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September 7, 2016

Continuing the Search for Graves

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Area, Malaysian Borneo – Two weeks ago we found the grave of Ali Wallace, the sidekick to Alfred Wallace, who, along with Darwin, had announced the Theory of Evolution. It was a major find, but more work needed to be done.


Now, I don't speak Sarawak Malay, only regular Malay, and it took a while, but I was beginning to follow the conversations. I understood about every other word as my wife spoke.


We had two names that were the grandchildren of Ali. They were close and did not involve the long trek to find the grave. We crossed the river and went to the Ketua Kampungs house. The Ketua Kampung is the one charge of the village and is supposed to know what is going on.


We met his wife, and she directed us to an Ali grandchild’s house. We went there and no lady by that name had ever lived there. We asked several people and they didn't know what we were talking about. We went back to the K.K.'s house, and she apologized as the house was just down the hill from hers. By this time I was hot and sweaty from climbing up and down hills and in no mood for frivolous talk; but I held my tongue.


We knocked on the door and explained our mission to the husband. After about five minutes, after my wife revealed everything about me including where I had lived 30 years ago, he said she was sleeping. I asked if he could wake her. I didn't want to go back there again.


He complied and out came a thin lady. She invited us in and we had to go through the whole procedure again about how this white man was married to a local Malay girl. After about 20 minutes, the lady said very little, but I was satisfied that she was the grandchild of Ali just by the eyes and facial shape. We took pictures and said our goodbyes.


Next, we walked about a mile and a quarter to catch a boat ride across the river and walked down to catch another boat to the kampong where Siti Sambas's grave was. I wanted to tell the relative about what information we had found about her.


Meanwhile, while we were in the boat, a guy told us about how the Sultan Tengah, a big historical figure here, was buried in the graveyard. His mausoleum was about 30 miles from here, and I heard the story before. He managed to give us the slip, but I said we look over the graves anyway.


The grave yard was the usual overgrown place with carved ancient boards, tombstones shaped like sticks and stones marking the graves. I tried to find one that was royal looking. Nothing looked regal like. I pick one site which had the biggest rocks as head and foot stone. It also had remnants of fire in the middle. But nothing gave us any clue.


Siti Sambas, as the locals told us, was an albino women, as far we could tell, who had white hair and white skin. You could see the food move down her throat as she swallowed. She had healing qualities. Apparently, while she lived and, later, in front of her grave, people swam nude to somehow get the beneficial vibes from either her or the grave.


We arrived at the grave, and it had been smashed to bits. The long rectangular edifice with the rectangular hole in the center was gone and the bric-a-brac was piled along the riverside.


We searched for the owner and found the neighbor, who blamed me for the destruction. I looked quizzically like he was out of his mind. It seems that since I told a few people, the Majilis Islam (the religious authorities) came and ordered the grave to be destroyed and the remains moved.


I haven't found the owner of the property yet, but when I do, tomorrow, there will be a meeting he won't forget.


...Life is good. . . . .


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