Today was a day unlike any I have ever experienced. Words can not explain the warmth I feel in my heart for the people here in Northern Sumatra.
After only two full days of teaching, Brady and I were invited to the 10th birthday party of one of our students.
The welcoming nature of the Sumatran people is unparalleled. It took everything in me to hold back tears of pure joy and appreciation for what I was able to be a part of today.
The Journey To Bohorok
Everyday we are taken by tuktuk to the Soban School by our driver, Amin. In the short time we have known him, he has opened his arms and welcomed us as family.
We always look forward to seeing his warm smile as he asks us “Happy Happy?”. We climb into the tuktuk and we begin the 20 min journey from Bukit Lawang to Bohorok.
As we pass through the small villages he points out the many tropical fruits and beautiful landmarks that make Nothern Sumatra so unique.
He explained to us that he has never gone to school, yet his English is amazing. He says everything with a smile and only wishes to share the beauty of the place he calls home with us.
When we arrive at the school he waits several hours while we teach.
Today we arrived at the school and we were immediately whisked away to a home two doors down where one of our students was having her 10th birthday party.
I was instantly flooded with an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for the hospitality of the villagers.
Rifa, the birthday girl, was decked out head to toe. She wore a creamsicle orange dress and a flower crown, deeming her birthday princess.
Her cake was beautiful and fit only for the most special of days.
When Rifa blew out her candles we were able to witness an authentic birthday tradition. Rifa fed each of her parents a piece of her cake and then her parents did the same for her.
After, they looked to Brady and I and asked us to stand. Rifa walked over and fed us each a bite of her birthday cake, something meant to be shared with family.
I was in awe at how welcomed we were and how eager they were to include us in the festivities.
I don’t think it is often that a tourist is granted the opportunity to have such a genuine experience and it is truly something I will never forget.
If you follow me on Instagram then you have seen the many pictures we have taken over the past few days. It has been quite a productive week. But, of course with all the birthday festivities in swing, we could not bore the kids with lesson plans.
Instead, we played games and danced until we were all burnt out on the sugar high.
Hearing the giggles of joy from the kids as they bounced the balloons in the air and sang to “Decpacito” warmed my heart unlike anything else could.
In full party spirit we thought it a great opportunity to teach the kids the “Chacha Slide”!
After the 4 minute dance concluded we all retired to the floor to eat the fried rice we had received as a party favor at Rifa’s party.
Unless you’ve had the pleasure of being here, I doubt you have ever had fried rice like the Nasi Goreng here in Indonesia. In all of its delectable glory and spice, it has to be one of my favorite things I have ever tasted.
And to be so lucky to have it cooked in the home of one of our students was truly a foodie experience for the books.
The Journey Back to Bukit Lawang
When we climbed back in to Amin’s tuktuk he smiled once again and asked “Happy Happy?”.
We assured him we were having the best time and he then asked if we would join him at his home for coffee.
Of course, this is the type of thing we came here for. To meet the local people and develop real relationships. So we accepted his offer and we were on our way.
When we arrived to Amin’s he brought us to a small compound of traditional Sumatran homes located just off the river.
He explained that his whole family lived in the compound.
He introduced us to everyone, starting with his wife’s mother and father who were working tirelessly on splitting bamboo.
He told us that this is a very common job for Indonesian villagers. They travel over 50 km to get the bamboo and then work for hours splitting them into small strands when they return home. A days work rendering less than 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah a day ($1.39 usd).
To put that in perspective, Brady and I spend an average of 80,000 rupiah on one meal.
Regardless of their means, Amin and his wife invited us into their home and made us fresh Sumatran coffee.
And if you know anything about coffee, you know we are in one of the coffee capitals of the world!
It wasn’t long before word got out that American tourist were in the small village. A site many of the villagers have never seen.
We were greeted by children and elders alike, using what English skills they had to welcome us to their village.
Brady and I practiced the little Bahasa Indonesia we have learned so far whilst speaking with the villagers.
I have always loved languages and had a knack for learning them so I was happy to receive compliments on my Bahasa skills.
The ambiguous nature of my appearance allows me to blend most places I go so I find it important to learn some of the native language where-ever I am .
Brady on the other hand towers over most and his blue eyes and pointy nose are quite the site for the young ladies here. So he is able to rely more on charm!
I am sure its fun for them to hear someone so different in appearance, like Brady speak the native tongue.
And it was apparent that they greatly appreciated our efforts.
As we finished up our coffee, Amin and his wife asked if we would come back on Friday so they could cook for us and take us tubing down the river.
We were so pleased to receive the invitation and look very forward to learning to cook with the native spices!
Amin dropped us off after the coffee and we could barely prepare for bed because were so excited about the day we had.
Nothing in my life thus far can compare to what I experienced today. It is truly up there as one of my favorite days ever and I think I speak for Brady when I say it was one of his favorites as well.
Thank you so much to everyone who supports us in our dream of traveling this planet and fostering relationships all over the world. We are truly blessed to have the opportunities we do! As always, thank you for reading and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about getting involved with volunteering in Sumatra!