HOT INFO On The Road

Ben van den Anker
SE Asia: REPORT #7
Senior high school

Sep 9, Y2K Medan, Indonesia

Senior high school

After 14 horrendous hours in the bus I arrive in Bukkitinggi, a mountain town, the main street filled with bars, hotels and restaurants. This town is sometimes referred to as Kota Jam Gadung(big clock town), after its landmark, the Minangkabau-

style clock tower that overlooks the market square. I did some sightseeing, visited the panorama park, the Japanese caves and some wonderful villages around B.Tinggi. The town is too much prepared for tourists for me, so I leave after two days for Padang.

This town I like far more, no tourists at all and thus no tour selling people and western bars and restaurants. I notice that when the guidebook says; "few people linger in c" I'm sure too like that town. A mister Zakia invites me to join his English conversation class, he's a teacher at Senior High School and also has a private school for the students that wants to continue practicing their English skills outside the official classroom. He picks me up with a car that could fall apart at any moment. The students start their unavoidable giggling the moment they see me, the girls are shy at first and I can wait for the question "Are you married?" that's just unavoidable. After 15 minutes in the classroom Mr Zakia leaves me alone with them. "Huh?" is my first thought, I have to fill in one hour and 45 minutes, but it is fun. They ask about the Netherlands, the four seasons we have, religion. I did learn quit a bit about the Muslim community in Indonesia. After that I chat with some teachers, they offer me to stay at their houses. I have to explain the difference between "cold" and "cool" to a female teacher who graduated at Medan university, which surprises me a little bit. The other teachers emphasize; "She is single, you can stay at her place too!" Very friendly but I'm attached to my freedom. Some people are really friendly, two man paid my bus ticket for me in public bus which they really needn't do, people offered food in buses many times. On the other hand I've seen many rude people here, now I'm not that patient anymore. When someone has hearing problems I just advice him to visit a doctor, people listening will laugh, the one I'm talking too won't find it amusing.

A policeman asked me along the way much a flight ticket to Indonesia costs, I told him. "So you're rich! I can build a house for that money!" I explained him about the cost of living in the Netherlands, about spending a holiday in Europe or flying into Asia. After that he said "So you're rich!" They can't and won't understand, when you're white, you're rich. It's no use discussing this item, just don't talk about it!

I decided to skipped Java, I have to think about my time left. I want to spend more time in Myanmar (Burma), that's of more interest to me. I plan to go back north and go to Cambodia or southern Laos in some weeks. Hmmc I skipped something else too, the Idea to spend the second half year in South America, I will stay for some months in India from December on. I will see where my "trail of life" will lead me to. I'm looking forward to eat the "sticky rice" again in Laos, they will probably have it too in Cambodia. I remember that German guy Hermann complaining to the woman of a restaurant in Nong Khai about the ants coming out of the bowl of sticky rice; she just said "it's free, extra!" He ate it anyway. The food here is great too, lots of nasi goreng variations and the traditional "sate", but nothing beats the Thai food for me!

Back in Tuk Tuk I met a former Swiss Architect, he build himself quit a paradise here. Pizza oven, a stone bbq, pond around the Batak house full with gold fish, a big sauna, he produces his own spirits. I complimented him with his house "Ich bin Architekt, durch und durch!" Urs showed me the way to the second lake up the hill, it is a walk of five hours to reach this village. Not many tourists come here, he owns a second house here but spends most of his time in the lakeside house. The magic mushroom grows in large quantities around the house, he once gave a Swiss diplomat that left for Jakarta a breakfast of magic mushroom omelette. Later the man wrote him "It was the best breakfast I ever had!" This Urs has many stories to tell, his arms tell too of his drug addiction in younger years. He sold his company in Switzerland and retired at the age of 35, he managed to get four times arrested in Indonesia for smoking ganja, but never had to go to jail, "just bribe the policeman!' The police now told him to smoke anywhere he wants too but not in the bus or on the boat to Tuk Tuk. He shows me his foto books about his life in Switzerland, driving a impressing Ferrari, his two beautiful daughters. He seemed to have had a good life over there but for now; "I don't want to get out of here, for nothing in the world I would leave Samosir!" I think I can understand him now. He offers me arrack on my last evening at Samosir, It tastes real bad but the more you drink the less you notice; now I do know that even the natural product palm wine can give a headache!

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