Danua Toba New Year’s Revisited

Room With a ViewI’ll be leaving Lake Toba tomorrow, early and won’t be near a computer for a few days. But I wanted to leave you all with my best memory of Toba: New Year’s Eve.

From my travel journal:

“Yesterday was a good way to end 2008. I didn’t do much–had breakfast at my guesthouse, wrote, went up to Samosir Cottages to check my email, read some Thucydides, and then roused myself up–some how finding a hidden store of energy–and went to the bookstore. I bought two new books: The Walled Orchard, by Tom Holt, which is a comic retelling of the Peloponnesian War and Gates of Rome, by Conn Iggulden, about the early life of Julius Ceasar.

“I then returned to my guesthouse, had fresh lake fish fried up for me by ‘Mom,’ as we all call her. I talked with Raphael and Mari a bit and then went down to my room to watch the lake. Around 9pm Raphael came down to gather something from his room and encouraged me to come up, as Ricky and Michael and a few other friends had arrived. (I’m not a big New Year’s celebrater, as most have turned out very lousily.) But I relented and I am glad I did. I joined the revelry–sang songs, had a beer, sang some more–I’ve learned quite a few Batak songs–and generally bullshitted around until the old year turned into the new.

“I do believe it was the best New Year’s I’ve ever had, even better than the one from 1989-90. Now that was a night to remember! I had no expectations this year to be let down. There was no pressure from a wife or a girlfriend, or friends in general. Just new friends enjoying each other’s company, all in love with Lake Toba and the Batak people and all thrilled just to be exactly where they were the moment it the bells rang out across the lake. Jo-jo, Antonio, Raphael, Mari, ‘Mom,’ Ricky, Michael, the French family with the gorgeous sixteen year old daughter (if I were the father I would be watching her like a hawk) and several others whose names escape me all toasted in the New Year together. A magical highlight to two magical weeks.”

The next afternoon I wrote this:

“The first miracle of the New Year has arrived. Rain. Rain like I have never seen it. Rain falling on the surface of the lake, like a boiling cauldron, and a gray wall blankets everything. Visibility is less than 40 meters. It comes in waves, like the ocean, intensifying and then relenting. The cycles begins again. It’s so loud I can barely hear myself think over the soothing sounds it makes, falling on the broad banana tree leaves and the corrugated iron roofs.”

I could look out, as I sit here and type, at this view every day for the rest of my life–and a long one it will be–and not grow tired of the sight. To the spit of land jutting into the waters to the north, the high green mountains, the cascading waterfall, the villages lining the lakeside, the rice paddies, the volcano rising in the far north, usually obscured by clouds, children climbing in fruit trees, the drifting clouds, the dramatic sunsets and the perfectly formed palm tree to my right I have grown to love.

We all dream of places where we find peace. Places that inhabit our souls, places seemingly unreachable, if only in our dreams. I’ve found mine. And for that I give thanks.

And as for that whisper on the wind, I finally learned what I was saying today. It says with a kind, gentle, firmness, “you’ll be back.”

Yes, I will.

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