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As Long as We Remember...

November 21, 2012

A Borneo Saturday Morning

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As many can attest, sleeping in on a Saturday morning with a two year old becomes a distant past. Dzul’s (my son) energy level far exceeds that contained in several cups of coffee.


Running at full speed through the condo, while I try to sit at the computer, invariable ends in an “uh oh” with a few tears. A hug or two usually dissipates any small pains and the tight spring begins to unwind again.


The other day a charity was to release about a thousand yellow plastic ducks into the Sarawak River which flows directly in front of my condo. Sponsored by a local developer, a person paid Malaysian $10 (about US $3) for each duck which would go toward the purchase of premature infant incubators for the local hospitals.


Along the river a wide safe walkway meanders with the river and has been a perfect place to let my son run with me in tow. Besides, I had never seen that many yellow rubber ducks before, and I am always entertained in many small ways. Imagine! Several thousand yellow plastic ducks sailing down the river.


We walked about a mile to the where the ducks would be dumped off the back of a tourist dinner ship that sails the river. My plan was to race the ducks to the finish line where they would be collected, further exercising my son into some sort of mellow human.


We stopped at the launch place where the dignitaries were giving speeches extolling the efforts of the organizers. The orations were very interesting, but they held Dzul’s attention for about a quarter of a second. We danced around the area when everyone shouted 3-2-1 (Dzul yelled the 2-1 part) and the thousand or so ducks slid off the back of the boat and began to be carried to the finish line by the current.


We walked back down the esplanade, both of us giggling while keeping in step with the progress of the ducks. As we neared the finish line, I had an idea, something that does not happen too often. I sent my wife Suriani rushing back up to the condo to retrieve a couple of my books. She returned to the area out of breath and I presented copies to the dignitaries.


Well, presented wasn’t quite the word. I yelled “Hey datuk!” (Datuk is similar to the British ‘sir.’) They looked at me as I babbled on about how much I loved Borneo and that I stole one of the flowers of their kampungs (village) to be my wife. My wife was horrified at my breach of etiquette.


The Datuk’s took my very un-Asian forwardness in a very diplomatic fashion and invited us to the banquet. We had a grand meal, me costumed in a t-shirt and shorts while my wife was dressed a bit more respectable. However, to me, she always looks way beyond respectable.


The meal was fantastic including deserts of cheese cakes and chocolate cream something. We mingled among the crowd with everyone wondering who we were and why we had suddenly shown up. We said thanks and snuck out of the function.


Docked next to the walkway were small boats with piles of retrieved ducks. Another blinding flash sizzled through my brain. I just had to get a photo of Dzul sitting on top of them.


I plopped Dzul on top and snapped away with my small camera. Suddenly a guy with one of those big huge monstrous cameras began clicking away. I asked him if I could purchase some of the photos and he said he would send me a few via e-mail. He introduced himself as a photographer for The Borneo Post, the island’s prestigious English language daily. Dzul will be in the newspaper!


When I got home, I opened a very cordial e-mail from one of the Datuk’s stating he really enjoyed my book and meeting us. I couldn’t fathom why he would want to contact a sweaty, loud mouthed American who had violated Asian manners and protocol. But this, and the ducks, are one of the many, many reasons I love living on Borneo Island.


…Life is good. . . . .


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