YA LEUM.28 — North Sumatra, Medan, where we found our peers

Doulgas and Us

In the previous post we said goodbye to Malaysia and stayed with two amazing couchsurfers. From Kuala Lumpur we flew directly to North Sumatra in Indonesia…

It is my first time in Indonesia. We landed directly in Medan, capital of North Sumatra. Highly populated and traffic everywhere. What a chaos!

At the airport café, two Indonesia’s found us friendly and invited us for coffee and to share our first Indonesian desert delicacies.

After leaving the airport, I had a bad feeling of the city. However, we have planned to stay with Douglas, we found him via the couchsurfing platform; so we still had a few days to go…

We hired a moto taxi to take us to his place since it did not seem easy to reach by public transport. When we were about to arrive, after crossing some chickens and an unpaved path, the taxi driver asked “Are you sure you want to stay here? I still can take you back…”

When I am about to jump to the unknown, my heart shudders lightly. Then Mathieu always looks at me with an assuring smile… to make things easier!

He dropped us off in front of a house selling coffee and other small groceries. Quickly, Douglas showed up. In a very calm tone, and friendly smile asked us to wait. Those waiting moments I always use to scan the environment and get as much information as possible. The chickens were still running around a courtyard, small houses, one after the other, with the doors open and children playing outside. The area was small, simple, but you could feel people were good there.

I understood then that was a familiar complex of houses. They all knew each other like family. There were friends, cousins, siblings, and grandparents. It was a sort of a community in the nature, but in the outskirts of a capital. All that it was new to me.

Douglas walked us to his home to introduce us to his two sisters and mother. Someone from the neighborhood showed up to greet and welcome us. It was lunch time, it was a very hot and humid day. The heat that eats your energy and peace. After the plane and the small emotional adventure, I just wanted to lay down.

We put our mat on the floor that serves as the living room in the day and room in the night. We set the fan toward us and closed our eyes.

During the day Douglas had to work, but we stayed around to prepare our trip in North Sumatra.

Later in the evening we joined Douglas family for dinner, they could not speak English but we were used to it. For us, that is not a stop to communicate and interact with them. Smiles and food speak by itself. We care about showing appreciation and gratitude to those who open the doors for us. Being around them and help, even it is just in silence, it is our way to say thank you.

Douglas always took care of us, asking often if we needed something, offering his space, his mat, food and lifts to make us to feel more comfortable. The house was simple, but filled with love and care of each other. You could see from far.

After dinner, we met outside in the courtyard with his groups of friends, also living in the same complex.

They introduce us to the most typical drink of North Sumatra — Tuak — a kind of palm wine, fermented with rice and fruits, with a high degree of alcohol. I didn’t like the tasted, but I drank the full glass. They use as a welcome drink to their guests. Mathieu enjoyed more than me.

But then, unexpectedly, Douglas took off the guitar and gifted us with his beautiful voice. I realized then where all this peaceful way of being was coming from. His friends joined singing typically Batak songs — Batak is the main culture in North Sumatra. Even me I sang a bit.

That moment was precious, and I even got emotional.

Cultures come together, barriers are just in our minds and I realized that’s why I travel for.

Mathieu and I, in a so different environment, with people we never thought we could get in contact with, living and expressing different than us, but with the same dreams.

Douglas confessed he had the dream to visit other countries, to speak English with more people and learn about new cultures. But now it was challenging because he needed to work to support the family. He, like me and Mathieu wanted to travel the world, learn more about music, sing and get to know people different from him.

We can go far, dive to furthest cultures, but when we get there, we find our peers.

It was a very insightful evening on so many levels.

To sleep, we shared the floor with his family. They kindly split part of the room with a some closets, so we could have some more privacy. On our side, was Douglas, his two sisters and the mother.

The next day, Douglas and we were called in the morning because one of the friends of the night before had an extremely serious motorbike accident.

We all went to see him, after he returned from the doctor.

What I will describe next, it touched my heart intensely.

Douglas’s friend was lying down on a mattress at home, around him were his family and friends sitting quietly on the floor. Closer relatives were around him to take care of the wound. Other motorbike ran him over and he got a deep hole and cut in his leg.

He was in extreme pain, in silence, against his pillow.

Everyone was feeling his pain too, and in silence they respected the pain and supported him with their presence.

They look at us as maybe we could find some solution for the pain. They also had doubts about the wound and what to do. I felt them lost in that moment, but they looked at me as a sign of the civilized world and knowledge.

I shared the basic I had about nursing aiming to try to bring some peace in their hearts. I gave them my compresses, and other material I was carrying for the trip. We sat with the others as a sign of support and respect.

Douglas’s friend was also worried because he could not go back to work, and he was the main source of income in the house. There was no support from anywhere, and that would mean as of that day no more money would come in.

No one made negative comments about what happened, they just respected the pain and prayed for him.

Weeks later Douglas told us he was recovering well and steady.

The time spent with Douglas was insightful and sweet. I learnt more about kindness from strangers.

When the heart feels love, yourself inside, become softer.

Douglas walked with us until the bus to say goodbye and we jumped to the bus that drove us to one of the wildest experiences of the trip…

September, 2017

Patrícia Assis



I am traveler, wanderer, believer who have a deep connection with the inner world.

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Patricia Assis

I am traveler, wanderer, believer who have a deep connection with the inner world.