Musik Kota Medan
It was difficult to decide what to write about next. Indonesia has so far been full of many oddities and strange experiences, so I think I’d like to give some more specifics about the sounds of the city, and maybe tell you a story or two.
Medan is a constant cacophony of honking horns, traffic whistles, revving motorcycles, and sung prayers. The streets seem full of urgency, churning and bubbling with an almost constant flow of traffic; it’s not exactly paradise for a pedestrian, but I’ve found that Asian cities rarely are. Off the main roads, it’s becaks (sort of like a buggy attached to the side of a motorbike — Indonesia’s version of the tuk-tuk or rickshaw) and bicycles galore, not to mention mobile food carts advertising nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie ayam (noodles with chicken), and that wretchedly popular SE Asian snack, durian pancakes. In quieter neighborhoods, one can often hear the calls of a variety of exotic finches and lorikeets, swallows, jays, wood pigeons and, if you’re really lucky, a myna bird.
Last night, I was in the middle of a dream in which I was recording some music and in the middle of that an absolutely massive clap of thunder crashed right overhead and disrupted the recording. In my dream I couldn’t BELIEVE how loud the sound had been, and I immediately called my brother to listen to this recording of this insanely loud thunderclap. I awoke from the dream when a second GIGANTIC crash sounded over the top of my bedroom, because there was in real life a huge, torrential thunderstorm going on at 3 o’clock in the morning. I have never heard thunder this loud, ever. Also, the lightning is so dramatic that I could see the flashes with my eyes closed lying in a room with the shade (okay, a sheet) drawn.
Indonesia is presently in the middle of the “dry” season, which basically means there is marginally less rain than in the “wet” season, and the torrential downpours usually happen between 8 and 10 pm rather than during the afternoon. Last weekend, which was 4 days in celebration of the beginning of Ramadhan, I had the pleasure of staying at my dear friend (and boss)’s house, and spent nearly every evening sitting out on the covered back veranda of their house with a beer to unwind the day. Inevitably the clouds would roll in around 7 or 8 pm, and usually while I sat there I would at some point be in utter darkness as the electricity tends to go out quite a bit, especially when lightning is hitting the neighborhood transformers (I saw this one of the evenings), and I would sit and watch the lightning flash across the sky and listen as the thunder rumbled first in the distance, then came crashing in overhead, before finally fading out to be replaced by the haunting drone of the muezzins singing prayers from the nearby mosques. The whole thing was terribly beautiful in an eery, ethereal way.
Another sound to which I am slowly becoming accustomed: The call of “Hey miss!” Everyone from schoolchildren to bus drivers to bankers says this. I am greeted this way without fail every time I see one of my students, fellow teachers, or our housemaid. I found it really odd at first, especially since it extends to referring everyone by their title this way (for example, I work with a Miss Maria and a Miss Irma) and I still think it’s weird that when a colleague wants my attention, it’s “Miss?” I’m never clear to whom anyone is speaking.
I briefly mentioned this before, but my housing is provided courtesy of the school and is therefore a room in a ballet studio which is also run by the woman who is the director of our school. It’s an odd sort of living arrangement, not least because there are ballet classes going pretty much constantly from about 1pm to 6 or 7 at night, even on weekends; so my room is, during waking hours, seldom free of the thumping of many small feet to the muffled clinkings and clankings of the studio’s pianos.
So that’s kind of what Medan sounds like, so far. I think this weekend I’ll try and delve into telling you about the school, which has definitely been the most rewarding part of life here so far. And how.