Dayeuhkolot and me

Standing in front of the mirror of my parents’ cabinet, I’m seeing the shadow of myself. I am definitely much older. It’s been seventeen years since I left this house for good. Now I am a different person with my own life, different than and separated from the life I had in this house. The old mirror. It is the only full body mirror in the house. It is the same one I used when I was a little child. Looking through this mirror, I realize that I am changed and, yet, everything I had in Dayeuhkolot remains the same.

My father still uses the same blue coffee mug he obtained in 1977. A historical copper spoon he had used for over 60 years, however, was broken last year, he told me. So, these days he uses a newer metal spoon to stir his coffee. A one by one white dining table from my childhood is still in the house. Its melamine laminate is cracked here and there, and, yet, still functional. Old couches in the living/dining/kitchen area are still there. Their synthetic leather covers are fully peeled and cracked and, yet, they are still intact. My parents still use wooden stools with iron legs for dining chairs — they are older than me. These furniture stand in contrast to newer white tiles that were installed around 8 years ago (the older ones were black classic cement tiles).

This morning, my parents still woke up before sunrise. They wear the same clothes I saw them wearing thirty years ago. Older and thinner, and, yet, they don’t change a bit. Their daily meal still consists largely tofu and vegetables. Growing up we only ate meat about once a month; we had tofu/tempeh every other day, though. And, of course, the TV remote is still wrapped by its original plastic cover. Classic!

Dayeuhkolot, the place, doesn’t change that much either. Except that now it’s flooding more often. It is flooding even when there’s no heavy rain. When I arrived at my parents’ house yesterday, I was welcome by a low-level flooding. How appropriate!

On the way “home” from the airport, I saw many signs of new development and, yet, all seems to stop before Dayeuhkolot. Seventeen years since I left, there is still no clean water and drainage system in this place. Fresh food becomes less accessible. Poverty remains rampant. Buildings look dull and grey, as if they were seen from a dusty lens.

There are more motorcycles, cars, and trucks passing by. The sound of noisy engines, cars’ exhaust, and high-pitched noise of electric motors never seems to stop. 24×7. Textile and garment are still the dominant industry around here; most people in the neighbourhood are still employed at textile factories. The air pollution is at a horrendous level. The quality of water is atrocious. A documentary from AlJazeera reported that textile and garment factories have been dumping their waste to the Citarum river, making it the most polluted river on earth. Most people who live along the river, including in Dayeuhkolot, use this water for washing and drinking. The river is severely polluted by lead, aluminum, manganese, and iron. The level of lead in the river reaches 1,000 times of the US standard for drinking water. So, yes, Dayeuhkolot has always been impacted by modern development – by the wrong end of the stick of the development, to be precise.

The mirror. The old mirror. In it, I am seeing a little girl with red ribbons. An angry, restless little girl who’s deeply bothered by inequalities and injustices around her. In her, I see not only where I came from and how far I have come along, but also how my Dayeuhkolot experiences greatly shaped the journey of how I became who I am.  I am still that girl. An angry, restless big girl.

merlynalim aka Lady Day, Dayeuhkolot, 16 May 2018

My parents’ current house

Dayeuhkolot said welcome– my first night


Al Jazeera’s documentary on the Most Polluted River

Dayeuhkolot — the neighbourhood



2 thoughts on “Dayeuhkolot and me

  1. Followed the link on your fb here. Your writing speaks into me and I think I share the feelings in many ways. I feel both love and anger, hope and anxiety whenever I think of China, whenever I read, write and do research about China. Sometime I would wonder, if my life will be so much easier, and happier, if I were born, say, as a Canadian, since my love for my county also causes pains. But still and always, I’m grateful for being a Chinese because it gives me the unique experiences in a way that allows me to understand the complexity of the world around me. I’m both driven and haunted by my homeland on the path I’m traveling now. Given the flood and everything, I hope you have a wonderful time with your family! I’m at a conference for the past several days and the panels and topics about China triggered lots of my thoughts about it. In five days I will return to my parents’ place as well, and I feel very touched by your article before my departure for home 🙂
    Have a lovely summer!

    1. Thanks for your sentimentally beautiful words, Xiaofei. We, in-between people, will never have a simple life 😉 but it’s so interesting, rich, and complex that I’ll not trade it with a simpler version. Have a great summer break and enjoy your time with your parents.

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