The next morning my friend came to pick me up. We first walked around Medan a little bit, then she took me to a taxi station and we took a taxi back to Pematang Siantar. They make it a habit in here to stuff as many people as possible into a vehicle, just like in Sri Lanka. But because I am quite tall I usually get to sit in the front, lucky me :). After about 3 hours we arrived in Pematang Siantar. I didn’t have any plans for Indonesia initially, I was just going to go there, check out where my friend lives, have her show me around her city and just go from there. Well, she did show me around….
Since I am fully TEFL certified, she introduced me to her lecturer at the Nomenssen University, and her lecturer asked me if I would like to be a judge during their public speaking examination. Off course I took that opportunity. Aside from being on the other side of the equation for a chance, it was just a good experience in general. I owed it to the students to do my best, even if they were just slacking off. Which they didn’t by the way, they tried their best, and I believe there are some very knowledgeable and intelligent people there. Sure they made mistakes, like mixing verb tenses and using incorrect verb forms (continuous/perfect tense mix up, plural/singular/pronouns etc) but nothing too bad, and you learn from your mistakes. Overall, I think they did good. They seem to share that view, because a number of them are now my friends as well.
The lecturer of the public-speaking class also happened to be a manager at a local radio station, and asked if I wanted to do an interview/help with a broadcast. Sure, why not! I met the local DJ, Mr Santoli, and he was a nice guy in general. I had a basic interview, with the same questions most people ask me when they meet me. People could call and ask me questions. A teacher at a local private school called to ask if I would like to teach an English class in her school. “Yes I would like”, so a few days later I was teaching 2 classes in the Gihon private school. It was not a very easy class. The levels were quite mixed. Some of them were of a considerable higher level than others, and it was difficult to keep everyone interested. One thing that went wrong was that I had 2 different classes. One after the other. But I thought there would be a break and then the same class would come back in. So I started to write down a schedule for all the basic verb tenses that they could copy as soon as they got back, because I noticed that was were they were really struggling with; getting the right tense form. And you can’t use the right verb tense if you don’t know what the different verb tenses are.
But anyway, I wrote it down on the board, and then another class walked in. I had no idea of their level or interests. I held a short story telling something about myself, had some of them tell a little bit about themselves to build some report, and then I had them copy the schedule from the board. While they were copying I quickly came up with some example sentences to turn into a gap fill exercise, and they finished it afterwards. Some of them were very lazy and didn’t bother to write down anything. But I started walking through the class to check, and I noticed a few of them (the ones who never wrote at all) putting their arms over their notebook. I didn’t fall for that trick, checked their notebooks, saw they didn’t copy anything, and asked their teacher to translate: “tell them politely that if they don’t start copying right now, they can get the hell out of the class.” They looked scared for a moment and started to copy. Some of the students were finished, so I asked them to write down a few of their hobbies, and then I randomly selected a few to come to the front of the class and tell us a little bit about it. I do this often, and find that people are usually quite shy to talk about either themselves or speak English in general. So I turn it into a little dialogue and this works MOST of the time. After a little while, the pieces seemed to fall into place and the ones who were previously lazy were also actively participating. Overall it was quite a cool day.
The DJ from the radio station was also a photographer and he asked if I would like to be a model for one of his photo-shoots. Sure, why not… sounded like fun. And it was. It’s not as easy as it sounds though. HINT! If you do martial art stances, don’t try to mix styles, because the result will be a mess, and people will notice.
I was also invited to a wedding, which is a time-consuming ceremony. Before we went there, we went to pray at a grave which was located deep in the bushes. We made our way through the bushes, cleared all the growth and dirt from the grave and surrounding area, and then the family started to pray. After this, we went to the wedding. I was very honored to be invited, and I noticed quite a few similarities with our ceremonies back home. It took 3 hours driving to get there, and on the way back we stopped at a small place that had hot springs, and I had a bath. If you ever have the chance, TAKE ONE! It is very revitalizing, and made all the weariness of the day go away.
Later in the same week my friend and I went to a birthday of one of her friends, and it was rather nice. One of her friends had brought her English thesis for me to take a look at, and correct some of the grammar in it. She was quite good, but there were some things she could improve on and we spend a lot of time going through it. I found out later when people started leaving that ALL her friends had brought their English homework with them, but they were too scared/shy to talk to me (“I’m sorry, I don’t speak English… ” ; Yes you do, you just did, and I know you are also in English class, so start talking :P”).
I also went to lake Toba for a weekend with my friend and some of her friends. It was fun, I met some other backpackers there with useful stories, and swam in Danau Toba.
In general I met a lot of random people who were a lot of fun, in the Siantar swimming pool, in the gym, on the street, in a shopping mall, anywhere really. Cool people are where-ever you find them. After 2 weeks, my friend had 2 weeks of examinations, so I (well, we both) figured it might be a good time for me to start backpacking Sumatera.
So I left for Bukit Lawang.