How did a simple chat about my phone with a man–a complete stranger (see below)–lead to some crazy shopping in a busy market and then, eventually, to me taking a 17-hour overnight bus ride with him and 20 teenagers a few days later? Read on to find out!
Part I: Chatting at a Cafe
Where: Bukittinggi, West Sumatra
At the Turret Cafe in Bukittinggi, a city in West Sumatra, Indonesia.
Why: Me Having Phone Issues
I was eating Western food (which was a treat despite loving the food in the village I’d been staying in) and taking advantage of wifi (desperately needed it for tech issues.) and trying to figure out what the heck was going on with my telephone (iPhone running on an Indonesian SIM card). I had “pulsa” (credit) for the phone, but the Internet seemed to have slowed to a crawl.
How: A Simple Question About My Phone
I saw a man sitting nearby who looked nice. I’d overheard him speaking English (it was excellent) and had a good feeling about him. I asked, “Do you know anything about SIM cards?”
“Yes–do you need help?”
“Let me take a look,” he said with a friendly smile. I knew I was in good hands.
But as much as he tried, he couldn’t fix it. I asked if he knew where a Telkomsel store might be and sure enough, he did. He ended up going with me and we became fast friends.
What: Needed to Buy a Few Things
The phone problem was quickly resolved, but then I knew I needed something else. I didn’t want to push my luck, but…he–Jaka–was so nice, I thought it was OK to ask for more help. I needed to buy an external hard drive, some sandals and a small lock.
“I know exactly where we can buy those things. Come with me and it will be faster. Let’s go!”
First we went to a computer store. Then we headed for the market for the shoes and lock. It was busy and crowded and there were times where I didn’t make a quick decision or we couldn’t find what I wanted.
And know what? Jaka was really patient. More so than boyfriends I’ve had! He was so wonderful that I said–“You are probably the most patient human being I’ve ever met.” He smiled and said thanks.
And Then…The Rain Came
But then, it started to rain. Hard. And everything took longer due to people taking cover and us having to walk around the puddles that suddenly appeared. And although I got the lock easily enough, the shoes were a bit more complicated.
Still, this man–Jaka–kept his cool. I suspect that most men would not have.
At one point, he asked if we could stop for coffee. Of course, I said. And we did. It was unique (to me), by the way, because it was traditional coffee–drunk from a bowl. He said it helped cool off the coffee, which was often too hot. OK, why not?
PS: I treated him to beer that night to say thanks for helping me!
Who: Jaka, the most patient man on the planet
So who is Jaka? And why is he so darn nice? And how’d I end up on a bus with him and a bunch of teenagers a couple days later?
Well, he’s a former collections worker who’d left his job to become a tour guide. When we met, he was just starting out. Turns out his first tour was a few days later–to Lake Toba. Exactly where I was going!
Part II: Motorbiking to the Bus Station
What: Getting Info About Tickets
So, imagine this. After our shopping expedition and the rain ended, we took his motorbike over to the bus station so that I could look into the ticket situation. It wasn’t good. Not too many tickets left and I wasn’t sure exactly when I was leaving.
Two days later, there were no seats left on the bus I wanted. So…
What Else: An Invitation to Take the Bus Together
Jaka invited me to go on his tour bus–the one with the teenagers on a class trip! I was slightly hesitant, not knowing what to expect. Also, it was a 17-hour bus ride. But I said yes. He was such a nice guy and I was sure the kids would be cool. They were all from West Sumatra and the people there were super friendly.
A few days later, there I was–on the class trip. Here’s a video clip. (Note: For better quality, I think you need to click on HD. Sorry, but no time to upload to YouTube.)
Was it fun? Yes. Did I sleep much? No. Still, it was a good time. And I love how it came about–thanks to a random travel moment.
PS: I have no doubt that Jaka is now doing great as a tour guide. And I wholeheartedly recommend him. I trust him 100%, think his English is great and he’s very knowledgeable about his island, Sumatra, and Indonesia in general.
If you’re going to Bukkitingi at any point (or other parts of Sumatra) and want to get in touch with him for tour guiding, let me know and I’ll connect you. In the photo below, he’s with Roni, the man he works for/with–also super nice. If I return and need to go somewhere tricky in W. Sumatra, I’d definitely consider a tour with them. They really took care of me and made sure that I got to my hotel OK and I truly appreciate it.
Ever have something like this happen to you–a random chat leads to something else and ends up being just what you needed or just a lot of fun? If so, where were you and who was it with?
Do your travels have a lot of random moments that occur? Do you find that you end up meeting the locals this way?
If not, would you like to? I have an idea for a post re: how to meet the locals.
PS: This Story Is Mentioned on the Oprah Website
An Oprah blogger, Amy Shearn, wrote a post about my story and how about everyday miracles and how random moments can lead to unexpected journeys. It’s very cool and worth checking out. She called it The 17-Hour Indonesian-Bus-Trip Guide to Life. Click on the title to read the post. Enjoy!