National Geographic : 1971 Jan
and 100 pounds of rice per month in one of the government bureaus. He had only one wife; he could not have supported a second. "But these are not the poorest people," said Kumar. "Here they live in houses and eat enough. The very poor are not so lucky." He showed them to me, the very poor, liv ing beside small ditches under plastic sheets laid over frames of sticks, or under roadside trees. A woman combed another's hair. "She is looking for little animals," he said. The houseless men wandered the streets, looking for work or collecting things. Any things at all: splinters of glass or crockery, bits of plastic, of wood, of metal. No tin cans littered Djakarta's back alleys; cans have value. Men use magnets to fish for iron scrap in the canals. Small boys collect old wet cigarette butts. "What happens to these houseless people when it rains?" I asked. "They stand on porches of people who have houses. Sometimes this is permitted. In such cases, they will not take anything." "There really are two populations here," said David J. Levin, Publications Officer at the United States Embassy, "those who live in the houses, and those who live in front of them. And yet, things are better than they were, because now there's hope."