At the Pasar Senen railway station in central Jakarta, Eko Purnomo, 26, shifts uncomfortably on the steel benches that carve up the waiting room where it is standing room only. His back against an overworked air conditioner cranked too high and his foot on a bag of clothes and bedding he’s taking to his family in Bojonegoro, Central Java, he explains why someone who makes just over US$20 a day selling meatball soup on the roadside has been waiting since before sunrise to catch a 2pm train to make the 10-hour trip home at the busiest time of the year.

It was during a trip to Egypt in 1995 when Edison Siahaan first felt that something wasn’t quite right with his throat. Four decades had gone by since he started smoking at the age of 15. His voice had been raspy for years. Maybe this was just the dry air tickling the back of his throat.