Every year, when I can,I have made an effort to give to those more in need than most. In Costa Rica, Jack and I donned Santa hats and gave our toys to children in a very poor neighborhood. In Batam, I’ve given out toys and money. This year, I had a specific target for doing some good – the women and children who I pass every time I walk to the mall to shop. One of the children, a little girl maybe 4-5 years old, recognizes me and runs and clamps down on one of my hands and won’t let me go until I give her some money, which is usually maybe 40 cents. She will cling to my hand for two blocks if necessary.
Anyway, I thought that instead of giving them a little money (and I almost always only give to one of the four groups I pass) that I would go to a nearby restaurant and buy them a Christmas meal. Not exactly Christmas food – ayam goreng, which is fried chicken, rice and fried tofu. I bought four to take away. And it wasn’t like it broke the bank – less than $2 a meal.
By the time I returned, there were only three women but it looked like just as many kids, who flocked around me and tried to assault the two bags of food I was carrying. Of course, they also had their hands out for money. Somehow, I managed to give one pack of rice and one ayam goreng to each woman, and then I looked around for the fourth, figuring I would just have to let the others share the fourth meal. Then, one of the women motioned that the fourth was across the street and indicated she was coming back. I think she understood me when I suggested (in motions really) that the last meal was for the missing woman and would she give it to her when she returned. A nod of a head and I gave her the final meal. I walked back home feeling a little guilty.
On the way back, two young women on a motorbike stopped me and asked if they could ask me some questions. Turned out they were lecturers from a local university and had a five-page survey they wanted me to fill out about my experiences on Batam, particularly related to business. We sat down at a nearby warung and had a short chat while I filled out the questionnaire. And took a couple of photos.
Next up: Christmas dinner at Goodies Restaurant, where Santa will be giving out gifts and treats to all the local kids at Smiling Hill. A great scene.
I didn’t take any photos of the people receiving the food, but I did take a few of the food being prepared: