Since all travel photos from my last trip (Thailand) are post processed now, I browsed through older photos which I have taken in April/May this year in Indonesia. It is fun watching them again with a distant view and playing around with post processing styles I have learned during the time in between.
So I came across photos I took in a Muslim orphanage in Palembang. Palembang is the capital of the province of South Sumatra and the second largest city on that island behind Medan. My brother and the couple who runs that place are good friends due to the fact that my brother and his family had lived in the neighborhood and often invited the kids (not all of them at once of course) to come over to their house for English lessons or gaming afternoons.
I have never been in an orphanage before so this visit was a special experience for me, which has deeply moved me. What are your thoughts when thinking about children in an orphanage? For me I figured out that my spontaneous associativity would be very much clichÃ© like: Kids in a place like this have to be poor and would look at you with unhappy and empty eyes since they are apart from their parents or don’t even have relatives anymore! Every day they would wait for someone rich (maybe Angelina Jolie or Madonna?) to pick them up and bring them to a different country with all the toys in the world they could possibly imagine…
Well it wasn’t exactly that case. After we had arrived, the hosting couple asked all kids to get together in the living room, to give us, the guest, a respectful welcome. 50 children live constantly in that house, during that time of the day around 30 of them were joining us downstairs. I didn’t expect them to be so disciplined and shy. Also I had to deal with their way of “saying hello”. I felt a bit awkward when one after another took my hand, brought it to its mouth, indicated a kiss and then took it further up to its forehead. This procedure was meant as a sign of high respect and they all did it with a serious expression on their faces. Coming from Europe I simply would have loved to hug them and give those cuties a big kiss – but of course I didn’t do it and behaved as they would expect it from an adult.
So the children sat on the ground in rows like in school and the hosts with their guests sat on the only couch in the room, also a sign of respect. I felt a bit uncomfortable there, like in a fish bowl, so soon I mingled with them on the floor, tried communicating with them by using hands and feet and of course taking photos – they warmed up very quickly then and lost their shyness.
Later they showed me around their dwelling. Compared to western standards their living conditions were of course very poor. The floors were dirty, the kitchen just an open fire place outside and most of the rooms were a big mess – depending on the kid’s age and gender. But what can I say all about it am I allowed to judge? When looking into the children’s faces, I only saw curiosity and happiness in their eyes. They all behaved as they would be caring brothers and sister within a big family. And the hosting couple? The may not be the perfectly gifted managers in terms of keeping the place tidy and organized (again, this is my European look at this subject) – but I felt that they were people with a great mission (they live on donations only) and more than that, they were loving parents for 50 adorable children. This has moved me the most and changed my mindset about orphanages.