His name is Andi Kurniawan Lubis, a photographer of North Sumatran media, Analisa, which is quite popular among Medan Chinese population. Andi Lubis is quite famous photographer in Indonesia and I met him for the first time when I was going to Aceh one month after the tsunami catastrophic.
Andi was very excited when I told him I would go home, and he invited me to stop for a night or two in Medan. He is my old friend whom I was very delighted to see. He arranged everything for me once I arrived in Medan, as he said, “don’t worry on anything, bro. You are my guest in Medan.”
There was a little bit accident when I arrived there. My plane departed at 7:30 from Malaysia, so if the flight was about an hour, he thought I should arrive at 8:30 in Medan. He forgot that Medan had one hour time difference with Kuala Lumpur. I had to wait for an hour in the Medan airport, quite harassed by the aggressive taxi drivers but they couldn’t do anything as I didn’t have any Rupiah to satisfy their demand.
I was delighted to be invited to a warung, to eat again long-awaited Indonesian traditional food. Andi told me that he arranged special gathering with Medan photographers, from going for photo hunting in Batang Kuis field and photo sharing in a studio, the base camp of Medan photographers.
I noticed the difference between Indonesians and other nations was the spirit of gathering. People like to gather to share experience, to enjoy life together, to travel together, to eat together, everything together. Like old Javanese proverb says, it’s no matter whether we can eat or not, the most important thing is to be together. An interesting way of live, isn’t it?
Andi has gathered about 10 photographers from Medan and our group went to Batangkuis by motorbikes. Medan is notorious for its crazy traffic. Zigzagging through busy streets was OK. I thought I almost reached heaven for many times. But my new friends said it was normal in Medan.
I just came to Indonesia from Malaysia. Like other Indonesians there I spoke Malaysian accent and when I came to Medan it was still difficult for me to adapt back to Indonesian accent. Every time I go to another country, I need at least 2 days to be able to adapt the country’s tongue. And this rule includes my own home country with my own mother tongue. Sorry guys…, I didn’t try to be ‘Malaysian’ but it was indeed problems of changing my tongue.
Batangkuis was a green sugarcane plantation. Interestingly most people living here are Javanese. These Javanese population was brought by the Dutch colonial to develop the sugar plantation. The Sumatran people don’t want to do this kind of hard work. I reckoned some old historical references saying that the western colonial powers were always afraid of Batak people (the people of North Sumatra) because they were cannibals, and the general opinion of Sumatran people were lazy or laid-back. At the contrary, the Javanese were known as being submissive. The migration of the Javanese workers here were also intensified by Suharto who tried hard to reduce population density in Java by moving people from Java to outer islands in his transmigration program.
The arrival of Javanese workers here in Deli land (the area now North Sumatra province) was actually full of tragedy. According to http://bukuygkubaca.blogspot.com/2005/11/sejarah-kecil-petit-histoire-indonesia.html (Berjuta-juta dari Deli, Satoe Hikajat Koeli Contract (Millions from Deli, a Story of Contract Workers) by Emil W. Aulia) that these Javanese workers came to northern Sumatra because they were bullied by the Dutch colonials. The Dutch told them that in Deli there would be money trees. In fact there were only cloves, which were among the best commodities in Europe at that time. These uneducated Javanese were enthusiastic to see the money trees in Sumatra and Deli was a dreamland full of fantasy of happiness. When they arrived in Deli they saw that the money trees were only empty words of the colonials to get slaves. Their days in Sumatra were miserable as the Dutch were very mean in treating the workers. (thanks to Alaya Setya)
It was weird being here, listening to kampong Javanese boy in north Sumatra, dipping into dirty pound and screaming in very genuine Javanese tongue, while the Medan photographers were trying hard to compose this kampong boys into their frames in strong Batak accent. These boys trying hard to adapt with their limited Indonesian language vocabulary with their Javanese accent so I heard very weird, but familiar, sentences like this, “Hey, cong, kayunya jangan dipendelepin….”
I was very tired at that time that I couldn’t take any good photos during the photo hunting session. I felt very sorry to Andi who organized the meeting. At night he arranged another photographer meeting in a studio when he invited me to talk about my traveling experience. In two hours I successfully briefly recounted my 2 year journey. I wished they didn’t get bored listening to my looooong speech.