November 2, 2012

Whatever

The name of this Brunei  speedboat and the scenario brought back a lot of memories......


In 1974 I served in Limbang Government Secondary School as a trained teacher, joining the force of hundreds of  newly trained and starry eyed first year teachers to serve as "Federal Officers" all over Sarawak.

One of the new experiences I had was getting on to speed boats to go to  Brunei for icecream and the occasional lunch treat from Limbang. We would go at the end of the month when we had extra money in hand. Brunei dollars = Malaysian dollars in those days. It would a one hour pleasurable and windy river journey cutting across distributaries and passing lots of nipah palms and riverine villages. Some of the speedboats would be covered boats and other cheaper ones were not covered and slower in speed. We usually boarded the fastest to save time which we did not have much on our hands.

That first year of teaching and posting also gave me the experience of living on very little.  We were on 6 months probationary posting and were given a mere salary or allowance of RM650  per month . That was a already quite a huge sum of money to many because it could buy a family more than a refrigerator and a stove!! "Whatever we can ...we had to spend bah ". That was very meaningful to most of us who earned so little.

Housing was government supplied and I  was given a very old house which I could not clean too well as I was preparing lessons 24/7 and involving in never ending school work parties and student counselling. We were in the school premises more than at home. I did not even get a proper bed throughout my year in Limbang. I just made do with the rickety bed provided by the government. Whatever. Sometimes I slept on the floor on a thin mattress when it was too hot.

We had no air conditioning in the school in those days. Only the Principal had air conditioning in his office. So sometimes we would go to his office for "whatever" reason ...even if it was just to have a short five minute chat with the clerk, Miss Evelyn. We get cooled down.

I heard the next occupant of my quarters bought new furniture and had the whole house painted. Did I think of the same? It never crossed my mind to bulldoze the PWD (Public Works Department) or school for a new coat of paint or a new floor. For I knew with very little clout my application would be in the KIV(Keep in View)  tray until I was transferred. There were too many requests for PWD to entertain. Many more urgent needs than a new chair or a new table for a Class Two Quarters and a first year teacher. A few friends would say "Whatever lah, never mind. Just do with what you are given. Next year we will be out of Limbang." Most teachers wanted to be transferred out of Limbang that year so that they could teach in their own hometown. I did not ask for transfer instead I was given a transfer to Kanowit.

That year I met up with a poor lady who lost her husband to a " new model" and she had to raise her 5 children all by herself with the help of a mother and a food stall. She was the first one I know to use the word "whatever" a lot because she did not want to dwell on her problems and she moved on with her life. Her 5 children after 30 years are now all grown up and working well. She drives a Hilux and has a good business somewhere in Malaysia. I have loved her "whatever" each time I met up with her.  And I do suppose I was one of the few she shared some laughter.

In school whenever we teachers could not solve some longstanding problems we said to each other "whatever"..and wished for the situations just to disappear...they would pop up again..and we just had to have the patience to bear with them.  A pinch of salt..and a great sense of humour helped us through the year. But we did try our very best to plan our lessons well and help our students  get top grades. That would be the most important role of ours. Most of our Limbang students remember our hard work till today. Teaching definitely was not a "whatever" business.

Sometimes our school's  non academic staff would say "whatever" when they just seemed unable to do anything..they mean "give up". Shrugged their shoulders, went away and left things undone..and said "whatever".

I believe some Malaysian politicians would shrug their shoulders and say..."Whatever"...

An Australian friend of mind told me that Aussie kids say "Whatever"  when they don't want to hear anything...when they don't want to listen..

"Whatever" is a casual word we use when we are exasperated. It is like "oh yeah?" or "what to do?" or "no worries"..."I don't care"...and in Malay it is "Apa boleh buat?" ...(what can be done?) .and our voice would trail off...

What does the word "Whatever"  conjure up for you? What would you use it for?

I am glad I have a photo of a Bruneian speedboat named "Whatever"...Whatever comes, the boat can help you...I would love that name to have that special good meaning...and the song..Que Sera Sera says..Whatever will be will be.....

Hope more stories can be added to just this one word.

4 comments:

Ann said...

one hour for that ice cream, you took one hour to lick it too.
Strange, I hardly ever use your what ever word.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...I heard different cultures view the word differently. Some even consider the word rude!!

Anonymous said...

In KL it's hentam saja le..or lantak lah...meaning that the person dont't really care..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes 30 - 40 years down the line the word means differently to people now....

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