Writer and Photographer: Iqbal Kusumadirezza
My name is Cucu. I work and live around the Indonesian-Chinese High-Speed Rail Project location. I own a store, or canteen, that sells necessities for daily needs such as rice and side dishes, instant foods, coffees, teas, soaps, and toiletries–basically almost everything that project labourers or workers need for living and working here.
It’s only been about three months since we (me and my husband) opened this canteen. We moved here in June, after Eid Al-Fitri. We used to own a canteen and store near SD Nugraha Elementary School. After I found out there would be a tunnel excavation project for the high-speed rail project in this village, I, almost immediately, moved here.
Many construction labourers and workers must go to the market for their foods and daily needs. I saw an opportunity to open this canteen at that time.
Since I moved my canteen here, my income has increased compared to when I was selling around SD Nugraha. When I was in SD Nugraha, my canteen income was just around Rp 2,000,000 (USD 146.31 dollars) every month. When I moved here, my canteen income rose slightly. Now I can make around Rp 3,500,000 (USD 256.04 dollars) or Rp 4,000,000 (USD 292.61 dollars) every month.
The profit is not much, but, I can still save money in the bank. Sometimes, the canteen only can make a little profit because some labourers and workers haven’t been paid their salaries yet. They often pay their bills once every two weeks during payday.
Many construction workers in this project come from China (Chinese). Most of them can’t speak Indonesian properly and rarely get along with us local people or other workers from Indonesia. There is one person among the Chinese labourers and workers who is friendly and kind to Indonesians., His name is Sutanto (an Indonesian name), but we call him Santoso. He’s been in Indonesia for almost 12 years. He used to live in Sulawesi and work on a development project.
During my stay as a canteen owner in this project area, many local people have come to this project. They are curious, especially women from villages around the project location. They want to know about the development of the Indonesian-Chinese High-Speed Rail project. Most of them come in the morning or at noon to see the tunnel construction and development. I’ve also entered the tunnel with women from villages, because we were curious to see what was inside the tunnel, but, also a little afraid. So, we entered the tunnel together when there were no construction labourers or workers inside.