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Faith in Humanity Restored, with Public Transport

Live with angkotIn case you didn’t know, I have spent about a year in Bandung building this website to help people navigate using public transport. In the meantime I also teach at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan. For both reason, I take the local buses, called angkot, to transport me back and forth between my home and office. Interestingly, taking this angkot means to know more about people’s life stories, much more than driving my own car. And of those stories, there are some worth to share, to restore faith in humanity.

Let’s start with the first one. Every morning, the angkot I rode passed through Jalan Cicendo, which is the center for blind people rehabilitation. Of course the blindness could not be cured, but one can strive to improve the patient’s quality of life. Almost every day I saw blind people have the confidence to use angkot to travel from their place to another. Angkots in Bandung are most easily differentiated by their colors, not numbers. This clearly gives more difficulties to the blind. However, with their perseverance, the blind patiently waits for almost each angkot passing by and ask the driver if they are driving the route they want to take. On the opposite side, the drivers who are usually famous for being rude to people patiently check if the blind want to ride his angkot, and notify the blind when the destination has been reached.

Another experience came when I rode an angkot to Padalarang, and return. I did this to complete the website’s database, and it took more than three hours on the road. Sitting at the front row seat, I had a chance to have a conversation with the driver, an guy, perhaps in his 60s. It turned out that he is a pensioner of Kopassus, a military group locally known for their achievement being the #3 top elite forces in the world. He proudly showed me his ID card, and told stories about himself when he was young and sent to various countries, like East Timor and Cambodia. From his salary (which he claimed only IDR 7.500/month in the 80’s) and pension fund, he started the angkot business, in which he bought an angkot bus by credit and let himself and another driver ride it everyday to pay for the installment. At the end of our conversation, I realized something, that he shared all his stories enthusiastically, without any complaints about the government or anyone. If you live in Indonesia, you will know that, well, other than this guy, you will not spend a single day talking to people without complaining about things.

Lastly, about a father’s love to his child. In an ordinary day during my trip to my office, a father and his son boarded the angkot. The son seemed to have suffered from down syndrome, and judging from the transport mode they were using, they were clearly didn’t come from a rich family. Along the way, the father tried to start little conversations with his son, though thanks to the syndrome each topic didn’t last long. Some of the topics that I overheard was a suggestion to fight back when other children mock on him, about asking permission to his son to go to Jakarta to work for a couple of days, and about promise to play together on a future visit to Trans Studio theme park, after he had returned from Jakarta. That sounded simple, but immediately touched my heart. It must have been hard to raise a child with some disabilities, but the father seemed to work hard to give the best for his son.

Those are the stories worth sharing. Reality show at it’s best, when it comes from reality, not from television.

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