January 30, 2011

Chinese New Year Greetings

This is a painting by Roberta Baird.
 May I wish all my followers and readers a Happy and Meaningful Year of the Rabbit......
May peace and harmony be yours and your loved ones.
May fair winds set your sails
May friendship warm your days

And may ties bind strongly and values upheld.......amongst the younger generation.......

And may your home resound with laughter

January 29, 2011

Deputy Prime Minister "I am Malu."

I am glad that the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia - Datuk Muhyiddin made a statement regarding the state of the roads in Limbang!!

He was embarrassed!! Hadn't the government spent millions on infrastructure he asked? And yet on a recent visit to the borderlands of Brunei and Limbang he was "quite shocked". He found something quite unexpected. What did he expect? Probably good roads like in West Malaysia. Why was he not informed of the poor conditions of the roads?

I have taken some photos last year...and the years before...These photos tell you something.....

Vehicles queuing up at the Brunei and Limbang Border. In the past we waited like for five hours. He was right when he said it.
Typical road leading to settlements in Limbang and Lawas - dirt road built by the longhouse people themselves. Pantu palms line the roads. This means that settlements have been around for a long time and these gravel roads were actually made by the long house dwellers' efforts using rented bull dozers.

Here's a "good road" provided by the timber company - to link the longhouse access roads to the main roads to Limbang in Ulu Medamit. It is likely if there was no timber company here the longhouses might not even be linked by rough roads. For three of four generations the Ibans and others like the Kayans and Bisayas have been using the Limbang river and its tributaries. Now that petrol is so expensive many have even reverted back to human muscles. My own father in law would have to pay 160 ringgit per boat trip return from his long house to another longhouse for a wedding recently. But thank goodness he can use a motor bike like this guy above. However it would be hazarduous because of the heavy timber truck traffic here.

Part of Medamit "town" and timber yard "look" which can be seen from the timber road.

Part of the timber road. We do take risks but we are grateful to the "company".

4 wheel to be released of its rough road gear.....see how small these roads are!! 4 wheelers are the only way to travel on the rough paths and timber roads. However Kancils and Kembaras do make their way gracefully....and sometimes they "gallop". fun really if you are used to this kind of life. For at the end of the day you can feast on all the wild jungle vegetables. Amongst the food gatherers wild vegetables are plentiful. Wild meat is a thing of the past. Most longhouses have freezers and so the most common food is frozen chicken wings which now cost RM12.00 per kg in the ulu. Eating gold?

Will the roads in Ulu Limbang be better after the Deputy Prime Minister's visit? Hope promises would not be broken.

January 28, 2011

The Alcoholic Drink from Ijok Palm of Borneo

During the festive seasons amongst the Ibans and Dayaks of Borneo you might just be served with a special concoction which is freshly brewed from the Ijok Palm. You would be very lucky indeed to be offered a glass because it is not a common drink like the tuak. It is also not easily obtainable unless the longhouse farm has its own ijok palms and some skilled brewers are still alive!!

The Dutch call this palm the aren palm and the Germans know it as zuker palm. In English is known as the sugar or Gomuti palm.

In Iban it is known as Ijok (pronounced Ee Juok). The lethal concoction is called ai ijok (the "i" requires a sudden stop at the end so it can go like "aikk" ..however the kk is not exploded - linguistically).

The seeds of the ijok palm.

These "scaffolding" are signs of "ijok tapping".

The Ijok tree is native to Borneo. It is found in the various divisions of Sarawak and along many of the valleys of the tributaries of the Kapuas in Kalimantan.

Ibans in particular and Dayaks in general have the skill of tapping the Ijok tree to extract a latex like sap from the palm early in the morning . This sap is processed to make an alcoholic drink called "ai ijok" or ijok water. This is very much like toddy or the tuak (a rice wine). Someone has compared the ai ijok to the Mackintosh of rice wine.

The photos above were taken in Kalimantan Barat in the vicinity of a longhouse. It was the first time I had a close encounter with Ijok Tree Tapping. The Ibans here produce both the Ai Ijok and Gula Ijok for sale. Also some scientists have been studying the ijok sap as a possible source of a cure for diabetes.
Apparently according to locals many diabetic people who take gula ijok have been known to have no negative side effects. Diabetes is not a common disease amongst the Dayaks in rural Kalimantan.

Lubok Antu in Sarawak is the best source of Gula Ijok. There are several shops selling this organic palm sugar @ RM 8.50 per kg. It is value for money really. Great with pulut!! (I will feature photos of the gula ijok in another post!!)

In both Sarawak and Kalimantan the ijok is a very useful plant to the Ibans besides providing an excellent alcoholic drink its fibers for example has been used for generations as cordage to bind things together. It is so strong that  the villager’s use it to hold together bridges, houses and even floorings. It is useful in mat making too.

And I do hope that whatever wonderful scientific findings may result the Borneoan peoples would only be the benefactors as much as in the past centuries when they have had enjoyed the alcoholic drinks and the organic sugar.

January 24, 2011

On the Shoulders of a GOOD DAD

I took a look at William's photos taken in the MMC padang in Miri and I thought that a really good story can be pieced together by four of his photos.

A sea of heads and cameras. What can a little girl see? The waves of people are surging ever forward and ever stronger. The father has positioned himself well in the front line. And he may soon lose his position if he does not stand firm. He must hold his child up!! Do you see anything child?

An important person is coming! And Dad is so keen to bring the daughter to see the special person. He stretches his neck as far as possible to see if he is coming. The child shares his keen expectation.

The important person has arrived! The child is fully aware of what she is there for...and her waiting has not been in vain. She is elated. The beautiful lady is looking over her and the child smiles.

The little girl gets to shake hands with the important man. The father is proud of the moment he has created for his daughter. He is proud of the opportunity given to him. She is very confident and she gives a good smile. Well done! You will one day be a great lady too........

Good DAD!!

Photographer : William Ting
Writer : Sarawakiana@2

January 22, 2011

Breakfast in Kanowit : Kampua Mee and Kopi-0

Kanowit occupies a special place in my heart.

My first thoughts -
There is a popular Foochow saying which goes "Round also can. Flat also can." This refers to a person who is very malleable and congenial. He does not really have a mind of his own and he does what is asked. Go with the flow. Even if it is not just. In fact many people belong to this category. Men and women without a strong mind of their own. But to the leaders they are good people.

I am often reminded of this saying whenever I eat my Foochow kampua noodles. Each time I order a bowl of kampua mee the stall owner would ask me "round or flat'? I would always order round noodles. Why would I never order flat noodles?

 I would say "I always order round noodles."
Now thoughts about Kanowit

It is a lovely riverine town with a beautiful Brooke Fort (Fort Emma) and was home to me for a whole year. I loved the way I had to cross the Rajang each evening for a lovely cup of kopi-o in the bazaar. I loved the way my colleagues and I paid special attention to the little food stuff we could buy in the few small shops (e.g. Hock Tong Seng ) and the coffee shop we frequented as a group.

I loved the way our SEDAYA boat man(Tinggal) would take us across the fast flowing river right on the dot at 4:30 each evening of the week days. I love the way my friends continue to be my friends until today. We still call each other and remember the happy days we had in Sedaya (acronym for Sekolah Datuk Abdul Rahman Yakub) and not KSS (Kanowit Secondary School) as founded by the Colombo Plan and New Zealand Government way back in the 1950's.

I died a few hundred deaths when my young husband had to send emergency cases (students with appendicitis) down the river in the school speedboat in the middle of the night. I would imagine how a log would hit his boat and he would drown or the speed boat would jump onto a sandbank where a crocodile would have him and the boatman for a midnight feast . The night would be spent waiting for him to return and another day would start with all the students having breakfast and he (without any sleep at all) announcing that the student was in good hands in the Lau King Howe Hospital.

So in this article I remember with fondness the ever faithful Tinggal the boatman who could sling a 40 horsepower outboard engine across his shoulders like an Olympian. My family and I have been wondering what he is doing now after his retirement. Did he go back to his kampong? Did the government treat him well? He gave almost all his life to the government as a boatman of a government secondary school. His rewards would not be a BBS or an AMN.....but I am sure all the teachers and students would rmember him well and "belanja" (give him a treat) in Kanowit.

And 35 years later I would come here again to sit in a new Kanowit coffee shop and enjoy a breakfast (for the first time in my life) of Foochow kampua mee and kopi-o with my young Sibu Foochow friends. We staff in those days would never cross the river to have breakfast in Kanowit. It would have been a great crime.
Pulut Panggang (look just like all those years ago)
Slightly different in taste now.
Iban men using chopsticks

A group of Foochow men sharing a nice breakfast (there were very few Foochows then in Kanowit) And most of the Foochows from Kanowit speak good Iban which is the lingua franca here.
An Iban family enjoying a nice breakfast - Kampua mee is a food which is borderless.
The ubiquitous Kampua Mee - this is Kampua mee Black (ie with black soy sauce)
Is Kampua Mee the domain of the Foochows? You are right - the stall owner is a Foochow after we interviewed him.
It is a small world afterall.
Now that I am retired I look at the place and think what would have happened if I have stayed on in Kanowit all these years.

And then I look at the noodles and kopi-o in front of me and my friends - how much have really changed. Not one in the town recognised me....And I only recognise the names of the shops and remember the things they are selling. Most of the shop keepers are new or they were children when I was here. The very old ones are very very old.

Shadows fade away as the sun rises above our heads.

There is a special bitter sweet taste in my coffee.

January 21, 2011

Indigo Plant and Indigenous Textiles

Japanese ladies wearing blue indigo batik - Jakarta Post

 I suppose many of us would have learnt the word "indigo" when we first learnt about the colours of the rainbow in our primary school.

Indeed the word continues to be a very romantic notion for me all these years. A colour which is a part of our rainbow colours. But as I grow older I find this colour exceptionally soothing.

In terms of batik and Iban art of weaving it has a special meaning too. Read on...

The Plant : Indigo

A variety of plants have provided indigo throughout history, but most natural indigo was obtained from those in the genus Indigofera, which are native to the tropics. The primary commercial indigo species in Asia was true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria, also known as Indigofera sumatrana). A common alternative used in the relatively colder subtropical locations such as Japan's Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan is Strobilanthes cusia (Japanese: リュウキュウアイ. Chinese: 馬藍/山藍). In Central and South America the two species Indigofera suffruticosa (Añil) and Indigofera arrecta (Natal indigo) were the most important. In temperate climates indigo can also be obtained from woad (Isatis tinctoria) and dyer's knotweed (Polygonum tinctorum), although the Indigofera species yield more dye.

In the Iban language indigo is "tarum".

Its history
Use of the indigo began in India and dates from the 4th century BC. Dye was extracted from the stems and leaves making the indigo a useful and valuable plant. Even today, the dye of the indigo plant is used in various crafts and art projects. It is a dye used in Iban weaving (tenung) and in batik art in most parts of South East Asia.

What else is the indigo plant used for?
The indigo plant has been used in Eastern medicine to treat various health problems. However, in Western medicine it lacks scientific proof of having any real medicinal properties. The plant has been reported to help treat cancers, epilepsy, bronchitis, spleen problems and other medical conditions.

Like This Article?

My Indigo Plant in Sg. Utik in Kalimantan Barat. During this adventure of mine I interacted with many women weavers who are renown in their design and production. They grow their own indigo plants around their longhouse.

The word nila denotes dark blue colour and is applied to animals, plants and minerals according to their colour. Sanskrit authors speak of nila flies, birds, stones and flowers.
Actually this plant belongs to the pea and bean family and is therefore also a leguminosae.
Three other species are grown on a smaller scale: Indigo arrecta, Bengal indigo, Indigo suffruticosa, West Indian indigo, Vilaiti nil (Hindi), Shimaiyaviri (Tamil), Indigo articulata (the least important).

The plant

A living indigo plant in flower, growing in Kew Gardens.

Leaves - slightly hairy, separated into leaflets often opposite each other. It is the leaves that yield the blue dye, indigo. The plants are also grown as a cover for crops and as a fertiliser. The leaves of some species are fed to livestock. In fact many of the older Ibans who are found living in the Ulu Limbang area have been harvesting their own indigo for their home weaving of their pua kumbu. Younger ladies have been helping their old grandmothers in this dyeing method.

Flowers - in little clusters, with pea-like flowers.

Fruits - a pea-like pod. Indigofera is very large genus of about 700 species, distributed in topical and sub-tropical regions. Several species yield a blue dye.
More notes:

Tarum (Marsdenia Tinctoria, Indigofera) The indigo producing plant used by the Iban grows wild, but may be cultivated near a longhouse. It grows as a shrub to a metre high. It has light feathery leaves which are collected, punded, placed in a wooden trough, and soaked in water. To render the dye soluble in water, slaked lime (Kapur) is added to the solution. The yarn is completely submerged in the dye overnight, and then hung out to dry in the sun the following day. This drying process, after dipping, is necessary to oxidize the dye so as to form the indigo colour on the fibre.
Dyeing in the indigo solution (tarum) will produce black and diffierent shades of blue. The parts of the pattern that are to be dyed blue are untied and exposed to the solution. Shades of blue-black are achieved when yarn that has been previously dyed in engkudu is exposed and dyed in indigo solution. Thus during this stage of dyeing with indigo (narum) two colours may result. A white colour in the pattern is the result of excluding the tied portions from the engkudu and tarum dyes.
The raw yarn is treated with mordant prior to dyeing. The basic utensils required are a wooden trough (dulang), a wooden mortar and pestel (lesong alu), and a small coconut shell cup (tachu).
All the ingredients, which usually include ginger, salt, and oil are finely pounded in a wooden mortar, then are carefully mearued out - one coconut shell each, and put inside a wooden trough, where hot water is added; half-filling the wooden trough. The officiating master dyer (indu nakar indu gaar) and experienced weavers then plunge their hands into the mixture to stir the concoction. This is a test of their competence, and also offers them a chance to find an amulet (Pengaroh), which may miraculously appear in the mixture.
The yarn is dipped into the mixture, trodden with the feet, turned three times and it is then left in the bath for three days. During this time great care is taken to see that the yarn is well saturated. After the three days of soaking, the yarn is taken out and washed thouroghly in clear water, usually in a river. It is then stretched on a mat for twelve hours and afterwards hung on an upright frame and put on the outside platform (tanju) of the longhouse during the day time as well as at night for roughly sixteen days, so that the sun and dew may complete the process. Throughout, great care is taken to ensure that the yarn gets the right amount of sun, and that it does not get wet from the rain. This process of drying the yarn out in the sun during the day, and putting it on the outside platform (tanju) at night to be subjected to dew (ambun) is called ngembun ubong and the pua made from this yarn is called pua embun. The yarn is now ready for dyeing.
The ikat technique is one of the most widespread techiniques of patterning cloth in this region. It is a process by which designs are dyed onto the threads prior to being woven. The ikat technique may be applied to either the warp or weft yarn, but the Iban only employ the warp ikat. The patterns are produced by excluding parts of the web from dye by tying them with a dried fibre from a leaf known as lemba (Curculigo villosa) which grows in great abundance on old cultivated fields or rubber gardens near longhouse. Beeswax is used to coat the lemba strips for strength and waterproofing. This work is highly complex requiring great skill.
Before the tying process is done, the thread is unwound and stretched in the weaving loom to ascertain the length of pua to be woven. This is usually done by two women who sit in front of a weaving frame and continuously pass between them two balls of thread placed in containers made of coconut shells, to prevent the threads from twisting. This process is called ngirit ubong, (literally 'pulling the threads'). The threads are divided into strands of three to make one kayu, using two large rods (lidi). The threads are carefully counted to determine the number of kay used; this in turn would determine the pattern and the width of the pua.
The yarn is then taken out of the loom and fixed to the tying frame (tangga ubong), where another thread of a different colour is inserted into the divided strands (kayu ubong), to tighten them and to keep them in place. The large rods (lidi) are removed. A weaver then begins her tying process to create the desired pattern.
Using trips of 'lemba' coated with beeswax, the threads which are to remain white, or become black or blue, are tied, leaving the background part of the pattern exposed.

Sources: Wikipedia....

And when are you going to wear a blue pua jacket? or an indigo batik sarong with a beautiful kebaya? You will the queen of the night in the eyes of the discerning. Cheers.



January 20, 2011

Kobus Wildlife and Dayak Handicraft Centre

Kobus Handicraft Centre has a beautiful traditional Dayak verandah which any one can be proud of.

Handmade rattan baskets supplied by Dayak women are sold here. Datu Seri and Datin Seri Edmund Langgu with my friend Cigku Virginia John.

The looks of a man can be enhanced by the wearing of a baju burong bought in the Handicraft centre!! Thomas Laka (popular Iban Radio Sarawak Announcer) looks exotic and very "paramount" wearing a baju burong - handwoven or tenun jacket for Dayak men.

Kalimantan published magazines grace one of the tables in the centre.

Entrance - A photo from a previous visit made by Sarawakians in 2009.

Stiarcase - Our group going up the famous staircase of the Kobus Centre of Handicrafts and Wildlife Park in Sintang.

Kobus Centre is a must see centre for any one who is visiting Sintang. I was really fascinated by this well organised museum and end production sale centre. It is surrounded by an Orang Utan wild life park too.

The frontage of the  handicraft centre is rather unassuming and as we walked up the open stairways Imy breath was taken away by the traditional clean verandah . Many from Sarawak who have visited Sintang must make a stop here to buy up an armful of Dayak Woven scarves or  a few  botanically dyed jackets. Other traditional crafts exhibited and sold here are rotan baskets and handcrafted wooden items.

What is Sintang as a city like? It is a city with a rich tradition and history.

The name Sintang is derive from ‘senetang', which in the local Daya language means ‘a place near a river with its tributary'. The founder of Sintang is held to be a certain, Demang Irawan, alias Jubairi, the eleventh descendant of Aji Melayu, who is revered as a very wise and brave king in the Sepauk region. Aji Melayu was probably a very wealthy man. Among the remains of his kingdom are Batu Pujaan (sacred stone), the Batu Kabut (misty stone), both of which bear an image of the Buddha. All these, as well as Aji Melayu's grave, can be seen in Nanga Sepuak.

Sintang also boast several sites of historical interest. Among them are the Sintang Museum which is the former palace of Sintang kingdom, built in 1937 by Panembahan Raden Abdul Bahri Danu Perdana. The kingdom's symbol, in the shape of an eagle, is preserved in the museum today together with seven cannons.

Besides the museum, there is also Batu Kundur or Lingga, a monument from Hindu period. Also of interest is a bronze statue or Putung Kempat (Gusar) which is to be found in Pari Empahan, 64 kilometers from Nanga Sepuak. The Dara Juanti Museum lies at the north side of the town. Dara Juanti or Dewi Juanti is the name of a woman descendant of the Raja Sintang Dayak tribe who founded the kingdom and moved the capital from Sepuak to Sintang. She took control of the kingdom after her elder brother, Demang Nutup, titled Sultan Jubair II, was captured and imprisoned on a trip to Majapahit, named Patih Logender. The remainders of the kingdom, including a kris from Majapahit, a sheet of cindai cloth called Gerising Wayang, and the statue of an eagle, are preserved in this museum.

Kobus Wild Life Park

This wild life park is providing a home for the orang-utan and the other animals displaced by forest destruction in other areas. By charging for (restricted) admissions it can also generate income for the local population.

Tourists should try their best to visit this place to help support the arts and wildlife of Kalimantan.

January 19, 2011

Rojak Sauce from Sibu by Hajah Ayang Sara

I went to Sarikei not too long ago and was amazed by the prosperity and the bustling of the town folks.

The simple business people were easy to talk to and we learn whee the foods come from. It is always more interesting when you are assured of the hands which grow the food you buy.

Here's a couple from SIBU who were selling their own rojak sauce in Sarikei....And the couple speak good English.....

Sambal rojak Petis Serbaguna from Hajah Ayang Sara
No.98 Kampung Datuk
96000 SIBU
Telephone 013-5650378

January 18, 2011

The Art of Waiting in Bekenu

At the beginning of the year many folks from the rural areas would appear in towns and cities to enjoy some of their children's annual bonuses.Some people would be going home for the Chinese New Year while some would just be enjoying a short holiday with families and friends.

One fantastic way of capturing some of these images is to wait and see if they are "waiting" for some one or something. I was once told by a civil servant that there is an art in waiting. I must say I have definitely learnt how to wait in my years of serving the government!! There are indeed many different styles of waiting.

Here are some images for you to study......

Waiting - a cigarette helps.

Waiting for customers - goods display help to pass the day.

Waiting - please don't take my picture. Bench helps to ease the boredom of waiting...shifting sands of time - shifting bottom.....I love the way Bekenu towkays put a bench out for customers to sit. This shop bench is disappearing fast.

Two friends waiting - companionship is important

Waiting for a friend to turn up for a game of snooker? - very empty coffee shop-cum-snooker centre. May be playing some snooker is a good way to kill time while waiting for friends who might have no sense of time.

January 16, 2011

How My Grand Father Lost his Mother

When my maternal grandfather the late Lau Kah Chui was only one month old my great grandmother decided to end her life . This is the untold story of my family.

Chinese women in China often took their lives when they could no longer bear the stresses of their lives. I was told that my great grandmother took her life after having borne enough nagging from her in-laws. She left behind my one month old grandfather Lau Kah Chui and his two older brothers.

My great grandmother was a quiet Foochow woman who took everything in her stride when she married into the Lau family in the 14th sub district in the  Ming Chiang District of Foochow Province China. Marriages were matched made and often go betweens would come and go in the villages. My great grandmother's family suggested a marriage between one of the daughters of the Lau family with a scholarly family in another village.

The marriage took place but the economy of the day was not good and the new bride could not take the poverty. So the Lau family put a lot of blame on my great grandmother who was expecting at that time. She was very guilt ridden and immediately after the Full Moon of her third child she took her own life.

How did my maternal grandfather survive ? He was sent to Lau Pang Shu's (Shu as in the word Teacher) grandmother who just had a baby too at that time. Indeed that was a very gracious gift any aunt could give to a young new born. She thus became his wet nurse and life giver. From that day onwards our two families are entwined in fate.

Without her gift of mother's milk my grandfather would not have been able to grow into a young boy and I would even have been born!

When my grandfather was older my great grandfather  who never remarried even though he was only in his 30's adopted two girls to be my grand uncle and my grandfather's child brides. These two became the ancestors of two large Lau families in Sibu. They all came with Wong Nai Siong in the Second Batch of the Pioneering Foochows on 16th Feb 1903 to Sibu. My grandfather's brother was Lau Kah Tii the man who succeeded Wong Nai Siong as headman of the Foochows and worked closely with James Hoover and other Foochows. My grandfather remained rather shy and insignificant in the background. He and the other pioneering Foochows were responsible in clearing most of the land along the Rajang from Sibu to 16 Company (near Bintangor). Each of them cleared as much land as they could. The divider between each claimant's land was a ditch 6 feet by 6 feet deep (regulation set by the Rajah Brooke). I believe my grandfather cleared 100 acres of land by the end of several years and he started to plant rubber seedlings.

By the time my mother was born my grandfather had a few families who had come out from China working under him. There were  4 "coolie houses" for these profit-sharing workers. It was 50:50 kind of contract. My grandparents owned one of the biggest smoke houses for smoking the rubber sheets  amongst the villages.

He donated a piece of land to build a Methodist Church (Hook Ming) and a primary School called Tiing Nang in Sg. Maaw near Sibu. He and my grandmother had 4 sons and 5 daughters who were all born in Sibu. The youngest son returned to China to study engineering but remained in China for the New China Movement. Today the members of the clan are spread all over the world.

As a person my grandfather was very generous with the little (when the rubber price crashed) he had and was always accommodating when people passed by his house in the village. He would provide them a place to sleep and plenty of food from his kitchen. According to my mother my grandfather was a merry though melancholic man who enjoyed having a drink with guests. And he loved his water pipe too which helped him calm his nerves. This was probably due to the fact that he never had a real mother to care for him.

My grandfather was also quite articulate. He did not say much most of the time because his elder brother was the leader type and demanded obedience but any way he was good in delivering great and memorable speeches according to my uncles. I wish they were all written down.

My grandfather however never forgot his eternal debt to Lau Pang Shu's grandmother for his life. In fact many years later when my grandfather was fairly well off and in a position to do something for his "saviour's family he applied for official permission from the Rajah for her able bodied grandsons - Lau Pang Shu and his brother (Pang Nguik)- to come out of China to join him in Nangyang or Sibu. The wood plane which I featured in one of my postings reminded my mother and I of their connections and my grandfather's suffering and gratitude.

My grandfather never forgot the life he owed to Pang Shu's grandmother and the milk he suckled. Today Uncle Pang Shu and his brother have prospered and have done very well for themselves .

When people do good their descendants reap the rewards. And we must never forget our debts to people who are good to us.

January 15, 2011

Tokay Gecko

 (Photo from Wikipedia)

No reptile has become more interesting than this Tokay Gecko since Bujang Senang.....This gecko has also been the topic of conversation for many in the last few weeks.

Many of my friends from all over Sarawak are looking for this species behind cupboards  at home and on trees in their locales. Some have even asked my husband to be their middle man..."Please call so and so in Kuching....we may have found one!! and you can have a share too....!!!!!!"

There was talk that one man receiving such a large sum of money that he fainted when he saw the notes given. But rumours being rumours the tall tale will grow taller!!

Unknown advertisers/promoters have asked for this reptile weighing between 450 gm and 700 gm and will pay RM30 000 per gram I was told. Some of my relatives including a few very old men are now in the villages looking for them.....Will the people who are promoting this sale please place their photos on the Net? I feel very sorry for the poor guys who are scrambling around looking for this small reptile and getting themselves into accidents. Rumours are so widespread that even my elderly and sporting father in law aged 91 also got a bit excited and would like to try his luck....He must not hit his head on a tree branch again ( looking for wild mushrooms - smile). His last outing last year got him admitted in the local hospital.

I also heard that one man was killed because he fell from an old tree while out looking for this lizard....

Again and again I read from several facebook postings that the enzymes (which part of the body) may help in research for cures for HIV.....but I could only be convinced if there are references from medical journals.

At E Mart Miri and other places in the Baram this gecko will be the hottest table topic for a while.

Now that every one is talking about this Gecko what will happen next?

January 14, 2011

Cinnamon or Kayu Manis from Kalimantan Barat

A lorry near us was carrying the largest consignment of cinnamon sticks I have ever seen in my life on the road to Pontianak!!

Kalimantan Barat is the world's largest producer of cinnamon a spice we enjoy in our food and beverages as well as desserts.

In the raw form they asre actually straight branches of the cinnamon tree. They are called Kayu Manis in the Malay language and Siang Pi in Chinese.

January 13, 2011

St. Francis Xavier Mission School of Kanowit

Kanowit is one of the very special Chinese bazaar towns in Asia. While almost 100% of the shops are owned by the Chinese those who come in to trade are the indigenous people (selling rubber and oil palm and other jungle products) while the Malays and some indigenous people belong to the Civil Servant group.

One of the earliest Churches established in Sarawak is the St. Francis Xavier Church by the European Roman Catholic  priests. The church also set up a very good clinic which served many people for miles around and that benefitted the schools which have been set up around Kanowit too. I know  a good nun called Sister Barbara who served here very selflessly for decades. Although she should be retired now she is still serving in different missions elsewhere.  She was a saviour to many  young mothers who could have lost their lives while giving birth. Many unwanted young baby girls were also sent to the Convent to be educated and later led good lives.

The Mission Road in Kanowit has a very different reputation from that of Sibu.

This road is also the address of the Dayak House which provides accomodation to people from the ULU who could not afford the small hotel rates.

Boarding House for the Ulu People...5 family rooms are available.

The old school buildings of St. Francis Xavier
A long time ago there was a young boy who went to school for the first time . He knew that his father had named him Xavier. When the Primary One teacher called the names of the  students he realised that his name was not called. At the end of the morning the poor boy was in tears and the teacher did not know what to do with the unregistered boy but wait for the father to come. The father being illiterate proved the registration of the boy at the school by producing the birth certificate.

The mystery was solved. In the birth certificate the boy's name was not Xavier at all. But instead he was registered as SPOON.  The clerk at Registrar of Births obviously could not spell Xavier and wrote down SPOON instead. In Sarawak this is actually quite a common story . Tales of funny names because the father of the child cannot spell the good name he wants to give and the clerk is not any wiser. Perhaps this problem is slowly being alleviated by better education.

School Pledge

New St. Francis Xavier Church

New school

Self explanatory

KANOWIT will always have a special place in my heart.....and the bazaar provides such a wonderful experience too. One day I will try to row a boat across to Sedaya if I have the energy left and the river current is not too strong.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...