57 Days in Aceh: Oh Happy Days

By Ilya Katrinnada

Sometimes I don’t know what I’ve ever done to receive the kind of love I did today by friends who were strangers just two weeks ago.

I turned twenty, and it is Acehnese tradition to give a bash to the birthday person. It was about 4.30 in the afternoon, and I had spent almost the entire day walking around the market and working in the kitchen with the SMA kids and Sushi to try out our recipes for our fundraiser. We were dead beat, but Ian, Luqman and Widya insisted on carrying out the bash for me. I don’t know if it was meant to be a surprise, but if it was, then they did a horrible job of trying to keep it a secret. They bought duck eggs when we were at the market in the morning. And so many times, I caught them whispering amongst themselves. I just surrendered to their plans, and I told Anggara to top it up with a bucket of cold water as a refresher (haha). They literally tied me up to the gate outside the center. The flour came first, and then the rotten eggs, and then water from the drain, and finally, that bucket of cold water I asked for. Of course almost everyone, including the younger kids still in the classroom ran away from me. This is not the way I normally celebrate my birthday, but I felt so touched that they would put in the effort to do all these despite only knowing me for a little more than two weeks. Like Ian said, the bash was a sign of love haha.

Yesterday, when I told Dustin that my birthday was today, he asked me what I wanted to do. So I told him that I wanted to take a ride on the motorbike through the countryside. So in the evening today, he, Anggara, Sushi, George and I did just that. We took a long, winding detour through the countryside where the lush green paddy fields shimmered before the mountains in the distance. We went to a beach which was so beautiful, that my camera couldn’t capture its beauty and that I won’t bother to describe because I will fail to do so too. The evening breeze accompanied the strong waves crashing against the shore, and looking back, I am so grateful that the sea keeps calling me back.

I also received much love from family and friends back home, who truly are my constants through this ever-changing life. As I celebrate 20 years of existence, I am also reminded of the kids and teachers who lost their lives in the Sabah earthquake. This existence is indeed fragile, and I pray that God grants me the ability to strike a balance between seizing every moment for its own sake and for the sake of moments to come.

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