We are a Swiss-Bataknese family and run a unique boutique hotel on Samosir island. The hotel was named after Zoé, our daughter, because in Batakland is common for a family business to be named after the first child.
Zoé Deborah Hämmerli br Siallagan has been going to school in Switzerland since August 2019. Mama Zoé br Samosir is currently staying with her daughter in Switzerland, but is in daily contact with the management team.
Mama Zoé tells the story:
From Bali to Batakland
I came to Sumatra for the first time in 2006 to look for a new destination for my travel company. My travel company was specialized in cultural trips and in sustainable tourism.
Together with local organizations, I helped fund a health center in Gianyar district to offer free therapy treatments to poor local people suffering from chronic diseases. At that time there was no Government insurance and many Balinese distanced themselves from conventional medicine anyway. That gave me the idea of employing local therapists to treat these people and I financed this project with my cultural trips.
Months later .....
I was planning an individual Bali trip for a tour group. A few days before leaving, I saw an advertisement for a perfume called "Sumatra Rain" on television: There was a handsome man with long hair in the tropical rainforest and he told: "At some point you will rediscover yourself!" and I couldn't get this message out of my head and that was the beginning of everything that later happened in Sumatra ... Some call it fate, others a coincidence.....
Together with my sister, a nurse, we traveled from Bali to Sumatra and also to Batakland. In the village named Tuktuk I met a Sumatran man with long hair.... It was the son of the chief of the lunisolar calendar (named Porhalaan), and with him I began a new chapter in life. I continued with the cultural trips with my guests from Switzerland and P. Mikael helped me.
I found Sumatra refreshing and natural. Bali, on the other hand, was getting more and more crowded, which noticeably bothered me. I found the Batakland a good destination to promote sustainable tourism. The time was come to rediscover myself....
Zoé Deborah, our 'princess', was born in June 2009. She always accompanied me on my travels and we shuttled back and forth. The tour group didn't mind at all that Zoé was always with us, because she was a very pleasant baby. We even enjoyed special privileges when visiting high priests. But the time came, that Zoé had to go to school.... So I decided to give up my travel company in Switzerland and to settle down in Batakland, as Zoé always felt very happy there! But it is impossible to survive without money, so we looked for a way to make a living.
A little piece of land on the shore
I bought a small but very good piece of land in a prime lake location and built together with P. Mikael Siallagan our boutique hotel, which we opened on July 1, 2017. Zoé often said: "Our little Batak castle" and she felt like a princess.
Zoé spent the kindergarten and the first years of school in Tuktuk.
She felt very comfortable in Batakland and had a really happy time. Zoé loved the water and enjoyed swimming extensively every day. She also identified herself with the hotel and always wanted to be involved in the processes and the hotel business. It was her home that she really loved. Her paradise that bears her name!
When Zoé was 10 years old, she suddenly felt the urge to visit Switzerland again. Suddenly she missed the “Swiss” and my family, who are also part of her!
Zoé's wish was answered in life, because I became very ill due to an infection, so I was advised to seek treatment outside of Indonesia. That was enough reason for me to return home temporarily in the summer of 2019. A year was planned because that is how long my therapy would take, according to the doctor's estimate.
From the first day of school, Zoé integrated into the fourth class without any problems and I went to the nearby hospital for therapy every week. Only a little later came the next surprise: the Corona pandemic, which changed the lives of many!
Zoé, however, did not care much about the Corona pandemic! On the contrary, she even enjoyed this time and continued to go to school with full vigor and joy, while school on Samosir remained closed due to Corona. Mama Zoé, as I am called in Batakland, not only went to therapy, but also commuted back and forth between Switzerland and Sumatra during the Corona period, as far as my therapy plan and state of health allowed. Zoé continued to go to school in a good mood in Switzerland, well looked after by the family at home and in between by a childminder where she could go out to eat.
A year off in Switzerland turned into two and Zoé is no longer thinking of leaving the local school. She has made new friends and learned a lot that is not yet discussed in Batakland. With great devotion, she also learned a lot about sustainability, the environment, people as part of it and much more such as how to use tools and understand and use modern technologies. The Swiss school system with curriculum 21 seems to be made for Zoé!
We are curious to see what happens next and I will continue to commute to Sumatra as long as childcare is guaranteed.
You are probably wondering why I am not writing about P. Mikael who now has short hair and is over 45 years old. Well, he says that he doesn't want to publish his story on internet, but he like to tell his story to anyone who wants to hear it from himself during a leisurely visit to Samosir Island in the Tuktuk village with the Toba Batak People....