Pepe and The Flying Balloon is our Fifth illustrated edition this year. I created this piece after Tulisan’s workshop at Kampus Diakonia Modern. It is a place full of hope and inspiration for the children of the streets. I highly recommend for anyone to visit KDM. They appreciate your contributions and volunteering efforts. Find out more at

I hope you enjoy this new story. Triple kisses, Melissa Sunjaya


Once upon a time, there were two little mice who lived an adventurous life in the heart of Jakarta. Hiro and his wife Sur had always been a hard working and courageous duo. No matter how tiny they were, both their hearts were set in rescuing the abandoned children of the streets. Sometimes they slept under the rooftops of big houses, where they could steal some foods for these children. Other times they spent the nights in a clothing factory, where Sur would sew little scarfs from the left over materials. But of all the places they had trotted, they spent most time under a bridge of the vintage train station at Kota – the old town – where about twenty to thirty neglected kids sought shelters for the night. It had a nasty and damp atmosphere, but under this bridge was where they experienced the deepest emotion of humanity. As the children slept, Hiro would discreetly wrap their neck with the scarf that Sur made and placed the food next to them. None of the kids ever found out who their secret guardians truly were.

Many nameless children with mysterious stories came to this dark corner. After a while, some would leave where destiny took them next. A few suffered tragic ends. One day, a shaved head child came limping to this place. The dark, thin, and flat chest body suggested that it was a boy. Yet, starring deep into the child’s large almond eyes, Sur knew this poor soul was a little girl. Her expression buried a mix of rage, fear, and long sorrow; but her eyes held the burning flame of Srikandi’s spirit – an ancient Javanese warrior goddess. Acting like an angry boy was her means to survive the abuse and violence of the streets. It seemed that she had been running for hours from something. Her lips were pale and cold. Her body was shaking from exhaustion. She fell into a deep sleep inside the torn packing box Hiro got from the factory. There was an intensity on her face, and Sur fell in love with the girl’s fighting spirit.

Sur sat down next to her and started to sew a tiny doll while humming an enchanting lullaby. This loving mouse had a miraculous power when she sewed. Every stitch she made was performed with a solemn wish for the child. As she completed the doll, there was a falling star from the blue sky above them. It broke into tiny fireflies which came glowing around this wishful doll and blessed it with a smile. Sur named this doll ‘Pepe’ after the label printed on the box in which the little girl slept. When she carefully put the doll inside the child’s embrace, an air of joy filled the girl’s face as if she had just entered a magnificent dream. The cluster of fireflies twinkled above this girl and lit an image of what seemed to be her dream.

In her dream, this little girl found herself running through a mystical forest. She was wearing a long cotton dress with huge bouganvillea flowers painted on it. There, she met Pepe – a sparkling and witty doll with a warm human heart. Pepe loved jazz and played trumpet like any other crazy musician. The music he played casted a spell that turn some dreams into reality. He listened to her stories and made her laughed, something that she had not been feeling for a long time.

The little girl gave Pepe a big hug and said, “I have been chasing the horizon endlessly, running from the monsters that kept haunting me. Destiny has brought me to you, so that for a few minutes of my life I could discover warmth and tenderness. Please take me away from this dark place so I can stop running. I wish to fly and be in a world where I can stop pretending and be my true self.”

Pepe held her hand and looked deep into her teary eyes. As he whistled a melancholic melody, a striped balloon magically appeared. She climbed and sat on top of it as it slowly raised to the sky. With a small kite to navigate the balloon, they followed the wind which carried them from the dark forest, passed the mountains, above the cities’ sky scrappers, and through the clouds. From up above, she saw people living different lives. Some enjoyed a more fortunate moments, while many others had to face a more traumatic and challenging fate than hers. Yet, even the fortunate ones felt lonely and suffered deeply in their soul for they chose to see their lives from only one point of view. She found that she could paint her life in any colors she wished and draw her own horizons without having to reach out for them. Sorrow and monsters existed only in her minds, not in her reality. It all depended on how she would look at them. And now seeing it from a new perspective, she felt better.

She was on the top of her universe when Pepe gave her a sudden warm kiss, flew away and disappeared behind the moon. Her funny valentine was nowhere to be seen. The balloon drifted down at a speed she could not control, her breath was thin and the world was again a fearful place. She collected the remaining courage that she had, took a deep breath, and slid away from the top of the balloon. Her white cotton dress served as a parachute so that she could gracefully make her landing. As she touched the ground, the little girl woke up from her sleep and found herself holding unto the little Pepe doll that lied in her embrace.



My daughter Miya contributed her sketch for this edition. I used her flower doodle as part of the bouganville flower print on the little girl’s dress.

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