Last month while my wife was away at a church camp, I took a short one day trip to Batam Island, an idyllic touristy island just off the coast of Singapore, about 45 minutes away by boat. It was supposed to be a group of about 5-6 of us; however that number dwindled to just 3 after some had to pull out.
For my friends, a relaxing day out at the spa and the promise of rejuvenating massages and carefree shopping was the order of the day, but I had other ideas. The first time I was in Batam was with my wife celebrating her birthday last year. I didn’t take a lot of photos of the island itself, but I did notice a rich tapestry of street life while traveling in a cab that often drove way too fast past interesting places. This time, I packed my cameras intending to spend the day documenting whatever I can find on the streets.
It was street photography day, out on the streets of a foreign country with a different culture. How could I pass up the chance?
After an early breakfast, a group of kids along the streets caught my eye. I realized that they were selling newspapers to motorists stopping at traffic junctions.
They were friendly, and though I spoke not a word of Bahasa Indonesia, and they, not a word of English, we manage to strike up a rapport – it wasn’t that hard with either the kids or their parents!
I did gesture to who I believe are their mother and probably sister (I tried to ask but language was a great barrier!) to check out what is it they are selling.
I followed them as they intercepted slowing cars stopping at the traffic lights of the road. Traffic was heavy and there were plenty of cars, but there was also plenty of rejection as well as they try to make sales. It was hard work trying to peddle the newspapers to motorists stopping for the traffic lights.
The kids did a lot of the hard work, waving and flagging down motorists and peering through the windows trying to peddle the newspapers.
One of the more touching moments of the day was when the husband of the mother came back, with packed lunch for everyone for a well deserved lunch break. Working under the scorching sun was no joke, and the returns are probably meagre compared to a more conventional job.
Despite their relatively modest means, the family is happy. I guess at the end of the day, that is what counts most. A happy family and united family in-spite of their circumstances!
I would want to go back to Batam and give them these prints!
Go on to read part 2 of this series covering another group of street kids!