Friday, February 19, 2010

Medan, Indonesia

After waiting over an hour for a bus--I was told that a bus leaves every 20 minutes--I settled for a mini-van bus. The ride to Medan was ridiculously uncomfortable. Shocker. Moving on...

The plan was to make it to Medan and to get in contact with Andi, my CouchSurfing host. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do this, as I only had his phone number and no phone. I told myself I'd figure it out once I made it there. And once I made it to Medan's bus station I walked across the street and gestured to a random local girl if I could use her cell phone. She kindly let me use it and I called Andi. Due to the high noise level around the bus station I couldn't hear Andi that well, so he text messaged the info (in Indonesian) that I needed to get to his place. The girl whose phone I borrowed read the text and directed me to the proper shuttle. Problem solved.

Andi was still at work so he had his friend, Thiaz, who lives across the street, accommodate me when Andi was unavailable. Thiaz was an extremely gracious host who immediately made me feel at home, and offered me some Indonesian pastries and tea. He was accompanied by his friend, David, an Iranian. David, who spoke very little English, tried to explain to me how he ended up in Indonesia. From what I could gather, he had attempted, twice, to enter Australia illegally and was deported to Indonesia where he now lives with his wife and son at a UN refugee camp. After tirelessly attempting to understand his story, which was difficult due to the language barrier, I gave up.

Andi and Thiaz are part of a large CouchSurfing community in Medan and have frequent social gatherings. Once Andi's friends got word I was in town they came over and took me out. The CS gang--Dewi, SiSi, Kalvin aka DeeJay, Fenny and Adam (who we would refer to as Adam #2)--were extremely nice people. This was humanity at its best. They all had quite diverse backgrounds as well, with differing ethnicities and religions. When the topic of religion was brought up (by me) I found myself in the presence of a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and an agnostic. "Where am I?" I thought. I loved it. I brought up that I'd never been to a Sikh Temple and would love to see one. DeeJay, who is a Sikh, said his temple is the largest Sikh Temple in southeast Asia and that he could arranged a tour for everyone. Sounded great!

Later I would meet Andi at dinner. He had the physical build of Rambo and aspirations to join the military. He has quite the work ethic, too. He works all through the night and attends school during the day, and still manages to squeeze in his workouts to maintain his Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque physique. Basically, when he is spending time with me and other CSers he's sacrificing his sleep. I told him that he's a machine!

The CS crew love to take pictures and after we finished eating, we must have taken hundreds of them. Even our waiters, who, I might add, were ladyboys, joined in on our photo taking extravaganza. Afterwards, Andi and I went back to his house where I would sleep.

The next day I hung out with Andi, going to the barbershop, Internet cafe, gym, etc. Andi really went out of his way to make sure that I was having a good time--what a guy. Later that night we met the CSers at the mall where we would see the movie "Sherlock Holmes." The movie was played in English with Indonesian subtitles. Apparently in Indonesia when you buy a movie ticket you are assigned a seat. This was a completely foreign concept to me. I was wondering why everyone was looking at me crazy every time I suggested that we'd leave in order to get a good seat. It was great arriving the movie theatre knowing that you had a reserved seat. Why don't we do this in the U.S.?

The next day was the big day, where we would see the largest Sikh Temple in southeast Asia. The entire CS gang attended. Before we entered the temple, both men and women had to remove their shoes and cover their heads. Oh, and before I continue, I would just like to say that I really loved DeeJay's shirt which said, "Green Your Mind." I loved it. Especially since my email address says "freeurmind..." I want that shirt DeeJay! Okay, moving on...
Once inside DeeJay gathered us around and explained his religion to us. Soon after, one of the temple's high ranking religious leaders arrived and allowed us to take a few photos with him. I don't think he spoke one word but his facial expressions spoke thousands. Just take a look at the picture. Later the head Sikh of the temple gave a nice Q&A about Sikhism. This guy looked like on of the villains straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. He was tall and massive, with a full beard, large rings, and a turban. I definitely could envision him kicking some serious ass on horseback, swinging one of those ginormous swords that they carry. Unfortunately in Indonesia it's illegal to carry a life-size sword so they are reduced to carry little keyring swords--so emasculating! I would have loved to have seen one of the swords harnessed from his side. I don't have a picture of him but this picture of the painting should suffice.

The next day I sadly had to leave. I had a plane to catch leaving for Phuket, Thailand (and only for only $16! Hurray for AirAsia!). Andi and the CS gang really made my trip in Medan enjoyable. Thank you all for restoring my faith in CourchSurfing!!!

Next stop: Phuket, Thailand

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