In the days before the curfew (1970-1974) many of my cousins went to school in Chung Cheng.
They had to bring their cheng ark or tiffin carrier which would contain their cold lunch.
(In the 60's village school hours were from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. And in the 50's, the even more rural schools could start from 9 or 10 depending on the good will of the Board of Management and the Head Master. This was to fit into the rubber tapping community's needs.)
Most of the time, they had kang kong and fried rice. or just some vegetables and plain cold rice.
This is was the most "economy rice" of the day because the kangkong grew wild in the small streams between the rows of Gik Giang or Bintangor Orange trees. rice was grown by the two aunts (Aunt Nguok Kiew and Aunt Nguk Ling) and eggs were laid by the hens of our chicken coops.
One of my cousins used to tell me that she would ask her mother to let her have the stalks which were very chewy more than the leaves. She wanted her two younger sisters to have more of the leaves. Later on in life we talked about eating kangkong. We admitted that we did not quite like the stalks but we also realised that the stalks were good for us because of the fibres they could provide. We talked about constipation too because we did not have enough fruits.
My father used to make us eat a lot of potatoes in Sibu but potatoes were hard to come by because my uncles and aunts we mainly padi farmers and the soil in Nang Chong were too swampy and wet for sweet potatoes. Any way none of them would like to eat sweet potatoes because they had too much of it during the Japanese Occupation. However to grow potatoes they also had to walk a few kilometers to the Back Hills (Aw Sang) to grow them. It was too dangerous for them to grow vegetables there any way because of the Communist threat. So growing a variety of vegetables by the villagers was in fact imposible. Whatever available soil was used to grow mustard green, changkok manis, and beans.
Meat sometimes cost a lot of money, with only Uncle Pang Ping and Uncle Pang Sing earning a small income as wharf labourers. And because of the curfew, spare cash was not easily earned.
So according to my Aunt Nguk Ling, the children brought a simple meal to school for lunch, mainly made of fried rice and kangkong). I still remember eating a very nice dish of kangkong cooked with kicap and sugar. It was very tasty.
I also appreciated the fresh farm chicken eggs. We seldom ate fresh duck eggs because they were saved to make salted eggs. It was a treat to eat salted eggs. Each salted egg would be cut into 6 parts.
My cousins survived the political turmoil and the communist insurgency. While some went to Sibu to study in the Catholic High School and lived with their maternal grandparents in Bukit Assek, others stayed back. But no one had their education interrupted.
God was merciful to all us. I am glad that my uncles and aunts were faithful church goers and brought up children to become faithful believers.
After 1986, all my uncles and aunts and their families finally left Nang Chong. Life was never the same again and we sort of left our San Ba behind totally.
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