American Tourist Stabbed to Death in Medan

I almost considered not making a post about this because the last thing North Sumatra needs is for people to think it’s a dangerous place to visit. A few nights ago in Medan an American tourist was killed while in a becak (pedicab) on his way to his hotel from Polonia Airport. I’ve left Polonia many times by becak with my backpack and valuables in a smaller handbag, so it could have happened at anytime to me. I have always been warned to be careful of bag snatchers. This is common in just about any city in the world you visit so I always figured if it is going to happen there isn’t much I can do to prevent it other than keeping my bags close.

In this situation it looks like the American guy tried to fight back and in doing so caused his attackers to panic and stab him. I don’t think it’s common for robbers to set out with murder on their minds but when the bag snatch turns out not to be as easy as they expected then they become unpredictable. The very fact that they didn’t even run off with his bags after they stabbed him proves that they were not in the right mind during the incident.

My opinion of Medan being a safe city hasn’t changed. Again, this could have happened in any city. It is a lesson however, that when confronted by attackers it’s best to just give up your valuables and live to breathe another day.

From the article in The Jakarta Post

American Stabbed to Death in Medan
An American citizen, Samuel Hyein, 28, was stabbed late Wednesday en route to a hotel, having just left Polonia International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra.
He bled to death while being treated at Medan’s Elisabeth Hospital, due to the injury in his right leg.
North Sumatra Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Heru Prakoso said Hyein was stabbed by two strangers riding on a motorcycle, while he was in a pedicab on his way to the hotel.
“The victim had just arrived [in Medan] at 10.30 p.m. from Malaysia on an Air Asia flight,” Heru told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
He added, “We are still trying to identify the perpetrators as well as the motives behind the stabbing, as none of his belongings were missing when the stabbing took place.”
He said three teams of detectives have been deployed to investigate the murder case.
An official from the American consulate general in North Sumatra, Kathryn Crockart, arrived to identify the victim but refused to give any comment.
“We are still awaiting the results from the police investigation, therefore we cannot make any comments yet,” the consulate general’s public affairs official, Meta Saragih, said.
Meta added that currently, they are trying to reach the victim’s family in the US.

Catholic Funeral, the Death of a Batak

I rented a moped on Saturday afternoon so I could meet the girls at the market in Tomok just a few kilometers away from Tuk Tuk. Chichey and Laura work at Samosir Cottage where I’m staying and have been really good hosts keeping me company in the evenings and helping me practice my bahasa Indonesian. After meeting for a short while I decided to head back. I ended up with a flat tire but luckily I was only a short distance from a repair shop. If you’re keeping count, this is moped 3 – Joey 0. It only cost me about $5 to fix it and I was on my way back.

When I arrived Cichey informed me that someone had just died outside of our hotel. The island of Samosir is predominantly Catholic and the community was building a church together. I was told that different families take turns working on the church because funding for it is non-existent. It’s activities like this that keep the community close together where everyone is family and everyone helps one another. Unfortunately, in a tragic event, a portion of the stone from the church fell on top of a 52 yr old man and killed him. He was brought to the clinic but there was nothing they could do. The entire vibe of Tuk Tuk had changed. I had stayed a couple of extra nights in hopes to see traditional Batak dancing and singing at the hotel but Chichey informed me that because of the death that there wouldn’t be any dancing. I could hear the wails of the mourning family members coming from their home right across the street. Tuk Tuk isn’t really much of a party town but I had been told Saturdays are usually active. This Saturday was an exception as bar owners kept their music very low and very few people went out.

Grave site

Catholic grave site

Everyone in Tuk Tuk knew the man and I passed by his home every morning. I recall his wife motioning for me to come take a look inside a few times. In Tuk Tuk most homes are also stores where the lobby is filled with art, groceries, or souvenirs. There was a large crowd gathered inside the home all day on Saturday. Everything had been cleared out of the shop and mats were placed around. The body was laid out on the floor surrounded by candles and family members praying, mourning and sitting quietly comforting eachother. The body would stay there for two days. The children of the man were in Medan so they waited for today, Sunday, to have a funeral service. When I woke up this morning I could hear the hymns and prayers familiar to me from my Catholic upbringing. It is a mixture of Batak and Catholic tradition. Normally, when someone dies of old age, the mourning would be followed by celebration and Batak dancing. In cases of an untimely, accidental death, the dancing and singing are not a part of the ceremony.

I would never wish to encounter a situation like this but it did give me a really unique insight into the way of life and tradition of a people I had not previously known anything about. This is experience that you can’t pick up from an anthropology textbook. An interesting note is that Catholics make up only 1.8% of the entire population of Indonesia.