My kampong [village] lies in the suburbs of Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia. Densely packed in a narrow alley, it consists of more than forty houses, stacked like logs, with no gaps at all to sneak in between. A handful of residents work for the government or public schools; some run small household shops. Most residents are Muslim, except for three families who are Christian.
A handful of plants provide us with green, but just down the road scattered stores have been soaring: a big franchise department store, a gas station, banks with long rows of automatic teller machines and facilities that make us feel like a small part of growing Indonesia.
When we first moved here, it seemed ideal. There were only twelve families; they got together at events; we felt close. Communal meetings were held each month; the host would prepare snacks and even sometimes meals. If one of us were in the nearby hospital, we would usually drive together in groups to pay a visit after collecting small contributions to give the sick person. Only one lady, a convert to Islam, wore a headscarf; others only wore it when necessary: at public meetings, celebrations, or Independence Day, August 17.