Scenes in Medan I

Jalan Listrik – where we live for the moment.

The area of Medan we know best after three weeks is the small street our hotel/apartment is on – Jalan Listrik. It’s an elbow of a street jutting out to the east and north from a major thoroughfare. This is looking out are window, facing southeast. There are two large complexes directly next to us we believe are massive homes, and there are other (not quite as) large homes on the opposite side of the street. Where the bend in this elbow street occurs is the Columbia Asia hospital, one of several large hospitals we’ve seen around town. If you look carefully at the photo or enlarge it some, you might notice the dome of a mosque tucked behind the office building just south of the row of homes. We clearly hear the Muslim calls to prayer five times a day from the loudspeakers there. We can usually also here similar calls from other nearby mosques in other directions.

Hidden by the trees on the opposite side of the street from the hospital is a row of street vendor stalls. We haven’t tried the food at them (yet), but there are a variety of options and they’re always busy – perhaps with friends and family of patients at the hospital. Some of them are also the equivalent of less formal 7-11s and you can buy basic items there. Since our family has been dealing with a round of sickness these past few days the kids were able to go down and buy a popular electrolyte drink (Pocari Sweat) at one of the stalls. I was impressed to hear the price was almost half of what I had paid for the same size drinks at an Indomaret earlier in the week. Indomarets are more directly analagous to American corner convenience stores like 7-11 or Circle K.

Behind the row of houses and the hospital across the street a river/stream cuts through. Heavy rains over last weekend have caused sporadic flooding in different areas of the city. While Google claims one such area is directly next to us, I haven’t personally witnessed any flooding (thankfully!).

If you were able to turn your gaze from the photo 180 degrees (and see through the walls of our building!) you’d see a series of high-rise complexes as we’re literally in the heart of downtown Medan. There’s a lot of traffic into the early morning hours and on the weekends that traffic noise can get very loud as motorcyclists apparently show off down the main drags. While our temporary home is more than adequate, we look forward to finding something a bit out of the main downtown area and on a smaller street where there might be less traffic.

Whenever we go anywhere in town, we are met by stares. Westerners are rare in this town not known as a tourist hub. Some stare, others smile. As we’re walking we’ll sometimes hear the beep of a car or a moped followed by Hey Mister or the equivalent. A smile and a wave back invariably brings a smile of delight to whomever called out to us. We’re slowly getting used to being the center of attention wherever we go – at least briefly.

Yesterday Mika & Caedmon and I ventured out on a walk and stopped for a cool drink in a small cafe. We heard a loud, rhythmic drumming coming up the street but couldn’t see the source. Eventually a man appeared outside the cafe, followed by two other men dressed in a Chinese-style dragon costume. They were making their way down the street performing for whomever would pause to watch – and for whomever they thought might give them a few coins for their efforts. As soon as the leader saw us sitting in the cafe they made a beeline for us. We definitely stick out as the non-locals and therefore as perhaps more susceptible to either being impressed or feeling guilty at not tipping their erstwhile performance.

They performed for several minutes and truthfully, they more than earned the few cents worth I gave them. We would have preferred to observe unobtrusively but this is not an option here. Shopkeepers on the street or at the mall call out to us. After finishing a purchase in a store there’s a good chance the shopkeeper will ask us for a selfie with him. It’s strange and different and I’m grateful our family is flexible and relaxed and can handle this sort of attention despite our more introverted natures!

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