|Deep in the heart of Sarawak|
|Saturday, 20 February 2010 04:00|
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia will be bringing its Roadshow to Sabah and Sarawak on March 13 and 14. While many Malaysians may have traveled to the main cities or hung out at exquisite dive spots, the interiors of these territories remain largely an enigma. DHANEN MAHES, as Semenanjung as they come, had a chance to delve deeper while doing voluntary work some months ago. He shares with us his experience
I peeked into the further reaches of the Hornbill's nest not so very long ago. The mountains are more jagged, carpeted in a thousand shades of green. The rivers are mighty; a kind of whitewater restlessness carving away layers of time from their banks. The people are gentle. Gentle as the mengkuang baskets they weave.
I had followed a group of volunteers from the peninsula into the interiors to administer dental care. Our destination was Kampung Bawie, a longhouse settlement off Lubok Antu in Sarawak. Lubok Antu itself is about 200 km from Kuching, where we landed, and a mere 10km from the Kalimantan border.
From Kuching we drove to Lubok Antu, and then turned off into a logging road, just at the outskirts of the town. The drive through the logging trail was steep, treacherous, and more than once we encountered landslips. The trail is dotted with little logging villages and settlements (above).
We finally arrived at Kg Bawie just before sundown. Bawie rests in the bosom of a small valley, two longhouses flanked on each side by verdant hills, and a little stream running right through the middle. In all, the journey took about eight hours.
Bawie is a village of the old and the very young. Many of its young men and women have left to look for jobs at nearby towns and seldom come home.
The villagers are Iban. Mixed tribes are uncommon in most areas of Sarawak. There isn't much in terms of real economy. The jungle provides. Mostly, they forage for a living. They have a number of small garden patches, but these have been left largely untended. The village is littered with pigs and little piglets. Dogs run wild all over the place. There is little evidence of domesticated livestock.
I was informed that the villagers have gotten used to NGOs and other groups bringing them food, and do not devote much time to growing their own. Though not backed with hard facts, the signs seem to point to its veracity. It is this which makes me ache inside. I sometimes wonder if we are doing them more harm than good.
That evening after sundown, everyone got together to cook a community meal. There's something quite wonderful about this ritual. It's the stuff which holds families together. This little fellow had just come back with his mum from foraging in the forest nearby.
We were there to administer dental aid to the villagers. We started that same night, and this gentleman lost a few of his lifelong friends.
We went on through the night with the help of flashlights. There may be ambitious projects like the Bakun Dam and its megawatts, but Tenaga doesn't come around here. Kg Bawie has a single generator. This is used to run the lights in the village head's room and the common areas. The rest of the longhouse is often left in pitch darkness. They have a single television set and a number of radios from which they get their information.
Morning came along, and I awoke to the smells of fire burning and babies crying. There is a warmth to these activities. In the daylight, you get to see the faces of the hosts better. The terrain reveals itself to the visitor.
Past perfect, future tense: As much as I enjoyed the beauty of the environment, my urban mind shook me again - with little education opportunities, what will happen to these young children? Didn't they deserve better? Was I seeing from a biased lens, skewed to only one version of emancipation?
For that brief moment somehow, it was apt to let go. The kids became my teachers. Be free in spirit, they seemed to say.
Live the moment.
And if it's worth the while, take the plunge. (A stream and waterfall nearby the village. I took this picture while hanging from a vine and trying not to think about the rocks below.)
Life's like that, the village seemed to murmur.
So right, and yet so wrong.
We went deep into the interiors of Sarawak and pulled some teeth. In turn I had my insides jerked and twisted in a personal drama of rights and wrongs. Lubok Antu does that to you; forces one to battle with forgotten ghosts, in the hope that we come out the better, most hopefully clearer.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2010 23:54|