Once we decided to spend Independence Day in Medan, we wanted to find a host that would take your friend Wojtek and us in… With that in mind, we both set out to send some last minute requests and hope for the best. As par my norm, I chose my favourite and sent two requests. Luckily, a few hours later I got an YES from Eva. It turned out, Wojtek had also messaged her and she was happy to take us all in.
We arrived in Medan in the afternoon, and took an Angkot to a mid point where we were meant to meet Eva. She had told us to get out at Antares Hotel, but unfortunately for us, two hotels share the same name, and we were dropped at the wrong one, and were therefore unable to find the spot we were aiming for. After exploring the area, we gave up hope and jumped into another Angkot to go directly to her house. She had told us she would be away during the day, so we were not surprised when she was not at home. Instead we approached the corner dinner and ordered some delicious spicy tempe and rice. To kill time, we decided to get drinks after our food was gone. There was something in the menu called “miracle”, and without knowing what it was, Tim ordered one. Fortunately (by miracle), they were out, because it turns out, this expensive drink is just a brand of mineral water – which would have been utterly disappointing. Time was passing though, and no sign of Eva, so we borrowed a phone from one of the waitresses and texted her. She called us back and confirmed she was delayed but was on her way, so we got our peace of mind and patiently waited, while playing hand games to the amusement of nearby kids.
Eva turned out to be a great host, with a warm heart and a big, contagious smile. Her home was nice and cozy, and we had a nice time talking that night. Wojtek arrived a bit later, to add up to the fun. We heard about the plans for the following day, when the celebrations would explode all over the city.
Around 11, we put our Indonesian shirts on, climbed onto the bikes and left the house to eat some amazing curries. Through the remaining of our journey, we could see movement all around. We even spotted the parade going about, with their beautiful and colourful traditional costumes shining on. We soon headed towards a big park brimming with people, where we left the motorcycles. On a street corner, we were introduced to some of the CS Medan people, who have become close friends thanks to this fabulous network, and loved them all instantly. After about half an hour of eating slushies and hanging out there, we climbed on a truck, that had a pile of rubbish in the middle. It turns out, a whole group of people had decided to theme these commemorations as “Independance is clean”, and were going around picking up the rubbish. I felt like a queen on the truck, waving to everybody, smiling and laughing.
We arrived in a park, where the Jong Bataks Art Festival was going on. A stage had been mounted and people were reciting poetry and delivering speeches. It was all done in Bahasa Indonesia, so we had no idea what was going on, but we could inferr from their passion and body language that they were serious artists. An hour or so later, when we were starting to get a bit fidgety, we noticed the parade participants were coming in. Turns out this park was the finishing line, so we got to take pictures with them, which was awesome. They also left some small bikes around, that we tried to ride around. There is a video of Tim on his FB page of him doing just this, I would definetely recomend it if you want to laugh. Yep, I just saw that again to make sure I wasn’t lying and I still laughed lots…
After a few hours there, we were starting to get restless, as we felt we were missing out on some of the fun. Seeing this, our friends offered to take us to another place, where some old Dutch buildings stood and there would be a band playing. On our way, we saw some kids competing to get to the top of an oiled up pole, to claim the prizes at the top. We stopped to check it out and yell some encouraging words at them. They were all covered up in grease, with their clothes destroyed from climbing on top of each other, but big grins decorated their young faces. We stood around until they got to the top a few times, though people were starting to divert their attention from the kids and focus on us instead, so we said goodbye to the crowd and continued on our way.
We arrived to this second green area, and headed towards an old, crumbling house. There we were told the story of the area, and the gloomy particulars of the house we were standing at: the Japanese had gruesomely murdered all the occupants during WW2. There were quite a few people dressed in traditional clothes in the house, and a tiny little kitten. After our tour, we were about to leave when we were presented with an award reserved for VIPs. We accepted the prize and made endless jokes about it later. What can I say besides, Indonesia is a great country for being white! Right outside the house, they were offering free coffee in small espresso cups. I accepted, because it had been a pretty exhausting day, and had a sweet pick-me-up drink. Tim… had about 10 :P.
We returned to the stage were the band was playing reggae. I don’t normally enjoy the genre much, but there was such a good vibe in the air, it was all I could do to dance around with the locals. I noticed the djembe was not in use, and told Tim to join the band, which he did for an entire song. The singer even jumped into the mosh at some point, and the spirits were high up for everybody…
There is a second old house on the same street, and we were invited to see the inside. This one is still inhabited and very well taken care of, though some of the tiles and floors are over 100 years old, which makes it a pretty unique place. Right outside, they had a chopper for display, and with Wojtek’s help we pimped me up to take a few silly pictures on top.
When we were about to leave, we noticed a crowd concentrating behind a house on the opposite side of the road. We circled the building and realized there was another oily poll thingy hidden behind, this one much taller and for grown ups to try their luck. Right at the top, cigarette boxes were the big prize. Men were definitely more pro at this than the children, some displaying strong and ripped bodies. Again, the crowds attention turned to us, but Wojtek and I just sat down on some rocks and refused to stand.. So if they wanted pics they needed to sit next to us. Tim cruised around, taking pictures and giving high fives to kids.
After a little more dancing, time came to say goodbye. We were all very tired after a day full of emotions, with raw throats from yelling MERDEKAAAAAAAAAAAA. It was an unforgettable Independance Day for sure 🙂