Hearsay

Trip Start Oct 31, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatera Utara,
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So it's been a week and a half here in Medan and I seem to be over the worst of the dreaded Rendang Runs! I started work on Monday by hitching up my nice, new, first-day-at-work
skirt for a 45 minute journey on the back of my bosses motorbike to our sister school Chandra Kusuma.

Before I came here to Medan I'd heard that the roads were terrible and that traffic was bad, but nothing compared me for how terrible or bad they were. To sum it up and give you the picture follow these simple instructions: First take a load of random vehicles, cars, minibuses, becaks, vans (the more beaten up the better) and put them on the road in random places, don't worry if they are on the wrong side. Second fill any spaces you have left with motorcycles, don't leave any gaps! Third, give them all a horn and have them press it every 3 seconds. Fourth, take
a sledge hammer and bash as many big holes in the road as you can, fill these holes with muddy water so no one can tell how deep they are (make some extra deep for added effect). Five sprinkle with chickens, dust, grit and pedestrians. You can add traffic lights if you like, but don't expect anyone to notice them. It may also be effective to tell everyone that the can only look forward, checking of mirrors is strictly prohibited! Then press play and watch the madness unfold. I don't understand how after a week and half, the only accident I've seen is some guy pulling the front bumper off his car by trying to drive over a large concrete brick. I've seen kids,
easily younger than 11, driving motorcycles and have heard rumour of some of our 14/15 year old students having driving licences and cars (you can get anything at a price here). My co-workers say that the streets have gotten much busier recently since they introduced payment by finance on new vehicles, now anyone can get a car, provided they are willing to pay for the rest of their lives for it. 

Another rumour I've heard whilst being here is that the shoeless kids on the sides of the roads selling newspapers and begging are actually orphans who have been taken in by the Mafia and sent out to work. I've had this urge since I got here to start some kind of free evening class for kids like these to help them get an education. I have no idea how to go about getting them
into the school, or whether my boss would go for it, but watch this space. If I tell you now you can nudge me later!

I've heard that there are no government run schools here, or any kind of national curriculum. Parents who can afford it will send their kids to school, those who can't don't.  I imagine that the quality of the schooling would depend on how much a parent could afford to pay. It's also starting to dawn on me that Medan is the capital city of Sumatra. I mean I knew this all along,
but I've started to wonder now how people live outside of this huge great mass of a city. I'm itching to get on a bike, brave the roads and see what Sumatra has to offer!

So far I've heard rumours of all these places I'll have to visit:

  • Lake Toba, largest volcanic lake
    in the world, just an hour and a half away from here.
  • An alligator 'park' just down the
    road where you can pay 3 dollars to feed a live chicken to feed the
    alligators. ( I use the term park loosely, I've heard they are
    more than likely there to be made into handbags and belts rather than
    to relax by the pool!)
  • Bukit Lawang the orangutan reserve
    where tourists can take a jungle trek and meet the monkeys.

Finally I leave you with 'Birds Nest Soup. Have you heard of it?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird's_nest_soup

Well on my way to work recently I noticed a street with a nosier than average bird population. I
looked up at check out what birds could be making such a racket and couldn't see a single sparrow. My boss, noticing my confusion, went on to inform me about 'Birds Nest Soup'. Which, according to Wikipedia is one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with a kilogram of red nests costing up to $10,000 USD. Here in this street in Medan I guess they were trying to produce it, and so to attract the birds to nest in the rafters, sound recorders were playing bird noise.

It's a crazy world out there!

P.S
Can you p.s on a Blog? Who knows. But if you are interested in Indonesia, I watched a film last night called 'The Year of Living Dangerously' with Mel Gibson. Its an older film, but it's good, check it out.  
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