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Ibu Sopiah, Rice Cake Seller | by DMahendra
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Ibu Sopiah, Rice Cake Seller

Let me introduce you to Ibu Sopiah, a struggling street vendor at the Bogor train station.


Once you get to hear her stories, it becomes repetitive: She, and many others like her comes to the station on foot to sell a bag full of rice cakes.


When other women at her age are preparing breakfast for their family at the break of dawn or sipping tea on the front porch in the morning, she prepares herself to catch the first wave of commuters at the station bound for Jakarta .


She shrugged her shoulder when I ask permission to photograph her “I am not pretty” she said with a faint smile. I took several shots, but I think this one comes out the best.


Sopiah – like many Indonesian who has only one name – always comes prepared with the typical sets of property: a flask to keep hot water, a belt of instant coffee sachets, a jar of sugar, and a large plastic bag of rice cakes. She never forgets to bring along a handful of chili pepper – for her customers who like to have their rice cakes extra spicy.


She told me that she lives just north of the station, near a market. “Every afternoon, I come back again to sell fried bananas and cassavas” she added. fried bananas is a favorite snack among Indonesian.


She didn't say much about her children or her husband's work. “I make just enough money for my family” she claims of the money she brings home every day. When I guess a value ($10), she quickly shook her head “oh no, not that much.” But from the way she dresses, it looks like she is well off compared with the others.


I can’t imagine how she and her family could cover basic health, education cost and other living expenses even with her husband probably working. Her family is essentially trying to struggle to live on a day-by-day basis – not knowing what the future lies for them.


The Bogor train station is a magnet for people like Sopiah. Street vendors, porters, pushers and beggars take up what little space they have to earn a living. A few bucks a day can go a long way.

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Taken on November 29, 2008