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As Long as We Remember...

January 21, 2015

Routine Daily Adventures

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Boy, is it raining! The Sarawak River almost overflowed its' banks and is now receding. Thunder and lightning have been flashing and booming for over three days. The locals say landas (monsoon season) has finally arrived. I though it showed up about a month ago when all night rains began to happen. I guess weather is changing everywhere.


Dzul, my four-year-old son, is fine. He wanted to go to school and begged for a couple of weeks to send him. We finally relented and dispatched him to a daycare center. The cost is only $75 per month. The place is air conditioned and has two teachers for about 16 children. I figure it is better for him to be there instead of watching DVD's all day. He gives a strange look before he goes so am not sure if he enjoys it. The interaction with the other children will do him good is my excuse. Truth be told, I do miss him, though.


Suriani is doing fine. She spends her time cleaning, mending and fixing me dinner. I really need to eat at 6 P.M., and she does prepare and sits with me. She will consume her food later, after the 7 P.M. call to prayer. Dzul usually joins her. I don't know if it's her custom, the men eat first and the women and children eat later, but I will let it ride and not ask.


She is a huge help when I go to interview the kampung people. They speak Sarawak Malay and I speak the National Malay. No, it isn't anything like Mississippi vs. Massachusetts American. The dialect is so different. I can get the gist of what she says when she speaks to her sisters, but when she talks to her Mom and Dad I don't have a clue. They could talk about the best way to murder me and I wouldn't have any idea.


When we go to interview the elderly kampung people, she has to translate for me. It goes something like this. She introduces herself and me. Then she has to explain how she married me and where I lived in the States. Then we have to establish how they are related. We have a cold drink, tea or coffee and cookies. Then, usually an hour later, we get to the subject, which is: “Do you know any history?” The answer is always no. She finally drags the memories back to the Great Flood of 1962 and then the Japanese occupation. And then earlier. Most of the people don't know anything past their grandparents, with the dozens and dozens we have interviewed. Every time I go somewhere, I do manage to get a sentence for my history out of them, though.


I have been interviewing the Bidayau people most recently. They do speak English and I am thankful for that. It took a while to get my head around that their tribes are named after a mountain. You and I wouldn't call it a mountain, just a big hill. Anyway, they moved up the hill to defend themselves. They claim to be a timid and shy bunch, yet they took heads. A definite contradiction. I haven't resolved that one. The next group will be the Ibans, another headhunting bunch.


...Life is good. . . . .


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