Adventures before noon!
So I'm in Parapat [par-a-pat]- a tourist town on the edge of Lake Toba. It was a four hour drive with a sweet gentleman by the name of John. (I'm sure that I was pronouncing it wrong). We talked via his little English and my Indonesian phrasebook. It was rough, but good. I learned a lot of new words. [Fun fact time: jalan=road, jalak=bad] The roads would give my mother a heart attack. (Mama, it's worse than Scotland, not as bumpy as Costa Rica, but as fast as Greece.) I have developed a talent for closing my eyes when it gets bad so as not to gasp or thrust my hand at the dashboard. Drivers pass each other frequently and closely, honking as a way to say 'I'm passing you now' or 'watch out' or 'I'm coming around the insanely sharp and poorly paved hairpin turn' or 'hey buddy how's it going'.
But the drive was indah [een-da: beautiful]. The mons [mons- mountains] are stunning and everywhere. It amazes me how quickly we can go from one place to another. You seem so far from this looming green mountain and then you're on the other side. Then Danau Toba [dan-you: lake] pops up. It's huge. Something like a great lake, but with Samosir [sawm-o-seer] island in the middle. I'd go there, but there has been a stupid traveler mistake that keeps me here.
So, when you go to another country there are a few incredibly important things to remember. First and foremost, you're passport. You can do nothing without it. Even when you get here, hotels will photocopy it before you get your key.
The second thing you need above everything else: currency. Guess which one I forgot to get before I left the states. Yea. Turns out my bank's credit card doesn't really work here. Even at the ATMs. (It worked in Singapore!) And people do not take Amex when you're not in a big city. When I went to check into my hotel in Parapat, my card wouldn't run, so I gave them the rest of my cash. But I only paid for one of the two nights I need to stay here.
What did I do? I Skyped with Steve, who Western Unioned me some money to Parapat. (Crazy that there is one here!) But, how does one get to the Western Union? I have an address, but there's no number and there are no peta-peta [pe-ta: maps] of Parapat. The lady in the hotel pops me on a minibus. A minibus, if you didn't know, is a minivan with no side door and benches on the sides. Also it's smaller. I felt like a giant.
The minibus drove all around, stopping at a money changers for me at the request of some lovely woman from Jakarta. (Did I mention how nice Sumatrans are? They talked to me until the had to get off for the ferry.) I kept on the bus, asking everyone where Jalan Parapat Porsea is. Then we picked up a bunch of school kids (sixth graders by my guess). They were very excited. One even tried out her English and said, "I like you". I should have asked for their photo, but I was too nervous in finding the Western Union. Now minibuses drive where ever the people in the bus need to go for 2000 rupiah. [Fun fact: it's about 9000 Rupiah to one US dollar.] However, I didn't know any of this, so before one of the ladies with a comatose child splay out in her arms left, I asked with my handy dandy phrase book. But we're driving further and further outside of town. I figured if I just stayed on the bus he'd at least have to take me back to the hotel, but he dropped her off and started back down the mountain to the city. "Miss, here" And I'm out in front of the familiar Western Union sign.
But their computer is down. They tell me I can go to the post office and they can help. Where's the post office. uh... uh... they motion to the guard who will show me the way. And he does. On his motorcycle. That's right, I got on a motorcycle on unsure roads with fearless drivers in a foreign city. Oh, with a stranger. I figured it was okay because he was in a uniform. (good logic, right?)
At the post office (unscathed) I realize I didn't get the number from Steve before I let him go back to sleep. It's 1am there. Oops. So, I'm going to call him in the morning (my morning, his night) and get that. Until then, I have no idea what will happen. Something fun I'm sure.
For now I'm safe, clean, and happy.
Ooo! A lizard!
Maaf [ma-af: sorry], it's cute and crawling on the wall. (harmless, I'm told)
Anyway, I'll report more later. Until then wish me luck with dining tonight. And figuring out how to take the bus back to Medan. Don't you love haphazard travel. I know I do.