Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Street Child - What's a Sweet Boy Like You Doing in a Sleazy Place Like This?

At, Aida Greenbury has written about a street child she encountered in a bar in Jakarta.

Ocil is a shoeshine boy.

He left school and his hometown when he was eight. He started his career as a train sweeper.

"I used to ask the passengers if they wanted me to clean the floor between their seats. You know, in economy class trains, people sleep on the floor so they can stretch out. They usually gave me about a hundred Rupiah (about one US cent) in return. It wasn’t a lot – but enough to survive on. I used to sleep in the toilet cabin and the train’s waiters gave me some water and leftover food. I basically lived on a train that went between Surabaya and Jakarta back and forth."

Ocil sends some of the money he earns to his mother who lives in the countryside.

Ocil lives in a cardboard box. His clothes get stolen very often.

He lives in an area linked to prostitution and drugs, but he has a ‘protector’.

"Reno, my protector, he’s the head of all the gangsters in Blok M Plaza. He’s in charge of that area – the Plaza itself is as large as 50 hectares of paddy field."

Ocil works as a shoeshine boy from two in the afternoon until sometimes three o’clock in the morning.

"Some foreigners don’t even have the heart to give more than 500 Rupiah after I worked so hard for half an hour to clean their muddy shoes. But my worst experience was when I mistakenly used black polish on a customer’s brown shoes. I apologised of course, but he still threw his shoes at me and call me stupid I don’t know how many thousand times".

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