Day: 27

Distance covered: 4,549 km (2,827 miles)

Subjects found: 10

Time is running short. 

Marinho and I have spent 54 of the past 65 hours on buses, bouncing through the Sumatra jungle where many of the roads are hardly deserving of the name. We’ve been racing the clock and our fast-expiring visas to get here, to the harbour city of Dumai. We’ll be shipping out to Malaysia in the morning. 

Yesterday, in that eleven-hour break between buses, we found our tenth subject, and had a lovely little surprise. 

Our search brought us to Padang, a city on the west coast of Sumatra, where in 2008 I photographed this little boy. 

In 2009, Padang was shattered by an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, with over a thousand fatalities in the area. My brother Nick returned to assist those affected by the quake and, even today, many buildings still bear traces of the damage.

I’d already noted that our first seventeen subjects, by chance, are all male. Then Marinho and I went looking for this little boy, and found a little girl instead. 

Her name is Dian and she’s nine years old, the fourth of five children. Her mother operates one of dozens of small kiosks selling food and drink above Padang beach, where the first photograph was taken. Dian’s father works several hours away and comes back to the family every two weeks or so, whenever he has money for the bus. 

Dian still remembers the day of the quake. Her mother went scrambling through the rubble of the town bazaar searching for her, hysterical, not realising Dian was still there on the beach. She hopes Dian will be a doctor someday. 

Dian still wears her hair short, still has beautiful eyes, and still loves the camera. There are now ten subjects we’ve found here in Indonesia, which is more than we expected, and a nice round number to end our first month on the road. 

Dian is the most remote of all our subjects, more than a thousand kilometres from our last subject, and more than a thousand kilometres before our next. Tomorrow we’ll cross the straits to the mainland and begin our journey north, into the heart of Southeast Asia. 

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