57 Days in Aceh: Reminders of Goodbyes

By Ilya Katrinnada

My second week in Aceh has been a poignant reminder that this life is only transient and goodbyes are inevitable.

My beloved grandmother, Allayarham Sarripah Binte Benjari, passed away on Wednesday night. I could sense that her time was coming, but still, I guess you can never be prepared to stare at death in the face. What made it especially hard was that I didn’t have a chance to see her once more. But I am glad that her body has now been buried and InsyaAllah I will visit her grave the moment I get back. I am grateful that my last memories of her are only happy ones. She insisted on having a get-together before I leave for Banda Aceh, where the Pah Club (i.e. my relatives on my mum’s side) gathered at her home to celebrate birthdays and said prayers for the May/June babies and for my departure. I remember jokingly shouting to everyone, “Jumpa anda di pagi raya! (See you on the morning of Eid!)” as I was leaving her house. Thinking about how I am not able to do that with her sends chills down my spine, because it reminds me that we never know when our last day will be.

Last week, Jessica’s work-study stint ended and she’s now back in Canada. Emily mentioned that at this time of the year, the IHF center is like a revolving door, because so many volunteers come and go. I’m glad that I’m staying for two months, which is long enough for me to get to know many volunteers who come and leave before I do as well as to develop meaningful bonds with the locals here. Carl is also leaving tomorrow. He’ll be going back to the States to find new adventures as a graphic designer. He was one of the first few people I met when I arrived, because he was the one who picked me up from the airport and gave me my first taste of riding the motorbike in Aceh. I spent almost the whole day with him and Dustin yesterday on our day off. We went to Lampuuk Beach where we played frisbee, chilled by the sea (and of course had people stare at us because Dustin is a buleh), trekked for a bit, skidded and threw rocks into the sea, had Nasi Uduk for dinner and witnessed the making of Martabak Mesir (which involved a lot of oil). Carl really is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and although we hardly spent time together, I’m gonna miss him.

I’m also grateful that I arrived at a time when people are getting ready to leave for various reasons. The current three co-directors, Emily, Dustin and Nazma, are leaving IHF at different times after I leave in July to pursue other things. The ever-reliable and likeable local volunteer, Anggara, is leaving for Jakarta after Eid to jobhunt. Since I left secondary school, I’ve been feeling that time has been passing by too fast and the concept impermanence creeps up on me ever too often.

But like I mentioned, the life itself is temporary, and goodbyes are a constant.