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June 15, 2016

Ramadan Tradition in Borneo

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It is Ramadan here, the fasting month. The mosque across the river is packed between 8 and 10 P.M. The call to prayers are louder and longer. They broadcast from loud speakers. There are about three of them and they all call differently, and beautifully.


In town, each shopping center, office building, and other places where people congregate have tables where people can purchase food for the evening meal. Nobody wants to cook after a day of fasting. The money is used for Hari Raya, the week after the fast.


During Hari Raya we have what is called "Balik kampung." Thousands of people return to their parents’ house for about a week or so with presents, foods and new clothes. Baju melayu is a must for Hari Raya. New clothes.


I will get new pants and matching shirt plus a sarong and will wear a songkok. We will visit Suriani's parents’ house for food and pictures. I guess 20 or 30 children show up. All nieces and nephews. They look so cute in their new outfits.


We give them $5 notes in green envelopes. This tradition is recent and is taken from the Chinese, who distribute red envelopes during Chinese New Year. It is fun and everyone is so grateful. We give the university children a $50 note. Usually it’s broiling hot in the house and I will go over in the evening when the temperature drops a degree or two. The boys have two fans on me.


Suriani will not go swimming during Ramadan. I try to tell her there were no pools in the desert when the Koran was written. They stayed in tents and slept during the day and did their work at night back in 600 A.D. It stayed that way until the airplane was a means of transport. But, she says she can't look sexy in her bathing suit during Ramadan.


I take Dzul down by myself. He gets into the big pool now and swims to the bottom. I still have to be right next to him when he surfaces because he is a bit disoriented. He is doing really well. We spent three hours yesterday, mostly in the water. He does go out and gets warmed up by laying on the hot concrete and then back in. I wish he would let me have some time in the Jacuzzi. Oh, well, school tomorrow and I will have all the time I need.


I have finished my essay and it's out to readers. One guy says it's too long, about 36 pages. The bibliography is 17 pages. All I know is that I am glad it's finished, and I need to polish it for publication. Now, I am going through the kris collection (small daggers used in the Malay world) and identifying them.


I start with the iron blade and, using a book, give it a name. Then to the handle, the small ring between the handle and the blade and sheath. With all of this I can get it, possibly, to the island it was made on. Then I will put all the information on a computer.


...Life is good


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