Men Kamar: chatterbox, social butterfly, wheelchair recipient

Why is the lady in this picture covering up her face?  Is she sad, embarrassed, maybe angry?  We often like to show pictures of smiling people as they receive their wheelchairs.  However, to understand this one you’ll need to know a little more about Indonesian culture, and also, the lady in the wheelchair.

This is Men Kamar (Men has a similar meaning to Mama), she is a sweet lady that lives in the northern part of Bali.  Up until several years ago, she was living in the mountains on her own.  Despite her age, she diligently walked around her village selling herbal drinks that are very popular here.  Then she had an accident that left her unable to walk and was moved to the city to live with her son.  Her son is very busy, and Men Kamar would  spend many days alone in her bedroom.  Because she was so used to interacting with all the people in her village, her new situation was very difficult for her not just physically, but socially and emotionally as well.

When we first met Men Kamar, she seemed very quiet, and we all assumed she was a bit of an introvert.  However, when Ibu Kadek and Pak Nyoman seated her in the wheelchair and she began to wheel herself around her house, you could tell that she was starting to realize that life could be better.  It took less than five minutes for the transformation…  she started wheeling around, telling stories, laughing and making jokes.  It was a real privilege to see the real Men Kamar emerging from her shell.

So when we finally asked to take a picture, she tried her best to keep a straight face.  It’s important to understand that most Indonesian adults above the age of 40, especially those from more rural areas, will not smile for a formal picture.  I am not quite sure about the cultural reasons for this, but it is generally true.  They will stand straight, look directly at the camera, but rarely smile.

She completely failed in keeping a straight face.  The smile wouldn’t go away.  Men Kamar was excited about a life that included talking with her friends as they passed by the front of her house, enjoying the morning sunshine, and finally getting out of that lonely bedroom.

Thanks for helping us bring hope to people in Bali like Men Kamar.