Utomo is a forty-seven year old man who lives in Gladah, East Java, Indonesia. He is a former sulfur miner. He used to wake up around midnight every day to walk four kilometers to a turquoise-colored acidic crater lake. He would break off chunks of sulfur, load them into baskets, and carry them to Paltuding Valley. At first, he carried 170 pounds of sulfur chunks on his back because a carrying trolley would cost 200 dollars, and he could not afford to buy one.
After one year and a half working as a miner, he had saved enough money to buy a trolley, but his back was permanently damaged: He developed two softball-sized lumps on his upper back and suffered from chronic back pain. Sometimes the pain was so unbearable that he could not sleep at night. The mine itself was a dangerous place: The temperature was more than 100° F, and the air was full of toxic sulfur gases. He didn’t have a gas mask and used a simple cloth to protect his mouth and nose against the deadly gases. Utomo worked twelve hours a day for fourteen years until his health dramatically deteriorated and he could no longer walk up and down to the crater. But Utomo never complained. He thanked God every day for being alive. Many miners with whom Utomo had worked for many years passed away.
After Utomo was no longer able to work as a miner, he opened a small fruit stand on the crater’s bottom, selling fruit and drinks to tourists. He sits at the fruit stand and watches the sunlight filling the sky over the crater and clouds passing slowly, making their way to Mount Merapi. People stop by, buy fruit or drink and say a few words to him. He always smiles and says thank you after every transaction… And then the sun goes down. Utomo packs everything into a small bag, cleans the table, and slowly walks to his house. He wakes up early the next morning and comes to this place again.