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November 8, 2017

Bringing Family Up to Date

Tom McLaughlin

5 November 2017


Kuching, Malaysian Borneo


Dear Mary and Cody,


I hope this finds you well. I understand that the calves go to auction today after a spring and summer of very hard work. I hope the prices are high and your endeavours have been well worth it. Now for a winter of feeding and for resting the pregnant cows for another spring.


The big news in Kuching is that we are going to get a Subway! Yea! It will open in an established shopping center where we always do our Friday shopping. We usually have burgers at McD's, but that will end when the Subway opens. I can't wait for a little more of America to arrive.


I have started attending a beer drinking session with some old Brits on Wednesday at 4 p.m. I am youngest one there, save Brian, who just turned 35. I have been going for about six weeks now and all they seem to talk about is golf. I try to get the conversation steered to Brexit, Scotland independence and London. That lasts a very few minutes, but it always goes back to the golf game. I listen politely and drink my soda water while they consume beers. It is interesting trying to tell one accent from the others.


After I finish with them, I go to a bar called Carpenter Street. It is run by Bidayuhs. One of the owners, a radio operator for an oil company, learned to make Louisiana Gumbo, the soup not the mud. It is very good. I eat it with rice with a fried egg on top. I have been chatting with the workers and told them I am interested in their history and asked them to bring back stories from their parents. Of course, none of them did. I will ask again this Wednesday. I want the tales for the article I am writing.


Today, I attended a lecture on World War II and Sarawak. It was very interesting, with professionally-done slides and pictures. It seems the locals didn't have such a bad time of it as compared to the rest of the Asian world. The Australians seemed to get the worst of it with a death march into central Borneo.


After that, I went to a western store and purchased hamburger and cheese. The hamburger is very expensive, about 90% lean, but it sure beats spitting out chunks of bone when we purchase the local stuff. I also bought two jars of cubed cheese, also very high. We use that for Mediterranean chicken.


Dr. Jerry Drawhorn will be moving here in at the end of this month. He wrote an article for the Sarawak Museum Journal berating a Lord Cranbrook. I can't stand the Lord, but I have found out that they are treated like everyone else in England. It will be fun to have somebody to talk about local history. My god, he is so smart! Such a brain! I wish I had a small section of it.


Dzul is fine. He starts his exams next week. I think it's ridiculous for first graders to have nationwide test and have told everybody what I think. They simply ignore me and pile on the pressure. I do get a bit angry about that. We will have six weeks off in mid-November through December, and then he starts Primary Two. He does enjoy going to school but is way ahead of the other students.


Suriani usually takes him to school and feeds him during his break. Poor little guy, he can't reach the counter for his meal, so Suriani has to do it. She is now translating a book written in Jawi (Arab script) in about the 1300's. The guy we got it from says it was written in the unseen world and handed down to his father and then to him. The tale is fascinating about the Majapahit Empire, the war between Bali and the local customs of the time period. It is about 200 pages and she has finished the first 20. We have identified four sites in Borneo. I usually look up names and places on the Internet and I am about 10% successful.


Me? Oh, I am fine. A little slowed down because of age, pains and aches in my knees occasionally, and I still have to rest in the afternoon. My research is about 60 pages now, not including the bibliography. I am having trouble finding information about Kuching in the 1500-1700 time period. I have neither oral nor written word. Maybe someone will remember poems, songs or stories sung to them by their grandmothers relating of times long ago.


Well, kiss Leeila, Conner and Wyatt for me and tell them they are deeply loved here in Borneo.


...Life is good




[Editor’s Note: Tom’s daughter, her husband and his grandchildren live in Montana.]


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