Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finishing from Lake Toba (this

When last we left our intrepid adventurer, I was on the roadside cliff with a strange man named Samuel, who had just convinced me that I needed to join him to hear his band.  He also offers, again, that a tour of some traditional Batak houses, a waterfall and a botanical garden. 200,000 Rupiah. No, I say. Too much. He goes down to 150 and I agree because I really want to see Batak houses.

Samuel and I fly back to my hotel and switch to a taxi, which is occupied with two other younger gentlemen: Robin and Andros. They are the rest of his band. The saxophonist and drummer. Right. 

The four of us are zooming up the mountainside to the Batak houses. I learn on the way, that Samuel has a girlfriend in LA, Robin and Andros are both single, but in Batak region, dating is acceptable until marriage.  This is brought up in conversation in between the three of them off-key belting the lyrics to a Bon Jovi song I don't know. And "I lay you down, in bed of roses..." Over and over and over. Great.

The Batak houses are incredible. Over 300 years old I'm told. Carved wood, detailed paintings in white against a dark wood and when you enter, the temperature drops at least 10 degrees. The main floor is used for the living space and the upper floor is food storage, underneath is where the livestock is kept. It's difficult to grasp how impressive they are until you are next to this massive wooden structure that's held together that long. The women there were selling some woven cloth, but I hadn't brought enough rupiah, which was a complete shame, because it was some of the nicest handiwork I've seen. (Ma, Judy Chicago would have benefited from their work.)

Shortly, I was being swept up into the car again. To the botanical garden and waterfall. Frankly, I could have skipped it, but the guys were very excited to go swimming. I did my best to convince them that I couldn't swim and was afraid of drowning. Na, Na, we'll keep you safe. You not drown with us. Right.

The 'botanical garden' was a very sweet older gentleman's idea of identifying and preserving the local flora and fauna. It was sweet, but anti-climatic. Maybe I'm jaded, but though it was beautiful, I was just too busy brushing off advances from the 'band'. I have quite a few photos of them, because they kept grabbing my camera and taking photos of me with Samuel. Or me with Robin. Or with Andros. As the photos progress you can tell I am getting more and more uncomfortable. Not only do they wrap their arms around me, but I am about a foot taller than them, so I'm hunched over, grimacing.

The waterfall was pretty, but, again jaded, it was just a waterfall to me and I was not getting in past my ankles, despite 'the band's' best efforts.

Skip ahead to where they ask if I want to try some local moonshine. (yes I do) We get to the place and I see my father's worried face in my head and realize that this is a horrible idea. Down right terrible. I had two things going for me at that moment. One: I can drink. I can drink a decent amount and I'm nearly positive I can out drink all three of this guys. Two: The place appears to be closed and I am able to catch Samuel before he makes the phone call to get the shop owner.

Skip ahead to dinner.
I've prepaid for a special BBQ'd fish dinner. Lake Toba fish. Nula. Like carp I'm told. I'm excited. Fish here is incredible and I'm geeked to have it made locally by locals the local way from a local source. (Beat that Food Co-op-tree-hugging-localivore movement! [Disregard the 32hrs of travel it took to get here.]) And you know what? The fish was incredible. Truly delicious. Bbq'd straight out of the lake, The whole thing. Head, tail and fins. Covered in chili sauce, served with a large bed of rice and some steamed tapioca leaves. So good. Except for the company. Oh what, you think my day of Samuel is over? You're so silly. It's only 9pm. There are three more hours of Samuel and they are the most uncomfortable yet.

It's hearing his 'band' play. Do you notice how I keep putting the word band in parenthesis? Yea? That's because his 'band', I come to find out, is going to a small town karaoke bar that has instruments so you can sing and play along with your favorite American songs from 5-20 years ago. But let me back up a second.
I have agreed to buy the guys beers. Despite the level of annoying they have reached, there have been glimpses of amazing. Fresh pineapple from an old woman with a machete. Batak houses. Incredible fish and now I get to see the people Parapat in their natural environment. And really, the bir (beer:beer) isn't expensive. So I order four. One for each of us. They are a bit shocked. Keep in mind that a bottle of beer is twice the bottles we know in the US. Usually they are shared between two people, but frankly, I could use a whole one and as I've mentioned I'm just about positive that I can out drink them. (I'm of Polish heritage, I lived in the UP for six years and I believe in night caps. I'm good here.)

Turns out, I can out drink them. I finish my beer ages before them and they keep putting ice in their mugs. Ice! I know, I know. Culturally sensitivity, but ice? You know, I suppose I wasn't drinking it, so.... Anyway after a few hour of awful karaoke, brushing off advances and sitting without a beer, I'm done. Really done. If you haven't seen me when I've quit, you might not understand, but I turn into what Gauri calls Dragon Bitch Lady. I pretty much demanded to be taken home and that any more contact with my flesh was unwanted. They got it and took me back to my hotel. Before my release, Samuel gave the good ole Parapat try and leaned in for a kiss.

It was a replay of the time my high school freshman boyfriend tried to slip me tongue. I blurted "No" and ran off.

Worst night of sleep yet.

The next day he apologised and I was off to Medan on the longest taxi ride ever.

More in a bit.

Anya Out.

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