Day 2 - Learning to barter

Trip Start Oct 31, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatera Utara,
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So we are at the end of day two, we have survived two whole days in this strange new world of ours here at the Hotel Cahaya Bulan, Medan, North Sumatra.

Today we set about finding furniture for my empty house so that we can move out of this hotel. I was hoping we'd be out by today since they came and changed the bedding this morning and I swear they just rubbed the pillowcases on the floor and put them back on, they actually look dirtier!

From what I've established so far from my limited experience shopping here is not a game for the faint of heart. If you're not one for bartering you've had it. If you're white with blonde hair you're in trouble. If your Indonesian is near to non existent you've got no hope. Basically I would have gotten equally as far walking down the street throwing my Rupiahs in the air. Luckily for me I didn't have to face the shops alone and so I left this morning armed with my one of my new Indonesian co-teachers (Elan) and the worlds best haggler (Roger), (Sophie stayed behind,
she'd heard rumour that Indonesians eat dogs and, to top it off, that they favour the ones with black hair because they taste better). My mission was to get a bed and a water cooler for as cheap as possible.

So we set off from CaSE (my school). After battling the insane Medan lunchtime traffic for around 30 minutes we arrived at our first furniture store 'My Furniture' on Setiabudi Road. Fresh faced and armed with wads of Indonesian Rupiah we stepped into the store and got down to business. The best deal she could offer (after a lot of back and forth) was 2.4million Rupiah
(240 dollars) for a mattress and bed frame. Not happy with settling for the first deal we moved on to the shop next door, the best she could do was 6 million, funny that, for the same bed! It went on like this for the rest of the day, with a stop off for lunch (seriously good!) and a bit of shopping for electronics (we both needed a phone) at Careforre, a massive department store and supermarket. Finally at around 7pm we made our decision and headed back to the first store
we'd gone into, of course, to buy a whole bedroom set (wardrobe, bedside table, mattress, dresser, bed covers, pillows and a bed frame) for 5.5million Rupiah. Nice!

The highlight of my day, though I'm slightly ashamed to admit it since it wasn't very cultural, was our trip out in the evening. Earlier on in the day whilst looking round one of the shopping malls in Medan we'd come across a kind of cinema. The way it works is that you chose a DVD from the shelf, like you would do in Blockbusters, and you hire out your own personal cinema,
complete with 8 sofa style 'rumble' seats, a blanket each , popcorn and drink. And the best part? You could also order anything you wanted from the restaurant next door and they would bring it in to you. So we settled down for an evening of Narnia 3, complete with
pizza, potato wedges and potato au gratin (seriously now, a 3rd world country has better food than Korea!!??)

It's so strange living here. On the one hand there are tiny barefooted children selling fruit, water and newspapers down the middle of the insanely busy street, people living in dirty run down old houses, and restaurants where you can get a meal for less than a dollar. There are places here I wouldn't dream of going at night and the cheapest taxis I've ever come across, there are cows tied up on the side of the road, chickens running loose all over and rats the size of Sophie. But on the other there are department stores with all the clothes shops you'd get back home (I
found a Next today mum!!), cinemas like the one I mentioned above, a better choice of western food than you'd ever find it Korea, some really fancy cars, some insanely huge houses and people living like kings and queens. As my new boss mentioned to me a while back, there seems to be no middle class here, just rich or poor. I've heard mentioned a few times now that the NGOs working over here are making a fortune, doesn't make much sense to me, but I'll let you know when I do!

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