Today Amin bin Karta will flood some of his paddies by damming the small dirt canals that crisscross the fields, to divert water onto his land. This irrigation permits him to harvest two crops a year. In the course of many years, Amin has managed to buy 1.4 acres of land, which he has divided in 20 petak (square partitions) bordered by the elevated ridges of the canals. But this small amount of land is not enough to meet the family’s needs and Amin also hires himself out as a farmhand. His sons-in-law have no land because there is no more land available, and they, too, must work for other farmers.


Kusnadi goes off with his 100 bebek (a type of duck) and five sheep. Unlike his brother Casdpin, he is a school dropout. His father did not question his decision. If he prefers to work, let him work,” says Amin. And he works very well. He started with just five bebek, sold their eggs, saved the money and bought more ducks. _Now his little business is prospering. Amin refuses the money Kusnadi offers him and encourages his son to invest more. Kusnadi can be seen all morning happily walking his bebek along the fields. The feathered creatures follow each other and hunt for snails.


With some trepidation, Tasem heads off to the mill to buy rice chaff to feed the animals. At the mill she walks in silently, staying close to the wall. Tasem does not have money to buy the chaff and she will offer the mill foreman eggs instead of cash. She knows he will yell at her – “Everybody wants to give me eggs, I need cash, too” – but finally he will agree. “This is the last time,” he always says. The proud Tasem would rather not go through this humiliation.


Tasem’s 19-year-old daughter, Ojok, is the only absentee. Now divorced for the third time, Ojok is away, training to work as a family maid in Saudi: Arabia. She is the only child Tasem and Amin are a little worried about. They say there are all kinds of stories about workers who have never been heard of again after going abroad.


Tasem squats in the kitchen and starts preparing food for the evening meal. With a pumpkin, ground coconut and strong peppers, she makes the accompaniment for the rice. Now there is rice and chicken and meat more and more often. It was not always so. Amin and Tasem remember the days when eating one little piece of meat was one of the great events of the year. Then the country did not even produce enough rice to feed the whole population. Amin’s sons eat better than he did, and he is proud to see them growing strong and tall.

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