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January 7, 2009

Land Below The Wind

Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Borneo – The Israeli incursion into Gaza has been met with indifference here in this Moslem land. The news has been buried in the second sections or on pages 14-15 in The Borneo Post, the local English language daily.


The cable network news broadcasts, BBC (British Broadcasting Company) and the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera have been broadcasting around the clock coverage since the ground incursion began. Most of the reports have been about the incredible suffering of the Palestinian people.


The Chinese minister of something has blamed the Americans for all this; but the government has remained very local key. American companies have a substantial investment in Malaysia and employ thousands of people. Mattel toys and a computer firm employ both factory workers and mid level employees. They pay a fortune compared to jobs in the local economy.


I do keep a wary eye on developments to the south. Indonesia has had anti American demonstrations in Jakarta, but they have not resulted in any violence. Texans are responsible for running and maintaining the oil flow. They certainly do no not want a major disruption of their life blood.


To the north, Thailand remains embroiled in political problems. Half the country from rural areas (they wear red shirts) want one guy to be the prime minister, but the city folks (in yellow and monied) want another. The demonstrations have been very colorful. The tourism has been down by well over 70% and continues to wreck havoc.


It has been an unusual monsoon season according to the locals. The rains have been around the clock, blinding and heavy. There has been flooding especially on the peninsula. We finally had a break this week with only precipitation part of the day and night. Mosquitoes are out in full force.


My daughter, Christine, arrived yesterday. We plan to travel by boat to Sibu and spend the night. We then want to boat the Rajang River to Kapit, and then further into the interior to an eco lodge. All of these plans depend on river flows and conditions. We may have to wait it out in a few places. But that’s okay. We have time.


I went on a date with a Malay lady. She is in her 40’s and I met her through a friend. I had forgotten about the local customs. She showed up with two of her friends. During our walk to the theater, the two walked behind us. She did sit next to me during “Bedtime Story,” a recently released American film.


Here, the men are expected to go through the door and eat before the ladies. I would motion her to proceed, then she would indicate for me to go first, then we would both go through the door, ala Abbot and Costello. A real comedy at times.


We went back to the hotel restaurant for tea and cakes. I had to pay for all of us, which is the tradition. I think the whole thing came to about $9.00.


I have been here over month now and have been enjoying myself immensely in this “Land Below the Wind”.


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