By Dusk and Dawn

By daylight, the sun peeks shyly through the large leaves blanketing the tables and chairs. Ants busily work their way through the dirt and across the tables, gathering all the food they need. They fall from the rustle of the greenery. It’s mostly quiet except for the occasional motorbike sounds zooming by outside and the whimsical laughter of children. At times, the Azan reverberates through the air. There’s beautiful paintings splashed across the walls and a serene pond near the building where sessions are held and where the guys sleep. The early hours bring the scent of coffee and glistening morning dew frosting the grass. Motivational posters, quotes, acronyms, etc. are hung everywhere. At noon, aromatic smells rise from the kitchen where rice, chicken, and whatever delicious dishes are being made.

By dusk, different colors paint the sky. The noises of the motorbikes become more frequent as people rush home through the narrow alleyways and streets. The Azan still echoes in and out. The dark skies of the night comes to meet the daylight colors early. Between six and seven, night falls. Occasionally, there are no colors in the sky except grayness. Thunder gently rolls and rumbles and rain pours. Buckets and buckets of rain, cooling the already cool air. A heavy scent of rain settles in.

At this treatment center are recovering drug users. These terms are what society has labeled them if they dare to even speak about their past. But they’re not just “recovering drug users”. They’re people with struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams just like any of us. I have felt so privileged to be able to hear their stories. They come from all different parts of Indonesia with different kinds of struggles and pasts, but their bravery and persistence and desires to beat the addiction and the diseases are admirable.

It’s been three weeks. Three weeks of my team and I mingling around the treatment center learning the ways and delving deep into the stories. Of sitting in the office and playing with lizards and snakes. Finding a computer. Under the tree, eating and sharing feelings and hearing stories. In the grass, flicking off the ants, while listening to the Azan mix with the interviews. In the complete dark in a black-out with candles lit, sharing conversation and laughing over jokes and jabs.

20140611_141626Setting up a new bookcase and opening new books with everyone. Singing and swaying with the sweetest girl. Watching curiosity light the eyes. Discussing nutrition and diabetes. Questions and answers. Explaining and teaching sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Wincing at grotesque pictures together. Drawing pictures on the whiteboard. Passing around bananas and condoms as the storm outside rages on, slamming the windows and the doors.


There are no words to cover appropriately how I feel towards them and what I have learned so I shall end this little ode to them with this: It’s been a grand adventure and I have so many thanks to give to the clients. They have taught me so much about persistence and bravery, and my gratitude and love for this place will never leave me. May the world reunite us again some day.

My greatest thanks to the Rumah Cemara family and my amazing team of four.



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