I will always remember my grandmother saying " What ever it is ..it will be decided by the chin or daching." I am glad that in those days fairness was so clearly determined.
Besides my uncle Pang Sing was quite special because he would use stories to help us know about our surroundings. His tales of funny people and incidents provided us with learning of moral values without us realising it at that time.
And then because we were surrounded by nature studying about the biological sciences was easy. I particularly liked studying botany - and how I loved to draw the diagrams of plants and label each part. I am of the opinion that many of my peers from the Rajang River Valley were good in the sciences because we lived with the samples and real experiences (like rearing animals and catching fish).
My grandparents having been brought over to Sarawak by the famous pioneer Wong Nai Siong lived a hard pioneers' life but they managed to " conquer" and tame the tropical forests and made a home not only for themselves but for the next two generations. Today my cousins from my mother's side of the family continue to own some of the land my grandfather "opened" up in the 1900's and they all prosper because they have faith in God and remain good people..
As a child I crossed small streams in this way as illustrated by the image below. My uncles had fallen trees to build bridges. Bridges thus have become such icons to me. They connect and they help expand usage of land. They make life easier. They are the symbols of man's intelligence.....Each family's rubber garden in those long ago days was separated by the government's rules which stated that a ditch of six feet wide and six feet deep must be dug to separate the rubber holding. In England rows and rows of stones and rocks would separate the cornfeilds or meadows to mark property divisions called hedgerows..
Our bare feet would slip around these slipery buttress roots of the rubber trees (see pic below)...and our toes and soles grew rough and very formic acid eaten (caused by our stepping on the solidified but yet malleable rubber sheets) Many of my cousins and aunts had to have foot and skin treatment in Sibu because of their acid eaten skin problems. And their pains were unimaginable. While many of the olden day Chinese women would worry about the pains of their dainty and 3 inch "lily buds" or bound feet the 20th century Foochow women in Sibu had to overcome the challenges of curing their feet from torn skin and defective tissues. Many in later years had bad scars to show. In comparison to day my 21st century cousins and nieces have reflexologists to massage their panty hosed and beauty cream protected buffed and hairless legs and feet.
Sharp thorns from grasses as big as our arms like the keropok lined our paths....we would often cut them to make kajang for room divisions and also for making of temporary enclosures.We were only too happy to see Melanau and Iban men plying their kajang for sale from time to time to make a few dollars from us. that would release us from our chores of cutting the spiky keropok ourselves. These kajang sheets were cheap building materials then. Occasionally my cousins and I would use a simple sheet of kajang as a "group umbrella" when a sudden thunderstorm struck!! I still smile when remembering this special memory of cousins-bonding.
We would pick the casing of the rubber seeds and make our simple toys...like a spinning wind wheel or pin wheel. These "ears" (I picked them up from a park not long ago) of the rubber seeds still make my heart miss a beat or two as they bring back good memories.
And the blue skies would help us expand our imgination. We watched clouds rolled by as one of our "entertainment". TV was unknown and the sky was our huge TV so to speak. This big bird cloud could take us far far away and we would have a good education overseas in America or Great Britain!! Sometimes we saw sheep or even a huge castle. Talk about building castles in the air!!
Sometimes we would pass a Malay kampong house or an Iban longhouse and we might be given some terap - a native fruit...without having a knife we coold easily open this fruit and eat the entire fruit by ourselves without feeling guilty (We children usually had to share food and would never thought of eating something on our own without asking permission)...We had free fruits from the Ibans! And we even had some to bring home. You see one terap fruit can feed one or two families because they are hundreds of little fruitlets in one.
Perhaps these were some of the wild flowers we could find along our paths...to school or to another family's rubber garden. These seeds make a horrible noise when kept in a match box and teachers got so irritated by the din they could make. Seeds continue to amaze me - for life can grow out of these small pin sized little dots. How amazing was the science which surrounded us!!
Looking at these digital images (photos) only bring back sweet
memories of my childhood.
If my grandmother were alive today...she would be surprised to see these images...
How on earth did you get these photos she might ask. For you see she lived in an era when films had to be taken out of the camera to be printed in a shop in Sibu. Printed photos were framed and displayed in the living room because there were so few of them.
How did you take them? She would ask. My grandmother was a person who was always curious about how things were made and how things got done. She had a very scientific mind in fact. She was a tailor who first showed me to make cotton underwear entirely by hand.And later she taught me to make those Chinese cloth buttons which is still my exceptional skill!!
And I know she would shake her head at the modern girls' skills ......
"girls today....they can do anything!! Praise God!!" And I would demurely say...no lah...we cannot ferment toucheo and raise the whole litter of pigs by ourselves...and many others like she could.....
I hope my grandmother (whose bound feet were released and encouraged to regrow because she was sold to a family that would take her to a new land called Sarawak) can see these.........