The Jakarta Post
A middle-aged woman smiled impishly after checking out one of the tents known as bilik asmara (romance chamber) that had been provided by the North Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) for Mount Sinabung eruption evacuees near a shelter in Telagah village, Sei Bingei district, Langkat regency.
The romance chambers each measure 3-by-3 meters and are clustered together on a field around 50 meters from the evacuee shelter area.
Two such tents were also set up near a shelter located around 17 kilometers from Mt. Sinabung in Karo regency. Inside each tent there is a rubber mattress and a small cubicle used as a changing room.
The romance chambers are bright enough during the day, and at night users can get a lamp from the monitoring post located some 200 meters from the tents.
Mt. Sinabung evacuees have warmly welcomed the romance chambers, calling them useful for couples who needed some time alone.
'They are indeed suitable for couples in need of venting their sexual desire, especially after staying in the shelter for months,' evacuee Riana Sembiring, 22, said at the shelter in Telagah village on Thursday.
Asked whether she had already used the love room, Riana only smiled coyly. The mother of three said it was not ethical to say because it was a private matter.
An evacuee from Kuta Rayat, Teguh Malem Sembiring, 37, acknowledged that some married couples had made use of the rooms. 'Some couples have used them, but we, Karo people, don't speak bluntly about it,' said Malem.
Head of the Telagah village command post Teguh Kurniawan said that the BPBD had set up the romance chambers to allow married couples to carry on their sex lives while they were in the crowded shelter.
'The bilik asmara are explicitly for married couples. We never guard them but simply monitor them from the command post,' said Teguh, who also claimed that many evacuees were using the tents.
Sinabung Disaster Mitigation Media Center head Jhonson Tarigan said nearly all the evacuation shelters now had them.
Mt. Sinabung has been erupting for five months, forcing 32,303 people, or 9,978 families, to evacuate to 42 shelters. A recent eruption killed 16 people and severely injured one.
Evacuees in Telagah village claimed that they were quite happy at the shelter as the local administration had provided decent facilities. On Thursday, a number of social groups arrived at the shelter with relief aid, including rice, fish and sugar.
Teguh said all the evacuees' needs were being met at the shelter, including schooling for children. Malem said sanitation facilities, including for bathing and washing, were also satisfactory.
'For us evacuees, the facilities are more than enough. Everything is available and we are satisfied, despite staying here for months,' said Malem, who is at the shelter with his wife and three children.
He acknowledged that during a break in the eruptions, he had returned to his village to inspect his damaged house and farm.
'When I returned to my farm, some of my chili plants were still there and I harvested what I could. During the harvest season I can usually earn Rp 9 million [US$738] from 300 kilograms of chili, but this time I only obtained Rp 1 million for 45 kg of chili,' he said.
Teguh said the evacuees staying at the shelter were residents from Karo, which borders Langkat. He said they came from villages located within a 5-km radius of the volcano.
'They number 726, or 225 families, and hail from seven villages,' Teguh said on Thursday.