of Indonesians do when they really want to enjoy the meal :) There I met another “me”, I mean her name is the same as mine but with “z”. *smile* Elizabeth Sunindyo was another NGO friend and interpreter. She got her last name when she married an Indonesian. I was amazed at how well she can speak in Indonesia. Can you imagine a ‘bule’ blurted out ‘canggih’ and other colloquial words when she engaged Iqbal and I in a conversation? There was also Kien, a volunteer at Refugee Centre who had worked with boat people. Fortunately, Eric and his wife Grace could join us and took several pictures before this small gathering was over. We engaged in a short discussion on how we could assist his struggle in civil empowerment and peaceful transformation in Aceh.

Iqbal had a long flight the next morning, Toronto-SF-Hongkong-Singapore-Penang-Medan-Banda Aceh. He didn’t look tired after a long program in North America. In fact I could say that he enjoyed it. I believe he needs it before he returns to the “civil emergency” life in Aceh. (Note: Many networks of human rights defenders have offered him to continue his Aceh’s struggle from the foreign land. But he refused it, saying that his place is among his people, the Acehnese.) We promised to send him the pictures—and hope that one day the people of Aceh can live a peaceful life. Ah, maybe before that time coming I’ll have the chance to visit him for wind surfing on a remote island by northern or eastern Aceh’s coastline. *smile*

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