“There are many blessings from the tsunami,” the visitor said to her host, who nodded.
“Yes, there are blessings but so many people had to die for them. A very high price to pay,” came the reply. How very true.
Three days. The short trip was enough for me to know that Aceh is still rebuilding itself, from the disaster that struck most of its land almost four-and-a-half years ago. While normalcy have mostly returned, there are enough remnants from the past to remind you of what had happened.
One scene, for me, that was proof that life goes on for the Acehnese: children playing at the beach with their parents. The only difference was that there is now a big wavebreaker built along that stretch, which suffered quite badly four years ago.
According to the people I met there, Aceh is indeed a different place now. The marked difference was being able to be outdoors after dark as the martial law enforced in 2003 had ended after the tsunami, when the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government signed the Helsinki peace accord in August 2005. Nyamuk pun tak berani keluar malam was the expression she used to stress how life used back then. Now, commerce is thriving and people are not afraid to be out and about, having kopi (ngopi they call it) or just driving around at night.
I met almost 50 teens and university students there, the majority of them were orphaned by the tsunami. All of them suffered but were given the chance to a good education by Malaysian sponsors. It was heartwarming to see how they have overcome the tragedy to be where they are now and being able to go about life as teenagers and having a shot at making a better life for themselves.
So hope is definitely in the air. The young faces showed me that.