November 26, 2010

Iban Women Selling Asam Paya Shoots in Lutong

It was a brilliant sunny morning as we drove towards Lutong to catch the cheapest take away Kampua Mee at the Lutong Bazaar. The bazaar is at the moment renovating its western wing and hopefully soon it will be a nicer wet market.

And sure enough people were queuing up to buy Ah Tak's newspaper wrapped noddles and eating them like a square cake....yummy and nostalgic. The ladies preparing the noodles did not want to have their photos taken as usual.

But outside under the Sea Almond tree I caught sight of a family from the Adong River who had come by boat. As it is already school holidays the mother and relatives have brought their young children along ....Their product? Natural shoots from Asam food gatherers who have not enjoyed the rapid development of Malaysia they are still encapsulated in an old time frame of boat rowing and selling stuff extracted from the jungle. All three ladies had not gone to school and in fact one of them is severely malnourished as you can see her ultra thin arm in the first photo...the children are delighted by the chopsticks and their early morning noodles.from Ah Tak's stall @ 1.30 ringgit per packet.

Assam paya tubers for sale - 3 for 2 ringgit. It has taken these ladies one whole day to cut the tubers at the ground level and then transported them by boat to Lutong from Upper Adong River . The boat ride was about 2 hours.

These ladies wear the basic clothings and one of them still wears the traditional sarong. A homemade rattan basket indicates their humble origins. A child has just fallen asleep behind the mum. Often in Sarawak the public can catch indigenous women folk wear their children's school sports shirts and thus you can immediately tell where they are from. .

It is good to see women folks attempting to make a living and scrounging for some cash so that their children can buy uniforms and school bags in the new year....These ladies have no complaints at all and they seem to accept their fate rather fatalistically. Being able to speak Iban I often win their confidence and get them to joke with me. Yes...they do get to sell their products and earn a little to make their trip to the town worthwhile.  Are their men working as hard?

Wishing these ladies blessings from the society.

(Recipes for Asam Paya Shoots...or upa Asam Payua - blanch the sliced shoots. Prepare some ikan bilis and aromatics and stir fry them. Add some toasted belacan and sliced chillies and finally add the sliced shoots Sitr fry until cooked...Another method...prepare a pot and add two bowls of water. Add aromatics and ikan bilis and some pepper and oil. Bring to the boil. When the water is boiling add the sliced shoots. The soup is excellent and that's the way I like my asam paya..which might be a bit bitter for some people...but it is truly organic....)


Ah Ngao said...

at RM1.30 per packet for noodle is really cheap . i never try before,assam paya roots - something like banana trunk core?

Anonymous said...

It is very sad that almost 50 years after Merdeka, we still have lots of people being left out of the mainstream of development!! I really hope thegovernment of the day will really do something!!

Anonymous said...

Can we teach these kids not to eat with their hands dirty? Every kind of illness started from the mouth.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...yes Ah Tak's noodles are the cheapest in Miri!

and the assam paya shoots are more like sawit shoots but a bit more bitter.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

These folks are the "unreached peat swamp people who have lived for several generations along the small rivers of Sarawak."

And because they are not "mainstream" and main town and main roadside people they are quite left behind. We still have many pockets of people like them. And of course they eventually move to the squatter areas in the cities.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

These poorkids will not learn until their parents learn...and they might be school drop outs very soon...the vicious cycle of poverty will continue. (Ref. Ungku Aziz...@1963-70)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this article...I feel so strongly about women who have to work so hard for themselves and their children. More photos please!!

For generations women have been looking after their children more then men...and now even more because the men go further away.

Example question : Why should men fight wars and women and children suffer the after effects?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Nice question. Mother Nature has been studied for centuries...a never ending story of mothers tending to their young and protecting them. The father figure seems to be in the background somewhere. Wars seem to be more prevalent today and weapons have always been more masculine...may be it is how mankind regenerate....
The Amazons seem to be held as a myth but then with men and women now being more equal women go to war too.

I agree with you that more women and children suffer the brunt of wars as usual..

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