In 1970 Miss Mona was asked by the Methodist Church and in particular Rev Brinks to "try" to start a Girls' Brigade Company in Sibu since she had all the right criteria of becoming a leader for young girls in Sibu. She had then been in Sibu/Bukit Lan for five years.
She is the fourth from the left. They are wearing the original white leaders' uniform symbolic of purity.
She went to the Methodist School to see the Principal about getting girls for the GB and about 70 came for the first meeting!! This was how keen the school girls were then! And from that time onwards there was no looking back for GB. It grew and grew and grew stronger. Today it is still growing stronger after 40 years...
Miss Mona and her friends of 40 years and more at the Girls' Brigade Concert on Saturday 19th June 2010 in Sibu's Dewan Suarah.
As we reminisced together it is really remarkable how she can remember so many special episodes of her life in Bukit Lan and Sibu. I have selected ten to share with you.
1. She ran the mobile clinic . She had a longboat with an outboard engine. She had Iban language training before she worked for the Bukit Lan Clinic. She travelled to Bawang Assan and the Tutus and Igan.
2. She met Dr. Hii King Lien who was an exceptionally fair Poh Duiong or Kapitan and well loved by the people of "24 acres" and Bukit Lan. Dr. Hii was such a gentleman and he would always make sure that she had "three servings/three chopsticks of every dish that was served" at a Chinese meal...by the time the 5th dish came out Miss Mona was really too full...
3. She learned the term " meng meng kian" (Foochow version of Selamat Jalan) which she remembers till today. She walked all the time from house to house for her "home visitation". Today we do not often use this term. But foochows may say to each other " Say Ni sei chia...drive slowly" as a form of bidding each other farewell.
4. As the only medical person around she was even asked to treat animals. One animal treated by her was an older boar (Male pig) which had been spared or neutered but he had gone septic and the family wanted to save the animal for its meat. She decided to give the huge animal a heavy dosage of penicillin. She had to go into the pig sty to give the injection. It was actually quite dangerous but luckily the animal was too weak and sick. It grew better the next day and she gave another heavy dosage and this time through the wooden slats of the pig sty. The boar got well and I believe that was the only Foochow male pig that had ever been cured by pencillin in the history of Rajang Valley!!
5. Two Iban babies were born together and one looked as if it was not going to survive when she arrived to check them. The second one looked very very strong and healthy. A week later when she came for more follow up the weaker baby had survived with her medication and her instructions of cleaning the umbilical cord were followed. The second one had just died because the family had used "ash" to protect the umbilical cord. The cord had gone septic and the baby died . She was very sad very sad about its death till today.These were the medical situations of those days in the countryside. Lives were saved and lost!
6. During the Communist Insurgency in 1972 and thereabouts a helipad was built right in front of her clinic by the army. The officers put up camp there. The soldiers camped by the river side and the officers themselves billeted in Mr. Wiant's quarters up on the hill. One evening Miss Mona invited a few of the officers and the church leaders for a meal to ease the tension. It was quite a remarkably good social evening actually. She remembers that one high officer was really strict and not a single smile was ever on his face. But the others were amicable. Not long after that Miss Mona left Bukit Lan because of all the curfew and the special tension.
7. She remembers Mrs. Wiltshire and some girls making scrambled eggs for Easter Sunrise Service in the Methodist School Football field. She overhead the remark " Many of us Foochow girls don't drink milk!" She was worried that the scrambled eggs which were made with some milk might upset the Foochow girls' stomach! But then nothing happened and she was glad. She was so careful and caring. We must have made scrambled eggs from 100 eggs! (I know one of my cousins who until now does not drink milk and eat butter. She was one of them at the service)
8. Once she had to sit at the back of a bicycle with a very small man because they had to reach his home to deliver a baby!! That was very very exciting for her! She could have run with her bag but the man insisted on her sitting at the back of the bicycle. In Foochow this is called "lumpang".
9. The villagers all called her Mona Shu Gu a good Foochow term for Miss Missionary. We call a priest Sing Hu (Father) and a pastor Muk Shu. I am afraid I have not used the term Shu Gu for a long time. A missionary or evangelist is called a Tuong Doh or Chuan Chiau. Linguistically we are evolving too. I may have to refer to Wong Meng Lei for consultancy here.
10. She remembers dipping her feet into an egg jar to wash her feet before going upstairs to the living room whenever she visited homes. It was the then practice. Then the owner of the home would serve her a glass of hot Milo with a raw egg as a symbol of warm Foochow welcome. She would politely "swallow" the egg.
This is actually the famous Foochow Egg Nog made with hot Milo. For a long time I have been wondering who invented this recipe.
Miss Mona has captured a lot of hearts while she was here in Sibu . She has such a bubbly and inspiring character: never too quick to judge and always so caring and supportive in her uniquely "Mona - ways"
More photos to follow...
Photos by Steve Ling.