29 May 2010

Mission Almost Impossible: in search of pomiwalaian "place to build house on"

Lands, as any Dusun can tell, are valuable commodities. Our foreparents riches were measured by how many acres of lands they had, apart from how many buffaloes they owned. Lands and buffaloes continue to be valuable nowadays but people seem to be making do without buffaloes. Lands, however, are a different case. They are still very much sought after, no matter how ridiculous the price might seem to be.

Yesterday we went on mission almost impossible; to find plots of land at the suburb of KK. It started with a friend, who heard on grapevine that someone was selling their land. I thought at 50k/acre, the price was a bit steep, but tagged along with hubby anyway. It was somewhat hilarious, a bunch of fortysomething Dusuns in search of land, reunited after over 20 years (they are all my hubby's batch and juniors at the uni).

From the friend's house, we drove up the scenic hills. The view was indeed breathtaking, KK on the right hand side, the Kinabalu Mountain on the left. I made up my mind to want the land but our spirit was crushed upon stopping at a shop by the roadside. We were told that the owner of the land had sold his 15 acre land, for 80k per acre. I almost drooped to hear the news. 80k per acre? Wow, people can really make money from land. Anyway, in seconds, our dream to build a little kampung on top of the hill, facing the two most beautiful views in KK; the mount Kinabalu and the city, crushed, or so I thought.

It is however not the end of the mission. Hubby's friends are still determined to find a nice place for their retirement. And the more I think of it, the more interesting the idea seem to be. It would be wonderful to have a place on top of the hill, with a lazy creek flowing nearby, with nature sounds all around you, and wonderful people as your neighbours. What bliss...

(After that, we visited my cousin's plot of land in the area, on which he is building his house. To reach there we had to trot a newly build road, all muddy and steep. It was a wonderful exercise although we really had to strain our underused muscles. We learned a little lesson about pioneering- that it took a lot of effort and endurance to own your own land :-))

24 May 2010

Read your character from chillies

Yes, I'm serious. If the Chinese people read one's character from body parts, the Dusuns use chillies. My brother told me this last night. Using our late grandmother as an example, he seemed to be making sense. Our grandmother had always grown very hot chillies; ones that were sought after by everyone, and she was quite a character! Although broadly categorized as 'good' (osonong) and 'bad' (araat), characters can still be in the middle of the two. I'd view it as a continuum of araat (bad), araa-raat (quite bad), osonong-sonong (quite good) and osonong (good). Of course 'good' and 'bad' do not really equate good and bad in the English sense. Good can be soft-hearted, soft-spoken etc, while bad can be fierce, brave in an unnatural way etc. If you want to know how you rate, try growing chillies. According to the Dusuns' belief, if you are a good person your chillies would be mild, maybe even tasteless. (oh yes, I've tasted tasteless chillies!) If you are bad , your chillies would be perfect. So if you are in between, you might get slightly hot ones. I'd really like to know how I rate but unfortunately I am a disappointment to the Dusuns. I can't grow anything. Too bad for me!


I finally figured out that popitolib-tolibon is the Dusuns' effective way of dealing with stress. It basically means "let go and let go". I hear family members saying it all the time, and doing it I supposed. It's like when you are upset by someone's action or remark, you have to act like it has never happened. It might seem to be a form of denial, but the person who has that attitude is normally stress-free.

I decided to try adopting that attitude one morning when stress was mounting. As usual the kids were bickering before leaving for school, the road was all muddy because of the rainy season, and the second daughter, being ever so ladylike, took so long to jump over the little puddle just a step away from where I parked. A neighbour, annoyed that I had to park on the road and blocked his way honked furiously at me. It was only a little incident, and I reasoned that he had the right to be furious because I must have blocked his way for a minute or so when he was rushing out to work, but it still bothered me a little. So popitolib-tolibon came to mind and I focused on forgetting the moments of angry honking and guilty feeling. It worked, didn't it? Well, have to say that actually it is all psychological. Maybe I have to now redefine it as "the power of positive thinking".

17 May 2010

'Djin' on my father's orchard

One of the best things about going back to kampung is hearing stories from the folks. These stories vary in nature-sad, happy, humourous depending on the storyteller's mood. The story of this week is about how my father's orchard has got a djin residing on it. Of course no one in my family knew about it until a fruit buyer came all the way from Semporna to Ranau (about 5 hours drive away) to buy langsats from my father last fruit season.

The person said that something followed him back to his place. Upon consulting a knowledgeable man, he was told that it was a djin from the orchard. A good one. The djin supposedly stays on the land and looks after the land. His dwelling place? The bamboo plants that are abundant there.

Now that is something interesting to know. Most especially when the land was recently trespassed on (rather, somebody decided to reroute the river from being on the land's boundary to exactly in the middle of the land) and when my father brought the case to the court, he won the case before the trial. My folks, being the believers that they are, naturally credited the victory to God with...maybe...some help from the djin, as in Dusun, we have supernatural creatures of equal nature, the rogons. Rogons could be bad or good, depending on how you deal with them. Respect them, and they will do you favours. Offend them and they'll cause you harm. In this era of modern religions, some people reject them totally, while some accomodate them and accept their role as 'the helper', maybe just like angels or slightly of lower level.

No matter what, the story is indeed enlightening. I'm impressed to know that my father's land has a wonderful resident of different makeup then us :-)

13 May 2010

of katama, kouyu and kabaya: the changing Dusun language

When one doesn't have the right language input, one uses words in "colourful" ways. Well sometimes to the annoyance of the language prescriptivists. There are three Dusun words that I notice my brother keeps using in different ways than I think they should. These words are:

katama (dare in the sense of "scared")

kouyu (dare in the sense of "shy")

kabaya (has the time to do something)

In Dusun one of the purposes ko- is added to a word is to show ability.

My brother, being a member of the 90s Dusun generation who speaks very "limited" Dusun at home (sorry 90s generation), would say things like:

1. amu oku ka kouyu (I do not dare)

when what he really means is

2. amu oku kabaya ( I do not have the time (to do something))

(I can't really blame him, as his generation is really the changed generation; the generation whose parents or elder siblings are of the transition generation (from traditional to modern) and speak more Malay/English at home.)

I wonder what will happen after all Dusun speakers of my parents' or my generation have died :-) Either Dusun won't be spoken anymore, which I think won't be the case since most Dusuns are quite patriotic about their heritage, or Dusun would be spoken as a different language. Most likely...

03 May 2010

Labour Day Tribute to my mom-in-law- songulun i tokodou o ginawo (a "strong hearted" person)

My hubby's side of the family had a gathering on 1.o5.10, to remember their late brother's passing 10 years ago, and also just to find the time to be together. My mom-in-law is at the center of it all. Having been a single parent for 28 years, she is both father and mother to all her children. There used to be 9 surviving children, now there are only eight.
I respect my mom-in-law greatly. When her husband died, she was pregnant with the last child, my youngest brother-in-law who is now 28. She was then in her 40s, unemployed, since she didn't have the luxury of getting an education in the post-war era, and with 8 other mouths to feed. Her resilience was and is still great. She tapped rubber and grew rice to ensure that all her children didn't go hungry, and could get a good education. Even though she herself had never been to school, she was very strict to her children about their schooling. Playing truant meant getting punishment in the form of caning.
At first glance she appears very fierce. Well she has to or else her children wouldn't be where they are at present. They all hold good jobs- at least no one has to tap rubber for a living anymore.
Two years ago, mom-in-law was recognized as one of the successful mothers in KK. Her story was written in this special book called "Journeys of the heart: the Malaysian Families". I am glad that her hardwork and sacrifices in raising up her children are acknowledged. I'd attribute her strength, partly in being a Dusun, since okodou o ginawo "strong heartedness" is a virtue very much appreciated by the Dusuns. I mean it doesn't apply to everyone, but people like mom-in-law are definitely strong :-)