Well here's a challenge. Most people go to Bali and learn hello, thankyou and how to order a beer. The advanced speaker can order a large or small bottle of beer! Otherwise, it's pretty easy to find someone who speaks English to help you out (for small fee of course).
Sumatra will be different. The tourist economy has slumped post Tsunami and Bali bombings, especially since the Indonesian government introduced a visa system. People who previously would have arrived with an open ticket are now forced to leave the country after 2 months to get another visa. In the old days there were no visas and people stayed for months. I guess most people now fly in to Bali or Jakarta and end up spending their 2 months exploring Java, Bali and Lombok. Getting to the more isolated places requires a return trip or some adept planning! And with cheap air travel, few people do the old overland routes anymore. The youngsters in their gapyear just want to hang out on a beach in Thailand and party party party and the older traveller is really just trying to do as much as possible in their 2-6 week vacation. I know there are still people out there who take their time, I've met some over the years and they are a real inspiration. More about them later.
I'm not expecting lots of English speaking people where I'm going so I am gonna have to learn the local lingo. I am, according to my own definition, an advanced speaker which unfortunately won't get me past the bar and onto the bus!
I've bought a Berlitz phrasebook, complete with audio CD, which is a start. I've searched the web, which is such a wonderful tool if you have about 3-4 weeks to trawl through links from all sorts of sites. My latest find is a free podcast course.
Here's the link: http://learningindonesian.com/
I'll let you know how I go with it.
As for the plans, I've found a house and dogsitter for 6 months. She's a lovely lass from Kauai who will really enjoy hanging out at my beach pad while I'm away. Haven't told work yet.
And the exercise routine is working, I've already lost 2.5kg and the hills don't seem so tough as they did 2 weeks ago!