It was unintentional but today, I got a final reminder of how many people in Palembang live.
I went to visit a friend who is about a week away from having her first baby. I brought several gifts for her but after visiting, I wish I had thought to give her much more (including some cash). I haven't seen her in a few months and in fact, have never visited her at her home before today.
She's 19 years old and since getting married and moving into her husband's house (together with MIL, FIL and bro-in-law) she has taken over all the household chores. The last time I met her was a few weeks after her wedding when she came to visit me after an argument with her husband. Back then, she was shocked at all her new roles and today, she mentioned them with a sigh of resignation but she seemed somewhat contented. What else can she do?
When we got there, she was at the back of the house, hand washing the family's clothes. She's eight and a half months pregnant! I'm finding it hard to bend over now at 5 and half months. I know plenty of people here have no choice but to do it but I couldn't help feeling sorry for her.
The house itself was basic but a very decent size and very decorated. There seemed to be a lot of china on display. It had everything except a bathroom.
One of the issues she had when first moving there was the fact that she had to walk to the river each day to wash the clothes and have a 'shower'. During this dry season, the river has completedly dried up and they now need to carry some dirty yellowy water from a well to their house.
There is a platform at the back of the house that serves as the place to wash clothes, plates and people. It was just a small deck with wooden boards until about waist height. Women clean up there too while wearing a sarong.
AND, (this is the worst part), this area is also the...um...bathroom. I was horrified! I didn't want to embarrass this girl but I know she understood me. I feel ashamed for asking so much but thankful that I had somebody open enough to know I didn't mean to be look down on her, be scornful of her way of life or anything like that. It definitely wasn't pity that I felt, just plain old shock.
After that, I went into a long lecture about how she needs to care for her baby and all the precautions she needs to take.
I wish I could still be around when her baby was born. I know she isn't allowed out of this house much and rarely gets to meet her own family and friends. I regret not visiting her more often instead of just keeping in touch via text messaging.
The 'house arrest' period of this pregnancy really put me out of touch with life in Palembang. I'm glad I had this one last visit to a local friend.