The USAID road, a multimillion dollar foreign-aid physical contraction, was built in Aceh in the years following the 2004 tsunami to increase economic growth, improve mobility and communication, and create opportunities for local employment.

Six years after the internationally monitored Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and the Indonesian government, and seven years after the devastating tsunami off the coast of Sumatra, I traveled on "Aceh US-Indonesia 1," the rebuilt west coast highway funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This is a story that investigates the intersection of physical devastation from a natural disaster and social deconstruction from 30 years of civil war and violence. On a very basic level, reconstruction encompasses the recovery and rebuilding the physical damage that is outwardly visible. On a deeper level, the concept of reconstruction includes rebuilding the intangible: society. Can these two forms of reconstruction occur at the same time? Can a massive act of physical reconstruction spur social healing in the aftermath of conflict?

I have featured a selection of images from my project below (Masters Thesis at Boston University). Full thesis available upon request. All images © Jill Foley, not to be reproduced without request.

Hasbi lives in the village of Saneuy outside Lhoong, and makes his living as a small-scale farmer. He lives in a post-tsunami foreign-aid (World Vision) built house on a small plot of land with durian and rambutan trees, among other crops. "What I want to do is stay a farmer and leave this as an inheritance for my grandchildren," he says. "Yes, I will preserve it. I will hold onto it like people preserve antiques, antique things... that's what I'll leave them as an inheritance, even if those antique things don't have any value." During the time of the conflict, it was much safer to be out to sea as a fisherman. After the tsunami struck, and his first wife was killed in the disaster, he moved inland and became a farmer.

A fishing boat, perhaps like Hasbi's, virtually undamaged by the tsunami itself except for a few nail pops in the hull, rests atop neighborhood houses in Banda Aceh, one kilometer inland from where it was pushed from its original location. The boat saved over 50 people during the tsunami. Every year on the anniversary of the tsunami, the survivors who escaped the wave on the boat return to the site as an act of solidarity. The site is now a private memorial, complete with an observation deck and trashcans.

A tsunami evacuation sign from the humanitarian organization, World Vision, posted in a Banda Aceh neighborhood.

The new divided highway with guardrails can be seen on the left, slightly elevated and a safe distance from the ocean. Cows graze in the brush between the new highway and the remains of the parallel overgrown old road, which can be seen on the right side of the frame. The old road, where it remains visible, now hugs the Indian Ocean coastline.

"I've used the USAID road," Hasbi says, "if I have to go to Banda Aceh, I've used the USAID road. But I'd rather use the government [old] road. If we use the USAID road and we don't have the tax sticker on the motorbike, we'll get arrested. If you get arrested, the fine is a hundred and fifty thousand (rupiah, approximately $15 USD)." A farmer like Hasbi, if caught without the tax sticker, would likely not be able to pay the fine. Rules such as this one have limited the usefulness of the road for poorer Acehnese. A husband and wife pull up outside the road office in their old Chevy pickup truck. The man is a local subsistence farmer, and is selling plants, clams and eels. He thinks his life has improved since the creation of the new road. He says he only needs to pay a police tax now when traveling, instead of one to the GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and one to the military.

A woman in a village near the USAID road in Aceh, Indonesia rests in the doorway of an old wooden house, even though her family did receive a new "World Vision House" as part of the post-tsunami aid efforts of 2004. If possible, the villagers try to take their afternoon naps in any surviving wood structures, as they are much cooler than the aid-built concrete houses with metal roofs.

A woman shows the local palm sap sugar her family makes in their home in a village near the USAID built road in Aceh, Indonesia. She says that the USAID road allows them to take their processed sugar to market in Banda Aceh faster without the use of a middleman, but that the road also enables sugar from other new entities to compete. Larger sugar distributers can now compete in Banda Aceh, thus rendering local palm sugar distributors not as profitable.

A woman who sells dried fish by the side of the USAID road in Aceh, Indonesia near the Indian Ocean coast remembers that she and her husband saw the sea recede prior to the tsunami wave in 2004. They had enough time to run across the road and halfway up a nearby hillside to escape the wall of water. Her business is better now because of the road, she says.

A man sells bundles of strong-smelling durian fruit along the mountainous stretch of road in Aceh, Indonesia. He sells a bundle (about five fruits) for 75,000 rupiah or approximately 8 US dollars. He says his lifestyle hasn't been changed at all by the USAID road.

The head of a village near Calang, Aceh, Indonesia, who calls himself Ibrahim Islam, shows his physical scars from the conflict to onlookers in a community shelter. Indonesian Army personnel accused him of sheltering rebels, and shot him in the back. He said he'd seen people burned alive. He believes things are better for his village now as a result of wealth from local mining. He says that community members now have enough money to buy motorbikes to transport their goods to town on the road, and no longer have to go on foot.

A woman rides on the back of a motorcycle on the way into Banda Aceh, Indonesia from the USAID west coast road in the evening to break the Ramadan fast. Stalls with coconut water and fruit juice mixtures are starting to be set up on the periphery of the road for the fast-breaking. The corner of the billboard in the upper right reads, “I want it, I get it.” One Acehnese town banned women from straddling motorcycles in early 2013.