Joyce meeting with peopleIt was time to leave the island of Java and the two cities we visited, Yogyakarta and Jakarta ,and fly to Medan, Sumatra. Sumatra is the fifth most populous island in the world. It is the sixth largest island in the world with rain forests, elephants, orangutans, tigers, and active volcanoes.

In 200, when the Indian Ocean earthquake caused the tsunami that had an estimated death toll of 280,000, the people in Indonesia were not prepared. It is overwhelming when you see the videos of this horrific tragedy and see how the people had no idea what was coming.

In Sumatra, it is the beginning of the rainy season, so you see heavy rain and then it suddenly stops.  We have a rain forest not far from where we are staying; the only place in the world that has rhinos, orangutans, elephants, and tigers that inhabit the same place. We are going to  the city of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra. It is a city of approximately 2,000,000 inhabitants.

I have not talked yet about the traffic in Indonesia; when you drive through this bumper to bumper traffic, you experience cars on both sides of you about to crash.  In addition, there are more motorcycles than cars. Motorcycles are far cheaper for the citizens of Indonesia; they scoot in and out of traffic with no regard. You will see a father, mother, and baby on one motorcycle.  It is quite a traffic sight.  In heavy traffic, those motorcycles travel right by your window, up on the sidewalk, and then in front of you.  This hectic travel mess is normal. This means it took us a long time to get to the hotel to meet our colleague from the U.S. Embassy.

In the afternoon, we met with Caroline from the Consulate staff, another great person from the US Embassy. She gave us a briefing on the state of people with disabilities in Sumatra. It is far behind even the other islands. The people are still fighting for access to the basics, such as education and social inclusion. There is no built-environment access anywhere. People with disabilities in Sumatra are without employment and without hope.  In fact, there are still people with disabilities who are beggars on the street.

We are excited for our meetings tomorrow!

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