Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jusuf & Ramli, Two New Friends from Banda Aceh

M.Jusuf One evening just as I needed a public transport, I came accross one man riding a Honda vehicle. I realized, Pavilyun Seulawah at Blang Padang Square is not a good place to find a transport mean, be it a becak or ojek, let alone a labi-labi (small van for 10 people, called oplet elsewhere). I just said hallo to someone passing with his Honda. We had a small chat, then he offered to bring me to Media Centre at Jalan Merak, Sukadamai. He introduced himself as M. Jusuf, a young man but I called him Pak Jusuf. He's a kind man, very sincere. He refused to accept money for bringing me to the place where I should be. Later he invited me to break fasting, buka puasa, at his very simple place where he sells sugarcane water, air tebu. His "restaurant" turned out to be a very popular one. Every day, about three hours before buka puasa, everybody came to buy his sweet sugar cane water. Jusuf is simple, kind and sincere. He even called me when I'm already in Holland. I told him just send a SMS, which he did. Here is the man, M. Jusuf, at work with his sugarcanes: see photo. Ramli A.Dally Pak Ramli is another very nice Acehnese man. I got his name from a friend who told me about this very unique person. Ramli A. Dally used to work at Pusat Dokumentasi & Informasi Aceh (PDIA), a documentary center on Aceh, now unfortunately vanished, swollen by the tsunami. So many unique and precious documents on Aceh, in particular on the Dutch war in Aceh, are now gone. All one can hope for Aceh is to acquire copies from museums in the Netherlands. Pak Ramli could tell stories for hours based on his knowledge about those documents at the PDIA. One of his very good true stories is about the duel and peace between Teuku Abeuek, an ulleebalang of West Aceh, and a Dutch officer called, Lietenant J.H.J. Brendgen, in 1920s. This story I recorded, and wrote, linking it to the Helsinki peace deal, for a TEMPO column published Oct. 17, which I reproduce here (see below). Ramli is simply a very good narrator, a very kind man with great interest in Acehnese history. He brought me to the cemetery of Dutch soldiers killed in the Aceh war (1873-1920). A honest man I love to remember. See: two photo's of him, a close up and at the Dutch cemetery.

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