We last left off the first week of February following our Mission trip to Manado on the island of Sulawesi to attend Church there, conduct a semi-annual financial audit, and conduct training and meet with their Young Single Adults as well as conduct a Missionary Preparation Seminar.
President Donald asked us to perform essentially the same activities in Medan in Northern Sumatera.
We flew back to Surabaya, and after a 5 hour lay-over flew on to the city of Medan, the 2nd largest city in Indonesia. After a short but comfortable night in the JW Marriott, we arose early and met our driver and guide for the next 3 days, Brother Manalu, the prior driver for the Tucker's, the Sr missionary couple who went home last year after serving 23 months.
We (by this I mean I) enjoyed a 6 hour trip through the region, passing many small and larger villages and towns, all virtually indistinguishable, much like in America where all strip malls, shopping centers and many downtown areas look like generic carbon copies. Except here, instead of Subway Sandwiches, Burger Kings, Shell gas stations and Wells Fargo banks, the food stalls, small retail shops, produce vendors, Indomarts and Alfamarts, masakan padang, tukang rambut and tukang ban all look and smell the same. The smells of fried rice and mie, smoking sate, durian and jackfruit, truck exhaust and burning fields and trash fires seem indistinguishable to me from other parts of Indonesia. Roads are dramatically inadequate and usually in poor repair, a 2-lane corridor for cars, trucks and innumerable motorcycles. They have not kept up with burgeoning population and the phenomenal increase in the number of motor vehicles in the past 40 years. This was a meclizine-trip for Sister Williams, jerky, bumpy, an assault on her vestibular system. In typical Kathy fashion, she endured it well, happy and non-complaining. Add rain and a driver who likes to pass slow-moving vehicles in the face of 18 wheels of rolling death, and it sometimes is best to just recline your seat and close your eyes and not think about crumple zones.
The difference here, however, is audible...no mesjids, no imam calls to prayer, no local boys trying to recite verses like some Moslem version of American Idol rejects. The quiet of the country-side is much noticed. This is Christian country, converted by European missionaries to the Batak tribes 150 years ago, an obvious exception to the dominant religious force in this vast country.
We passed miles of the Bridgestone rubber tree plantation, below.
Also many kilometers of palm tree plantations, pohon sawit seen below, planted as a cheap source of palm oil, widely used here. Unfortunately mostly saturated fat. When you consider that almost all food here is fried, it explains the dramatic incidence of stroke and heart attack and diabetes and very high cholesterol levels seen here. Many waistlines have increased dramatically in the past few decades in my observation.
The harvested palm seed pods, seen below, on their way to the local plant for pressing and processing.
Arriving on the shores of Lake Toba, Danau Toba, we waited a few minutes for the 50 minute ferry ride to Samosir Island. Wow, what an experience. On the ferry we saw several women picking lice out of hair. We watched naked small boys jumping off the deck and swimming along with the ship, women selling steamed peanuts and boiled eggs and telong Belanda, and boys singing for money. There were some pretty nasty smells on that ship, but some very lovely sights. Rugged mountains, green jungle, blue water, scattered villages and homes, and pretty Christian churches with high steeples dotting the landscape.
We rented a room for two nights in a semi-rustic hotel, Mas Cottages, on the shore of Danau Toba (a caldera lake very much like Crater Lake back home). The Batak-style cottage was right on the lake, maybe 15 feet from the waters edge. At night the waves lapped up against the cottage and I felt like I was back on the boat again! The solitude and peace was just what the doctor ordered (pun intended).
The swimming was wonderful. I did not jump off the boat with the little boys, and I was more fully clothed. We read, and napped, and relaxed. No Wi-fi in the cottage and no TV.
The BBQ fish we ate was freshly caught in the lake and some of the vegetables were picked from the terraced gardens in front of us after we ordered. Loved mixed fruit juice…a wonderful blend of fresh papaya, banana, pineapple and orange.
We did some sight-seeing at some island historical-cultural Batak areas (and of course Elder Williams pointed, and read every sign).
Below is the burial place of a famous Batak king.
Our driver, Brother Manalu, later that weekend to be called as the new Elders Quorum President in Medan. His wife is not a Church member, but she came to his sustaining and setting apart.
Inside one of these Batak homes. There is a cooking area in the middle of these wooden homes, small fires on a thick base of ash. Below the floor slats is a space for pigs, goats, etc.
Below is the ancient council area for the local Batak tribal leaders.
In another area is the punishment area for persons judged guilty of crimes. First he is tortured...
...and then beheaded. These photos cost me a few hundred thousand rupiahs worth of Batak souvenirs from the local historical re-enactor. He died with a smile on his face.
My beautiful companion. We so much enjoyed these two days of peace and quiet and relaxation.
We fed the local monkey population road-side.
Pasta carbonara in JW Marriott, a treat.
The Young Single Adults are clearly the life-blood of this branch, with the Branch President himself still single and only 29! Branch President Ronald Manullang, below in the middle, is truly luar biasa! The Branch Clerk, Brother Samuel, is also so faithful.
The Chinese New Year just came and went. The year of the monkey. "Gong Xi Fa Chai" is the local expression of well-wishing. Celebrated with much traditional Chinese food, red clothing, red lamps, and giving red envelopes, hongbao, filled with money by parents and grandchildren to their children of all ages. Sister Williams in line here at our BCA bank. She got 20 million Rupiah, unfortunately our own money, intended to bring with us to Manila for the Temple trip.
Below is Brother Vandi, baptized a few months ago, with their young son, wearing a traditioanl Javanese hat called a blangkon, molded from batik. Here at Sunday Church services. Behind is Sister Maria, a lovely woman. Her son, Candra, age 19 was baptized a few months ago.
Valentines Day in Indonesia. A Senior Missionary improvises as needed, simple and sincere. Valentines Day is not routinely celebrated here. A heart attack for me on my bed, accompanied by Ferrero Rocher.
For Sister Williams, Plumeria blooms and a printable card.
Lovely Hope also celebrating Valentines Day. Can't wait to snuggle and smooch in a few weeks.
Officer Lily maintaining law and order, right Annie?
Our favorite Tucson Valentines.
Love and Hugs to you all.
Grandma and Grandpa.