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Once in a while

2019-02-22 12:00:00

Most of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan came from the provinces of Jawa, Lampung and Lombok. Abi is a very small number of Indonesian migrant workers who came from Papua. Her dark complexion and deep face reveal her special identity. As the country with the largest population of Muslim in the world, however, more than 80% of the residents in Papua believe in Christianity and because the Papuans are closer to the Australian aborigines, the ethnic conflict and separation land movement often happen and caused discrimination among Papuans.

Migrant workers during holiday in Taipei Main Station

Migrant workers during holiday in Taipei Main Station

Dani tribes children in Baliem Valley, Wamena, Papua, Indonesia (source: Facebook Rarinda Prakarsa)

Dani tribes children in Baliem Valley, Wamena, Papua, Indonesia (source: Facebook Rarinda Prakarsa)

The writer has known Abi for four years and has seen her five times in the past four years. First time, it was in the spring of 2015, when the writer joined the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asia bookstore (SEAMi) in Taoyuan. The second time was a month later, at the new book launching press release of Indonesian migrant friend. After the press release, the writer brought Abby back to writer’s working place “Brilliant Times” bookstore in Nanshijiao, New Taipei City. At the end of the same year, Abi went to the Brilliant Times bookstore to return book, borrow a new book, and donated two English novels to the bookstore with "Eslite Bookstore" barcode at the back.

Brilliant Time Bookstore (source: Facebook Brilliant Time Bookstore)

Brilliant Time Bookstore (source: Facebook Brilliant Time Bookstore)

Abi used to work in Macau and Hong Kong before came to Taiwan. In the past few years, she has trained her English ability. When there is no mother language book to read, she has to buy English book or ask an Indonesian friend to send some book to her. With shipping costs, the price of the Indonesian book is often twice as expensive as the original price. Taipei's bookstores are bigger and the import books are also very brilliant, however, on the foreign languages bookcase, besides European, American and Japanese books, Southeast Asian language books are very few. A book-lover like Abby is willing to invest a limited salary in an expensive import book, at least to maintain her spiritual life.

Just after New Year's Day in 2017, Abi suddenly came back to Brilliant Times bookstore and said she wanted to return the book. The date of the borrowing of the title page was November of 2015, which was the date we met last time. Abby has not taken a vacation for a year and two months.

After Abi changed her employer, she moved from Taipei to mountain area in Keelung. The new employer is busy with work in the vegetable market and relies on her to take care of grandmother who is sick in bed. The mountain area is inconvenient. Every two months, the employer would take her to the church and then pick up her two hours later. She barely took the two hours of the church as a holiday. "Unless you change your employer, you have the opportunity to take a vacation. If employer is good, why we have to change new employer?" Abi responded.

Abi borrowed two books; one is an Indonesian novel that she read twice. The other is “Kathryn Stockett” a novel based on American African-American maids. She said that after read “Kathryn Stockett”, she don’t want to read it again, because the story is so sad.

"Sorry, I haven't been able to return the book for a long time..." Besides Abi, many of the migrant workers who borrowed books from us but did not often take vacations and said like this. The writer brought two thick Indonesian novels from home to her, one for Christmas gifts, and one for borrowing her, such a thick book should be able to support the boring caretaker life in the mountains.

"Abi, will you return to Indonesia after the contract is over?" She replied, Cannot spend more money, so don’t spend money. "In the past, my employer in Hong Kong asked me to go to Guangzhou to take care of his mother. Maybe after working contract in Taiwan expires, I will apply for a visa to go to work in China." Abi said

This is the fourth time the writer saw Abby spent an hour in the bookstore. After that, she hurried back to Keelung.

Even, the writer didn’t see Abi in 2016, Abi also asked Indonesian family to send a large box of old books, and donate to our bookstore.

Last time the writer saw Abi, it was in early 2018, when I was preparing to join the military service. She did not have a holiday for a year. This time she made an appointment with friends to go to Tamsui but she still sent a message to the writer, saying that I would meet you at Taipei Main Station. The writer met Abby because of the book, however it was the first time, we didn’t have any books on each other, and the writer felt like missing something. The writer asked Abi if she want the writer to send some books to her. “No need! It’s good to say hello to my friends. I’ll see you again next year, at that time you will just finish military service” Abi said

The writer ate a little bit of McDonald's that Abi prepared for the writer as a breakfast. The writer didn't tell her that the writer had already eaten. The writer barely swallowed the food.

In the past year, the writer can only see Aby's recent situation from her Facebook. Her grandma passed away. She is now caring a serious sick child at the same employer's home. Her new hobby is to make cakes and biscuits.

"Abi, Happy New Year, I am done with military service, how are you?" the writer posted

"I didn't expect that 1 year already passed. I am very good, and I wish you peace and health."

Abi has been looking forward to one in a while meeting and cherish goodbye.

Writer: Wu Ting-kuan

Papua is located in the east side of Indonesia (Source Free World Map)

Papua is located in the east side of Indonesia (Source Free World Map)