By: Chris, Work-Study Volunteer Medan
My first week at the Medan center has
been a whirlwind of wonderful experiences. It’s been one week since I arrived on a red-eye flight from Tokyo, but with the amount I’ve learnt and done, it feels much longer. The cheerful co-directors here have been very welcoming. They didn’t mind helping me to settle in, training me on my tasks, and assisting me with every day needs. They’re hardworking, but the environment is very relaxed and comfortable, so I was able to feel at ease very quickly.
They even go out of their way to show me Medan and Indonesian life. We’ve gone swimming, supply shopping with some of the children, eaten street food (I love sate padang) and seen some of the touristy places, like the Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni, an Indian-built Catholic church. On our day-off, we played dress-up in traditional Indonesian garb with excited locals who wanted to have a photo-shoot with the “bule” at Maimun Palace. We then went off on an adventure by motorbike to play in waterfalls and rivers – swimming and relaxing in a hot-spring lake with some of the children from the center.
What’s great about the center here is that the children – who are enthusiastic, energetic and always smiling – are not just here for classes. They regularly come before and often stay after lessons. Some even come on the weekends when there are no classes at all, simply to hang out, which shows how important the center is to them.
Thanks to the kind housekeeper, I’ve also been able to sample all sorts of Indonesian dishes. She never fails to explain to me what I’m eating with a smile and often asks me if
I’d like to try something new. Thanks two rather persistent felines mewing for my food, meal times are noisy, but entertaining.
For the next week, I’m making it my goal to learn a few more useful Indonesian words. I’ve learnt many of the words the children and parents have used to describe how I look (they’re very interested in my face), but I’m planning on studying some words useful for every day survival.