RUSUN MARUNDA, Jakarta–I grew up in east Tennessee where food is love and the Farmer’s Almanac is mandatory reading. A deep-rooted love for digging in the dirt and watching a seed transform to seedling to fruit is something I carry with me always. So when I came across Pak Bambang diligently tending to his garden outside of Block C in Rusun Marunda, I had to stop.
CG: Are those chili peppers?
PB: Iya, different kinds of chilis… some very hot. Too much for you, ya? [laughs]
CG: [laughing] Probably. What else are you growing?
PB: Oh, many things. Cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, some grasses for spice and salad. I have also planted some palms, but they are small for now.
CG: Do you sell the produce?
PB: No. It is just for us… for my family and whoever needs it. We must take care of each other here. It is not so easy to make enough money for food sometimes… too far from the city. I like to work outside when I am home and it helps everyone. I have asked the government for better soil, but they haven’t provided any. The soil here is not so good.. thick and wet, like clay… and there is too much water on the ground sometimes for the plants. It takes time to rebuild it with compost, but it is worth the effort. They (the plants) are like children, you know? They are life.
Christina Geros, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is a designer, researcher, and educator whose project gives voice to the communities of the Ciliwung River through an interactive website mapping stories that expose the relationships between urbanism, ecology, and politics.