Sunday in Medan & Binjai

Our second day in Medan was thankfully a Sunday, so we enjoyed a very lazy start which was just as well as I awoke to discover I’d lost my voice. After a refreshing mandi, a delicious breakfast of fried fish, tempeh and tofu with a spicy kecap manis sauce and a vegetable dish containing broccoli and tiny prawns delivered again by Ibu Erna Julia’s sister and husband who then sat patiently in the sitting room behind us and waited till we had finished eating before collecting up the plates, putting the left overs in the cupboard and taking the containers containing the left overs from the previous evenings meal home with them! Ibu Ana arrived about 8:30, slightly earlier than planned and Pak Pahot, running late after church commitments, arrived around 9:30. Instead of leaving straight away as we would have done in Australia, he was immediately pressed to eat something. He ate some fried tempeh dipped in sambal and then a butter sandwich! Ibu Erna then made a few more butter sandwiches and put them in a plastic container should anyone get peckish on the road. We have been constantly offered bread, bread rolls and buns and everyone is constantly amazed that we have preferred rice over bread! Hopefully we have been blowing the myth of westerners living largely on a diet of bread right out of the water. 

We all piled into Pak Pahots car for a tour of Medan’s icons. Our first stop was Cemara, to see the herons, cranes and other migratory birds which apparently come all  the way from India to nest and raise their chicks before flying off to Australia.  

 As we have yet to have any access to the internet, we haven’t been able to discover anything more about this phenomena. Being Sunday morning, there were several families with young children looking out at the birds in the trees, feeding the huge catfish  

 and carp in the swamp at the base of the trees or enjoying the scary thrill of looking at enormous pythons in cages.  

 It was a beautifully calm place to be in with the bonus was that being beneath huge tree canopies, it was very cool. We were watching a boy feeding the pigeons when suddenly 2 enormous buckets of writhing baby catfish were lugged down to a ramp and then released by a Buddhist family into the water. They then bought several packets of food which the younger members of the family scattered into the water and a few fish young fish braved the competition to eat. 

This bird sanctuary fortunately is situated right next door to an enormous Buddhist Temple 

  and across the road from an absolutely enormous brand new school which has only just opened. We walked up the stairs out of Medan’s heat and humidity into a beautifully cool and calm atmosphere. Lots of people of all religions were inside enjoying the peace and quiet.  


 Some were sitting, some were walking around and out the front were families with young children enjoying a safe & open space for youngsters to play or ride their bikes in. It was a space that I would use constantly if I lived in Medan. It was a true oasis in a frantic city. We reluctantly left the calm and coolness to head back to the car. 

Our next destination was the crocodile farm where there were hundreds of crocodiles in small concrete pens. 

It was a bit of a shock and I was happy we were only there a short time. Towards the back were more cages similar to the ones found at the Animal Welfare League. In one was a friendly golden retriever who wagged his tail hopefully while lying with his nose resting on the horizontal bars of his cage. Next to him was another dog curled up in the back of the cage. The next cages had huge pythons and the final cage was the one that brought tears to my eyes. A distressed monkey who was so miserable he was biting his feet. He looked so sad, I had to walk away. I’ve found that to speak to Indonesians about my distress only draws attention to the animal so I’ve learnt to walk away and say nothing.

Our next stop was Ibu Elizawati’s house for lunch. What a feast we were served yet the highlight was the rujak.  

 This was made from grated mango, grated pineapple, shaved ice and chili. It was so refreshing that we each had seconds. The main meal was delicious – her urap was in particular was yummy. Unlike the urap I’ve had previously enjoyed, the coconut topping was quite brown. To finish up after lunch, we enjoyed another glass of teh kawat – a tea made from leaves picked recently. It was one of the nicest cups of tea I’ve ever tasted. 

As were all sitting around the table feeling the lethargy that comes after eating a large midday meal, saying how nice it was that we could rest when suddenly Ibu Eliza’s husband was called to the door. We learned later that the governing council had arranged an outing for us to learn from the two gentlemen below  about a variety of jambu that is cultivated and maintained by a co-op.  

 While we moved slowly to get in the car, it was an outing that we all thoroughly enjoyed. The jambu are known locally as jambu madu (honey jambu) because they are as sweet as honey when ripe however as the word ‘madu’ relates directly to bees, they had to choose another name to market the fruit. The chose jambu deli hijau. ‘Deli’ because they are grown in an area which many years ago was the kingdom of Deli and ‘hijau’ because when ripe, they are a lovely shade of green. Learning about the horticultural aspects related to this variety of fruit was fascinating. All trees were heavily pruned to keep the height of the trees low so that harvesting is manageable. Each tree is potted so that watering and fertilizing can be monitored. ; 

 Trees are watered by hand twice a day and each tree receives 3-4 litres of water each time. The fruit is covered in a plastic bag to protect the fruit from what sounded like a variety of fruit fly As they fruit all year round and fruit prolifically, they are a good cash crop. We were also invited to try one and it was delicious. Very sweet, crunchy like a pear, and shaped like one too.

After this we were invited to look at the garden of one of gentlemen. It was the most amazing garden I have ever seen. As neighbours sold their land, he bought it and now his garden is enormous and includes a huge glass house in which were hundreds of jambu cuttings growing in perfectly controlled conditions. He also has a huge collection of birds, both in sheds and outside in cages including turkeys and chooks. Towards the back of the garden was an area for creating goat food. The grass was sliced thinly and then put in large plastic barrels with probiotics and vitamins to ferment down to mush similar to silage. As we were heading back to the car, the owner of this amazing garden asked if we were also interested in visiting a local primary school and learning about their recycling program.We jumped at the chance and so we all piled into the cars and headed off. On the way, a group of young men were weighing palm oil bunches. We stopped so that Marg and I could photograph the bunches. 



  I wanted to hold one up but thankfully was warned in time not to touch the bunches as they had huge spikes amongst the berries. It was brilliant being able to photograph bunches of palm berries up close. They are a brilliant colour aren’t they!

The drive to the primary school was a long one but well worth it. Waiting for us were several staff members who had come in at short notice on a Sunday (their only day off) to meet us and explain about the programs they run. Can’t imagine this happening in Australia! What an amazing school! Because of the connection with the man who grows jambu trees, the school has many trees and plants growing around the buildings and it was so cool under the trees. Quite a contrast to other schools we have visited here which are largely asphalt and concrete. We were taken into the staff room where we were shown various items all made from recycled materials. There were beautiful large containers made from rolled newspaper strips, aprons and bags made from coffee packets as well as key rings made from bottle tops. Impressive isn’t it!  

Then it was home to Ibu Eliza’s for a snack – durian!!  


 Margaret was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to try it and not surprisingly loved it. 

Dinner that night was mie rebus at the pasar malam. Mie rebus was a plate of noodles in a peanut sauce with a thin swirl of tomato sauce and a large dollop of green sambal.  


   It was an interesting combination of flavours. After eating, we headed home straight away as it was already quite late and we had an early start the next morning to get to school as Ibu Elizawati lives in Binjai, a city located east of Medan. 



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