This story is from 2012 when I was a beginner traveler. My lone adventure with Obiwan in search of a working ATM was definitely one of the craziest experience of this first trip to Sumatra.
To tell this story fully, I need to backtrack to when we first landed in North Sumatra at Medan airport. At the time, it was late at night, we were stressed and scared about our safety, so we did not take out too much money at the airport ATM. We could easily find an ATM later on our journey, right? Hahaha…. wrong.
When we ran out of money a couple days later, Obiwan offered to lend us money until he could take us to an ATM (best guide ever). However, by the fourth day it was time, and of course I volunteered to take everyones debit cards, then proceeded to hop on the back of Obiwan’s tiny motorbike.
I wish I could have filmed this, but I would have fallen off. It was the first time I had ever ridden on a motorbike, and we sped through the bumpy, twisted jungle roads for 30 minutes. We swerved around oncoming traffic where road rules just didn’t seem to exist until we finally arrived at a village with a single ATM in an enclosed booth.
Obiwan waved goodbye and entered some sort of shop/cafe, leaving me alone. Every single pair of eyes in the village lingered on me. Some people waved in curiosity… Others just stared. I was an anomaly in this place.
Cautiously, I entered the ATM booth and secured the door shut. Whoa, it was hot in here. The sweat from my forehead dripped on my wallet as I pulled out 6 debit cards. One by one, I entered the cards and pulled out wads of cash so large that I could barely shove them in my pockets.
A crowd began to form outside the ATM as people curiously peeked inside. I kept my foot at the base of the door to keep people from coming in.
I had one more card to go – Katy’s. I nervously laughed to myself at the massive American flag imprinted on the card. I was a walking target.
The crowd outside the ATM was growing by the second. I had to get out of there. Finally, the ATM spit out the last wad of Indonesian currency. I didn’t have any room left in my overflowing pockets, so I just held it against my chest and shoved my way through the crowd that had gathered around me.
After retrieving Obiwan, I felt more at ease, so I began to organize all the money and debit cards. And then, my worst nightmare happened. Katy’s debit card was missing. I had left it in the ATM!
Quickly, I rushed back to the ATM with a frantic look of worry on my face. The card was gone. I had to figure out a way to cancel Katy’s card. Immediately!
But then, I felt a small finger poke me on the shoulder. I turned around, and there stood a tiny old Indonesian man with missing teeth. In his hands, he held a debit card with an American flag image imprinted on the cover.
He smiled, handed me the card, and continued on with his day.
To this day, I can’t decide if I was a bigger idiot for leaving the debit card in the ATM… or for underestimating the kindness of the wonderful people of Indonesia.
I smiled and waved goodbye to the crowds of locals as Obiwan drove us back into the jungle. And, for some reason the drive home was not nearly as scary as I remembered.