1982, rainy season in Jakarta (pop 8.5 million), Indonesia. A 9 year old girl with a boyish hair cut was playing in the flood at a school field. Around her were some other boys who appear to be around her age if not 2 or 3 years older. They’re playing in the flood like they’re in a wading pool. The flood water was about their knees, yet they didn’t hesitate to throw themselves in to the murky brown water. Every time a car passed by, created a ‘wave’ for the water, the kids went berserk and did a ‘body surfing’.

The girl definitely didn’t mind the flood. Liked it, actually.

When the girl’s Mom passed the school from work, she was furious to see her daughter playing in the flood. To add insult to injury, she’s the only girl! The Mom yelled the girls’s name out and grabbed her by the ear all the way home.

The girl definitely didn’t mind at all. She smirked, actually.

Since the school was flooded, she didn’t have school for the next two days. Schoolboards put a sign up for the students to volunteer to clean up the classrooms when the water had resided. They were asked not to wear their uniforms (Indonesian public schools requirement), but pair of shorts and ‘old shirts’ instead; and to bring some cleaning supplies. They scrubbed the floor, cleaned the tables and chairs, making sure everything is spit spot clean. The kids had to be on their fours to do this cleaning, got their clothes wet, and their bare toes were shriveled from the water. 

The girl definitely didn’t mind this at all. She was actually having fun playing while cleaning.

She continued living with the flood in Indonesia until her adult years, befriended it as it’s part of Indonesians’ life. During the rainy season, there’s no way to avoid it. Stuck in traffic or couldn’t go to work because of flood, had to push the office’s car in the middle of flood (because her co-worker thought he could drive through it), she’s been there done that and very used to it.

Fast forward to eighteen years later, half way across the globe: United States of America. When a small town Ames, Iowa, in the Midwest made the national news due to the flood in early August (broke the records set in 1993), the girl -who is now a woman- was there. She had lived there for more than a decade, but this flood was her first since she lives there. It wasn’t a big deal for her since she’s born and brought up in a country that has flood almost regularly. But it threw her off a little because she hasn’t dealt with one for more than 10 years.

On Wednesday 8/11/2010, after a night of difficulty sleeping from thunderstorms and heavy rain, what usually takes her 15-20 minutes to go to work, turned out to be 45. Her usual route was blocked due to the flood. Road blocks were every where, streets were underwater. Small town Ames (pop 56,000) was almost paralyzed by the flood. A lot of the clinic workers, including physicians, couldn’t make it to work. It was a crazy busy day at the clinic, as working with a skeleton crew’s never fun; especially when the phones were ringing over the hook and walk ins.

The woman didn’t mind it at all. She’s glad that she had made it safe to work and help people.

Later that afternoon, after tired hearing of so many loss (including people’s lives who were dragged away by the flood water), the woman heard the flash news that Ames’ underground water main pipe was broken. They couldn’t fix it being the location’s underwater, thus with the flood, making the water source to the people of Ames, ‘contaminated’. She also heard that the city had shut the water off and ordered people to boil water to drink/cook for probably a week. This caused a panic. People rushed to grocery stores to stock up on water gallons/bottles. She was unsure what to do, but reluctantly went to the nearest one by her office, just to get a few. She was shocked to see so many people flocked the grocery store and how frantically they were piling up their carts with water gallons/bottles. It was even hard to leave the parking lot because people just parked their cars wherever, impatient and afraid that they’d be out of luck not getting any.

The woman dind’t mind not stocking too many water bottles. She’s used not having the luxury of drinking straight from the tap water, fridge, or bottled water. Back home in Indonesia, water needs to be boiled first, then after it cooled down, she’d strain the water using some cheese cloth on a funnel to be bottled, then store the bottled water in the fridge.

The next couple of days were interesting. She heard from patients that they ‘accidentally’ brushed their teeth and/or wash some vegetables with the ‘contaminated’ tap water, uncooked! Oh dear… the terror! Am I dying? Please, I need to speak to a nurse immediately! She also found it amusing to hear some people were adamant about giving their pets bottled water, not tap water. The woman had given her dog the oh-so-scary tap water, and the pooch is still alive and kickin’. She had brushed her teeth with the tap water and told her kids to do the same, and nobody suffered gastroenteritis from it.

The woman was glad she’s born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. The flood back home had ‘trained’ her to be a tough cookie.

[Happy belated Independence Day 8/17/2010, Indonesia!]