26 July 2010

Local Wisdom- how could I not believe this?

I'm still obsessed about the Dusuns' death rituals. One of my personal favourite is the rite of potongkiad "separation". The old folks say that the dead must be properly separated from their living relatives, or else someone will get sick, for the livings and the deads cannot mix. Or, if no one got sick, the dead won't feel that they have died and will continue to linger on. Will they?

Well this is another local wisdom that has been practised from generation to generation. To let go of yours when it is time to let go. The modern Dusuns sometimes forget to do this rite (and it is as simple as saying a few parting words), thinking that religion will take care of everything.

A few days ago my parents tried to dismantle my late grandfather's old hut. It was behind his usual place when he was alive. The hut was indeed special- he used it to store his favourite stuffs (mostly junks :-)) like the tools he used to momogorib "getting coconut sap" for bahar "a special drink that is believed to be medicinal, although often alcoholic". My dad used a chainsaw to cut off the four poles of the hut. He thought the hut would crumble and collapse after that but it didn't happen. They shook the hut hard, and still nothing happened. Finally an elderly neighbour came and begged my late grandfather to let go of it. Inspired by that, my mom too asked him to stop holding the hut. Guess what? Moments after that, the hut dismantled easily.

Now what would one call this? Coincidence? Not me. I'd call that the work of local wisdom. For all I know, because my family members do not practice much of the old traditions anymore, the soul of my late grandfather might still be lingering around. Maybe waiting for proper parting words from everyone...or because he just likes doing that. Remembering that he used to be a person that is most cheerful and humorous when he was alive, I'd say his soul must have chosen to linger around :-). He sure enjoys it.

18 July 2010

at the crossroad

I am fully aware that it is impossible for my children to acquire Dusun naturally because of the following reasons:
1. we live in a housing area in which the people are multiracial and multilingual
2. my husband and I do not speak Dusun to each other, mostly because when I first met him I haven't completed my Dusun language acquisition process yet :-)
3. the few years we spent outside of the country made the struggle more difficult because we were detached from most things Dusun, and the children have managed to fully acquire the dominant language.

Thus, I tried for a while to create a Heritage Language lesson for my children at home. I created teaching materials with a lot of clipart objects and aided with the best intention, started teaching them the body parts, greetings, question words etc in Dusun. That was a few years ago when my eldest was in year 2 and the second was in kindergarten. Well, the lessons lasted a few weekends, until I let busyness took over and forgot to find the time to create more lessons.

I've almost forgotten all about them, until my eldest suddenly said to me that she actually missed all my lessons because they were so fun. I was amazed that she even think they were fun at all, as I remember feeling frustrated because they couldn't get the concept (blame it on me being too used to teaching older students). And she said, "and mom, since we are Dusuns, why don't you start teaching us again? It's kind of weird saying that I am a Dusun when I can't even speak".

Her remarks made me feel guilty. And yes, I understand her feelings perfectly. At her age, I started to wonder why my parents spoke to my siblings and I in Malay instead of Dusun. And ended up being resentful about it for a while. Who wouldn't when everywhere you go you got chastised for speaking 'bad Dusun'? They didn't realize what they did to us the children then. Whereas me, I am fully aware of what is happening to the children's language acquisition and all. I guess I should be thankful that my daughter gave me the wake up call. Yes, I'm going to resume the lesson sessions.

The Dusuns are at a crossroad. To be in the mainstream or to hold on to tradition? It takes a lot of efforts to try to find a balance between the two. Because no one can stop a language from changing, the Dusun I teach my children will be one that is already 'diluted', and may even be considered non-standard by those who have the advantage of acquiring the language in a natural environment. But at least I try my best...and help Dusun to survive.

14 July 2010

The herb guy

Meet the herb guy, Mr Midjin Gayak (that's Midjin and yours truly in the pic :-)) from Kg.Kinapulidan, about 4km from Ranau town. He is 71 although he doesn't look a day over 50. I am very privileged to have met him a few weeks ago, and most privileged to have been given some education on the Dusun herbs and their medicinal values.

I am still trying very hard to commit the names of these herbs to my memory. What I found amazing is that things we have around us, that most of us take for granted for being useless weeds can actually be used to cure a lot of ailments. Take for example the
paka or lalang in Malay. The root can be used to cure chicken pox. The general rule of thumb for preparing medicine from herbs is to clean and wash the root (or stem, or leaves or whichever parts of the herb you are using), and boil it for a few minutes. Let cool and drink. In the case of paka, it helps to force the poxes out on the skin surface, and makes one heal faster.

Midjin and his wife Rosmiah have a herb farm of about 2 acres, with about 400 type of herbs growing on the land. Some are native to the place, some they had had to hunt from the jungle and cultivate. They started the farm 13 years ago after Rosmiah was healed from breast cancer. In his worries, Midjin actually dreamed of the herb that healed her cancer. He had never seen the herb before, but following his intuition, went into the jungle and found the plant he dreamed about. Since then the couple have helped a lot of people with various health problems, ranging from simple ones like gastric and fever, to cancer. I have a great respect for what they are doing- and I can feel that they are very sincere in their mission to help others. Blessed be my herbalist friends.

07 July 2010

Local wisdom that has gone wrong

Been always wondering why the local communities in Sabah never could keep their areas clean from rubbish. Not only the Dusuns but also other indigenous communities.

Lately I begin to see that it's because of their misplaced local wisdom. I'm talking about the natural composting knowledge they have always had. Before the era of plastic bags, everything was from nature, and the only way they disposed of rubbish was by throwing them on the ground to decompose.

When modernisation in terms of plastic materials came, naturally they couldn't handle it well. What do I expect anyway: the great grandparents, grandparents and even some parents (I'm talking about my generation) didn't have the chance to go to school and be educated about all these modern stuffs. And so the local wisdom went wrong, and up till now, it is not easy to correct...