24 December 2011

The wisdom of 'kuroyon poh' (acceptance)

I guess in many culture there is a concept that is equivalent to the Dusun's kuroyon poh (acceptance). Although it sounds lame, I learned yesterday that there is a wisdom in it.

Well, being pick-pocketed isn't something anyone would want to happen to them. But when it happened, it happened. And of all the time, it happened to me on 23.12.2011, two days before christmas, just as I was in the high spirit of completing my christmas shopping. I can blame myself for being careless if I want to actually, because after all the years living in KL, I should know that it is a bad idea to carry so much cash and put all the cards in one place, but I did anyway. So all my cards and christmas shopping money were gone :(.

Somehow, the concept kuroyon poh surfaced and kept me sane. I guess underlying that is the knowing that there are things that you just cannot change, thus the best thing you could do is to accept them. By doing that, you feel better, knowing that there was nothing you could do to change it now. (and in my case, it would be once bitten twice shy!) Of course the situation is not fun at all but at least I'm not making it worst by whining and regretting. And I still intend to have a good christmas despite that. Who knows next year I might get better luck?

Wherever you are, have yourselves a very merry holiday, whether or not you celebrate christmas :)

03 December 2011

A session with Langkawit

Langkawit is a household name in Sabah, at least among the Kadazan/Dusun people. A delightful cartoonist, his cartoons are loved by many including yours truly.

Yesterday I had the chance to finally meet him in person, and it was extra special because he came as a guest teacher in the Kadazandusun class we offer to UMS staff. It was my turn to teach yesterday, so I took the chance to promote his coming to my colleagues, the Langkawit fan clubbers.

So Langkawit came and we had him draw cartoons on the white board for 30 minutes. In line with our theme, 'emotion words', he cleverly drew scenes that involved emotional outbursts and that led to the learning of some very good verbs. The cartoons were just wonderful I didn't have the heart to rub them off the board after the session was over. Next week someone is going to have a pleasant surprise (hopefully!) when they walk in the classroom...

At the end of the session, we had an autograph session. And I am now a proud owner of two latest Langkawit comic books, autographed, naturally!

28 October 2011

Why oh why?

Sometimes I get so used to reading Dusun news items translated from Malay that I forgot to react when I see that the sentence structures look more Malay than Dusun. Other times when I am in my Kadazandusun teacher-mode, I feel quite upset and wish that writers are more aware of what they are doing. But then again, no one of the current working Kadazan/Dusun people ever did learn Kadazan/Dusun grammar in school so I can't really blame them, can I?

Somehow it still bothers me. When someone decided that s/he would become a Kadazan/Dusun journalist, I believe s/he should be aware that a Kadazan/Dusun sentence begins with a verb, not a 'subject' (or whatever the elements are called). Unless of course the 'subject' is brought to the front, and followed by 'nopo nga' that functions like 'ialah/adalah' in Malay or the copular be in English. Even then it would still need to be followed by further information for the subject.

So "The people are happy" should be
Ounsikou (state verb) i(determiner) tongoulun(person.plural)

or tongoulun nopo nga ongounsikou... (the people are happy...) followed by further information

tongoulun(person.plural) ounsikou (happy)

The thing is, I see more and more of this careless way of writing nowadays. People don't seem to make the effort of appreciating the natural elements of the language they are using, and to me it's sad. Or could it be because boundaries between languages living side by side are getting more blurred?

(Note: This is written during one of my grumpy moods. Must be due to reading too many awkward KD sentences)

03 October 2011

A little gift goes a long way

Today I silently thank Rev. Fr. Bruno of the Ranau Catholic Parish for having given me a Dusun bible some years ago. It was the time I started getting serious in my Bundu Dusun language analysis to aid my understanding of how the language works in order to create better teaching and learning materials for the students.(The work continues on, although there have been a lot of halts along the way.)

Many might think what has a bible got to do with this? But it actually does a lot for me. I especially realize it today when I was translating some personality quiz materials for my students to try out in the classroom. (God knows a language classroom without elements of fun in it can 'kill' the teacher and students!). Many words in the personality test, as expected, are adjectives describing people. Needless to say, it is so difficult to find the equivalents in Dusun.

I was giving up on the translation when I remembered to look in the bible. I thought if I typed in the words I was looking for in the online bible website, I'd be able to check them in the dusun bible. I took it from the shelf, and started my project. True enough, words such as 'loving, gentle and kind' are shown in many verses and I was able to check them up in the Dusun bible. Who would have thought that the word 'gentle' that I was still not able to translate after an hour was easily found?(and it's 'alamaya' by the way)

My self-lesson today: never take religious texts for granted. Even if you are not reading them to 'hear the words of God', you can certainly learn languages from them, the way the languages are used by the community .

My next target is to get my hands on the Islamic hadis translation in Dusun. I think there has to be one, because I used to hear the Friday sermon (khutbah Jumaat) being read in the Dusun radio station. It would be interesting to see how the two religious communities speaking the same language translate the language.

Thank you Fr. Bruno. You have given me a gift that I would be able to use in many areas of my life.

27 September 2011

An ER story from a Dusun village

I was reminded of this story as I prepared my Kadazandusun teaching materials last night. This semester I have the opportunity to handle a KD class for a group of medical students who are of non-KD ethnic groups, and naturally I need to relate the lessons to some elements of medic, much that I don't have much knowledge on the field. As I like to have games as part of my classroom activities, I decided to create something called THE BEST GUESS. In this game, the students are divided into groups and each group is asked to guess the meaning of a text, supposedly a medical complaint of a patient. The group that provides the best guess gets a reward, of course.

One of the complaints was derived from a real-life story that my youngest brother witnessed last year. He accompanied my father to the Emergency Room in Ranau Hospital one evening when my father suddenly got stung by an unknown insect. As my brother waited in the waiting area while my father was being examined by the doctor, an elderly lady was wheeled in by her grandson. For some reason the lady's demeanor reminded my brother of our late grandmother, so he unashamedly eavesdropped on the lady's conversation with her grandson.

The lady looked around, decided that it was safe for her to speak in Dusun without anyone understanding her (my brother has Chinese features and he is always mistaken for one), and started telling her grandson this: "Don't you ever tell the doctor the truth about why I am not able to walk. Just tell him I fell over. Never mention at all that I got run over by a buffalo because it is so embarrassing!"

My brother found it so funny he had to go out to prevent himself from laughing out loud. It was not because of the fact that the little old lady was run over by a buffalo, but because she was so embarrassed by the fact that it happened to her, and tried so hard to cover it up.

It made for a nice guessing game...my students could never imagine that a buffalo can actually run over a person that they translate the text as : "I can't walk and I rode a buffalo...:)"

18 September 2011

The funeral of a lady who taught me about the Dusun's death ritual


Rest in peace ginan Lucy Lotimboi. I attended her funeral yesterday. For the first time ever, I attended a Dusun funeral that was most peaceful. There was no mogihad (weeping ritual for the deceased) although it was obvious that her loved ones were crying quietly. I shed some tears myself. It's quite strange because I hadn't really known the lady for so long, but it must have been because I was remembering her kindness. She was my husband's aunt by marriage and I've been marriedto him for 15 years but I didn't get the chance to see that side of the family that often. But she had carved herself a place in my heart, mainly because of her kindness. Whenever we visited, she would make me feel at home. And a few months ago, she had been very kind to be willing to share with me her knowledge about some Dusun rituals- especially on death custom.

I looked at her peaceful face as I paid my last respect. Silently I thank her for everything and bade her good bye. For a few seconds, I got the sensation that she was smiling with joy as she said good bye to everyone. At the mass, the priest comforted her family members by saying that although it is inevitable that death brings grief, it should be looked at as a new life, almost a celebration that the deceased is now in heaven with her loved ones. He said that the deceased's last request to her family members, "don't cry for me" was indeed very wise. Send her off with 'joy' because she wouldn't want anyone she left behind to be sad.

Her funeral was so different from the Dusun funerals she described to me (and I've attended some like those she described too). Of course some traditions to do with death were still observed like 'not allowed to take green vegetables' because green signifies life, or that before the body was buried somebody has to keep vigil all the time, so people still play cards and drink the whole night long the night before. But there was no lingering feeling of doom like what I've experienced in some funerals before.

In the next few days till the seventh day, her family members would still observe certain traditions: no music, mongotomou (hanging green leaves outside of the house to ward off bad spirits), and on the seventh day there would be the popotongkiad (farewelling) ritual that would involve magauh (putting ash on a little plate so that when her soul is called to come over and take all her belongings, she could leave a little mark that means "I have come" on the plate of ash), and momisok (turning off light- that's when her sould would be called to come over). All these would be incorporated in the Catholic rites that she had embraced along with her family members.

Rest in peace ginan Lucy Lotimboi. You will be missed.
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09 September 2011

The insect that can tell the weather

Of course it sounds ridiculous, but indigenous people have many nature-based ways of forecasting the weather- plants, insects etc. Last Hari Raya holiday, while visiting neighbours one morning, I saw an insect that looks like this outside somebody's door:

"Kotondu moti kaka ti do rumasam ko amu" (This insect can tell whether or not it will rain), my mom said to me. "Really?" I asked with great amusement. "Yes, ask it whether it would shine this afternoon. If it will, the insect will nod", my mom encouraged me confidently. Oh well. No harm in pleasing my mom. So I asked the bug this question aloud: "inda, magadau do baino?" (well, is it going to shine today?)

I waited for it to nod. Nothing happened. I asked louder. Still nothing happened. The bug kept still with its long feelers outstretched. I decided to ask one last time, just to please my mom who was looking expectantly. Making sure my pitch was twice as higher than before, I asked really loud "inda, magadau do baino!!!!?". Mom must have been shocked because she decided to come closer to have a look at the bug.

"Oh, actually I got the wrong insect. This is not Paku Ngadau (the supposedly clever bug name)", Mom declared as soon as she had had a better look at it! Ha ha...I'd been asking it a question for nothing. Luckily no one was around to witness the silly encounter :) But it was quite disappointing that I didn't get to test whether this particular indigenous belief was believable after all.

02 September 2011

On Dusun Wedding-again

(pic courtesy of my cousin on his reception day in 2009)

This Raya season, I managed to kill two birds with one stone. I visited an aunty who has only been a convert for about 10 years. I've always found her intriguing, as before her conversion she used to be a healer, even almost a bobolian 'traditional healer'. (She told me she never did reach the bobolian stage, as apparently there's a lot of chants to be memorized and she couldn't do that. Come to think of it, Bobolians must be people who, in modern understanding, have linguistic intelligence among other things). For someone who's not a full bobolian, Aunty R knows a lot of rituals.

Anyway, this time around, I asked her about her wedding day, as part of my project of looking at the changes in the Dusun wedding customs practised in Ranau since the 1950s. It's a bonus that her wedding took place in 1960- just what I'd been looking for to complete my current data of 1950s and 1970s.

By the time she got married, the earlier practice of conducting wedding rituals at night was done away with. In the 1950s, marriages were still pretty much arranged, without the consent of any of the wedded parties. Parents cleverly arranged for their children to be married (and kept it a secret), and on the day of the wedding the ritual would be conducted either against protest from the children, or with their total submission. More often than not, the marriage ended in divorce.

Aunty R agreed to her marriage, being fully aware of what was taking place. When the momuhaboi (asking for her hand in marriage) ceremony was conducted, she was allowed to listen to the discussion and state her 'terms and conditions', something that was unheard of in those years. Her wedding day took place at 5pm, instead of at night, as it was normally done. The two things that didn't change, by her own account, was the tapai (rice-wine) drinking session (they still made a lot of tapai to feast on), and the tondiadi (exchanges of wedding poetic forms).

Indeed, the tondiadi was the signature of Dusun weddings then, but by the time my parents got married in the 1970s, it was all gone.

30 August 2011

Keningau, Tenom and the westcoast of Sabah: a weekend journey

Last weekend was my first trip to Tenom. Unbelievable but true. We attended a wedding in Keningau. Stayed overnight at this resort with the most beautiful view, called Hillview Garden Resort:


We went to the wedding at Kg.Senagang and experienced a Dusun culture that was slightly different from my own community's. For one thing, we do not have to drink tapai from large tajau(s) like these in weddings. And the people there can sing and actually enjoy(understand) Murut songs, while people in my place can only appreciate Dusun, English, Malay and occasionally Chinese songs in weddings.


We went back to KK via Tenom-Sipitang road. A stopover at Tenom was very refreshing. Had breakfast at one of the little old restaurants that serves the freshest Tenom stuffed taufu. And the freshly prepared chilli sauce was superb.

One's visit to Tenom isn't complete without including Tenom Botanical Garden. We were lucky as there were not many visitors on that Sunday, so we were shown around by a friendly guide in a buggy car. Among other things that I find really interesting is this little berry called the miracle fruit:


We were told that the seed hailed all the way from Africa. The guide gave us some sour citrus to suck, then gave us the berries. You peel off the skin, pop it in your mouth, and the miracle begins. Any sour thing you take after that will taste sweet, like butter candies. A cousin send me this link that explains about the miracle fruit.

We went pass Sipitang, Beaufort, Membakut, and Papar before we finally arrived at KK. It was a long journey, but one that I wish to repeat very soon. For some reason, I'd like to go back to Tenom and explore the little town that is so clean and fresh.


26 August 2011

Tanak Kampung

Remember the'carrot' and 'stick' thingy that people use to refer to motivation? Well, I learnt yesterday that 'the carrot' comes in many forms. One of them is this song Tanak kampung by Jimmy palikat:

The year 2 son refused to study for his test. I've tried bribing him with money the day before but it didn't work. Then I heard him trying really hard to sing this song- in Dusun. No doubt, to impress some friends in school. So I asked him whether he would like to revise his three subjects in exchanged of a printout of the song lyrics- in Dusun.

Wow, it worked like magic. He revised all three subjects excitedly, with hardly any complain (except for the sentence "Ayah membeli___ buah durian di pasar" to which he grudgingly said, "I knowlah the penjodoh bilangan is sebiji, but why do you need to put buah durian when you already know that durian is a fruit?).

So we got his lyrics printed out nicely...and we ended up the happy mom and son :)

11 August 2011

Ogulian- what goes around...


I finally realized the term for the Dusun's poetic justice concept. It's ogulian, in Sabah Malay kebalikan. I have my friend Trixie to thank for reminding me of this when we had one of our long chats last Friday.

This concept is basically synonym with what goes around comes around, or karma, or whatever one calls it. Except that in ogulian , you are only reminded not to do something bad upon others, while in what goes around it works both way- do something bad, you get something bad in return; do something good then good things happen to you.

My late grandfather used to say if you steal somebody's crops, you might get away with it. But the next generations might suffer because of that, because their blood would be tainted with the bad deed. (either from you eating the stolen food, or selling it and buying food with the money you get for that) That's ogulian.

In a way it is a never-ending punishment for something bad you or your family members do/did. I didn't think of asking my grandfather if there are any ways to stop the punishment :) But logically, I think the only antidote to that is doing something good. That way, it keeps the community in a good order.

05 August 2011

Ramadan Greetings

How fast time flies. It's Ramadan again. It seems only yesterday when I celebrated Hari Raya with family and friends...

Ramadan evokes a memory of childhood, one that I can never forget till now. We were living at a remote village in Ranau when my father was the headmaster in that village school, way back in the late 1970s/early 80s. Like most villages in Ranau, it was a mixed-faith village. A third of the population was Muslim, another 1/3 was Christian, and the rest continued with the traditional Dusun belief.

One day my friend told me that it was the Muslim's fasting month. Of course then I didn't know anything about fasting month. I didn't even know anything about Christianity save for the fact that we made the sign of the cross upon waking up, before meals, before leaving the house and before sleeping (such was my simple faith then), let alone about other religion. Anyway, the friend said that her father was tired working the farm during the day, so he replaced his fasting at night. Seriously, I thought it was normal.

Years later when I was in high school, I participated in Islamic religion lessons and began to understand that fasting for the Muslims involved a duration of before the break of dawn till the sun set, or something like that. I often thought of the childhood friend, her father and even the Muslim community in that village. I do not know for sure when did they convert to Islam, but if it was anything in the 60s or 70s, chances are, they didn't receive the right guidance then. (It is a well known fact that a lot of mass conversion happened in the Dusun community in those years, and that a lot of the new Muslims did not really understand their new faith. Just like a lot of Christians did not understand their faith).

I guess those times were history. I'm glad to think that the Muslim Dusuns are more knowledgeable about their faith now, just as those who claim to be Christians are also making an effort to understand their faith. Most importantly, we still live together in harmony, and we acknowledge that despite the religious differences, we descend from the same source. I guess this quote applies to the Dusun people in general, that "All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth"(Thich Nhat Hanh). May the Dusun people continue to live together in peace.

27 July 2011


I am finally back to work, after the long medical leave. Yesterday was the first day and it began with a workshop on writing and editing that lasted till today. I have to say the workshop had been very enlightening, thanks to the facilatator, Dr Jeniri Amir, a prominent scholar and a prolific writer at UNIMAS Sarawak.

I like many things he said, but I especially like his simple approach of celebrating a completed job- self-reward. I've never really thought about this before, but I supposed the Dusun people actually have been practising this concept without calling it a name. The most common reward (at least practiced earlier) is/was moginum. After a hard day's work at the farm, the Dusun like to get together over a tajau of tapai. Men, women, there used to be no distinction, although women slowly stopped participating in the activity. It's a reward after all! I can see the change of the pattern in my own family: my late grandmothers (both sides) drank with their men. Some of my elderly aunties (in their 70s and 80s now), still do that sometimes. But my mother and her younger sisters (in their 40s to 60s) do not drink with the men much anymore. In fact, I can surely say that Mom doesn't do social-drinking at all, except with girl-friends, and even that is seldom.

Anyway, Dr. Jeniri says self-reward is very important to keep one's motivation going. Something as simple as a cup of tea after achieving a job-target such as writing an abstract for an academic paper. I bet you can see that I am self-rewarding now. As an academic, I have to adhere to the principle 'publish or perish', and I've not been a prolific writer at all. (You can hardly call one publication a year prolific!) Since I am about to change that, I'll have to cut-down my self-satisfaction internet activities like blogging and blog-hopping. But hey, I get to blog as a self-reward! (and I am cheating a little bit, I still browse through your blogs every day because in a way, it is my motivation to live :))

19 July 2011

Local Wisdom Again- "Don't touch other people's children"

In the Dusun culture, beating a child as a form of disciplining is allowed, but only as a last resort. But even when beating is done, there is a rule as to who can beat the child and who can't. Most people would expect it to be the parents' responsibility, although I've also seen other family members who are 'higher in rank' (older brothers, uncles, aunties) who did that. But NEVER an outsider.

So was it a wonder that there is always a mixed-reaction when a teacher in school resorts to beating in order to discipline a pupil? On one hand, it is okay to some parents as perhaps to them the rank of the teacher is equal to 'family members'. On the other hand, this is a no-no to some parents, because touching others' children is unheard of in the community.

In fact I was reading Tuaran Adat and Dusun Custom of Putatan District the other day, and discovered that somebody who beats somebody else's child has to pay sogit in the form of animal to the child's parents. Something that requires a sogit is indeed a serious thing in the community. Upon reflection, I think it is a very wise thing indeed. Let each family discipline theirs.

15 July 2011

Ongkor and Anakanak revisited

(source: finaltouchproofreadingandediting.com)

As I write materials for the KD level 2 course, I suddenly think of the KD infamous folktale character, Ongkor aka Bongkoron, and his opposite all-perfect hero Anakanak. Indeed, it is typical in any culture (at least the ones I've heard of) that there must be some black and white characters, and I wonder, could it be because underlying the society is the moral belief that virtue will be rewarded while vice punished?

In the Dusun stories I've heard, Ongkor is always painted as:

1. the lazy one
2. the liar
3. the gluttonous one
4. the envious one
5. the one who couldn't bear difficulties
and the long list of vices goes on. (A Christian can easily identify Ongkor's vices with the seven deadly sins)

Anakanak on the other hand is the angelic one. He is:

1. the hardworking one
2. the honest one
3. the one who respects his mother [parents](often, in the stories I heard, the mother is mentioned as a poor single mother)
4. the one who's grateful
5. the one who bears any difficulties with a grin
and of course, everything that is good.

But unfortunately in real life I don't think there is a single person that is really 100% Anakanak. Nor is there one that is 100% Ongkor (please tell me no one is totally bad). It must have been the people's desire for perfection that painted these two opposite characters the way they are. Maybe deep in every man's heart is that desire.

Anyway, I am using quite a few folktales in my teaching materials this time around. I am having fun doing them, although it is so time-consuming and quite taxing.

07 July 2011

Birthday Celebration is an innovation

The Dusun people didn't used to celebrate birthdays in the olden days. They only celebrated fullmoon (baby's one month event) or whatever it was called then. By the time I was old enough to be dragged around to attend such a celebration (during school holidays, with my grandmother mostly), I remember people calling it ganap bulan (literally 'full moon'). (I wonder if ganap here is from the Malay word genap (complete) or the Dusun word gonop (also complete). Most probably it's the Malay word, as Dusun words are seldom used without affixation.) Anyway, my late grandmother told me that during her child-bearing time, people contributed goods like rice and chicken for the baby's family- to use in the celebration. By the time it was my fullmoon, people started giving little gifts like baby clothes, talcum powder or even a small amount of money. In my mother in law's village, giving money is called mongumpau (giving ang pau), a word which is uniquely based on the Chinese word ang pau.

Back to birthdays, modern day Dusun celebrate birthdays. We just did on July 6. Hubby turned another year wiser on 5 July 2011. But the family celebration could only be done the next evening, as he had to attend a formal dinner of his office on the 5th. I prepared a simple dinner of sushi, baked vegetables, and roast chicken (Aussie style- and I told myself I could have just run to Coles or IGA or Woolsworth to get a perfectly roasted chicken if we were in Australia :)). But since we are now here in KK, I had to roast the chicken on my own. Maybe it's a good thing because I got to learn a few things about roasting. Turned out to be quite simple. Just brine the chicken for an hour (soak it in salt water mixed with a wedged lemon, orange, thymes, bay leaves, garlic and black pepper), rinse it off and rub it with a mixture of rosemary, thymes and pepper, leave for an hour, then roast for about 70 minutes. The result was quite ok for a first attempt. And we had a platter of mixed-fruits for dessert, along with the yummy yam cake from Strawberry cake house.

Since a birthday is not complete without some gifts, the kids and I picked a turqoise paperweight for him, since it is supposed to be a July birthstone. Actually now that I think about the gift buying episode, it was quite hilarious. The Chinese lady who attended to me in the gemstone shop confidently told me that the thing she was showing me was a ruby paperweight, perfect for a July birthday gift. It would promote good health, wisdom, good relationship, and economic stability to the wearer, she told me further. Later on I found out that it is actually turqouise, but somebody told me that turqoise is still counted as a July birthstone. It doesn't really matter, it's the thought that counts :).

So another year wiser was celebrated, as it is commonly practiced among the modern Dusun. Since it is a good innovation, why not?

05 July 2011

Because they are such dedicated teachers

I've now had the chance to look at something I have wanted to do since a few weeks back. That's the Kadazandusun teachers' responses to the questionnaire I distributed through a kind, recently met neighbour (Thanks C :)). This is part of a small scale project I've been working on this year. To evaluate the teaching and learning of KD in Sabah schools after over a decade.

It is not easy to offer a minority language, any minority language as a formal subject in school. And I think the KD community has done well with that. From a mere trial phase in 1997, the language was officially offered in schools in 2000. With very little resources and a lot of obstacles. Salute to the pioneers.

One of the biggest obstacles was that KD is a so-called standard language that no one speaks, and there was no reference grammar to help the teachers taught then. So the teachers who speak real dialects got so confused, some of them even stopped teaching. Who could blame them anyway?

But the resilient ones hung on. They went to workshops, courses, brainstorming sessions and textbook meetings, and produced teaching and learning materials. Maybe the materials were not perfect, but it's the efforts that count. I'd say to anyone who criticize them without thinking, to go produce better ones. (I, myself ended up trying to figure out the grammar of my dialect because...somebody has to? Nah, because I want to).

Anyway, more than a decade later, KD is still there in schools. Yes, there definitely is room for improvement, but I believe in acknowledging and appreciating sincere efforts. If anything, sincere efforts that might be not so perfect are worth a thousand times more than pompousness.

And so I am so happy to discover in the questionnaire that all of the teachers who responded say that they are happy teaching KD, that they would deepen their knowledge on KD, and that they would continue to teach the language in years to come. Teachers, I am in awe of your dedication. It's a journey, of which, no one knows where it will end.

Note: No, I have not been involved in the preparation of KD teaching in schools, nor have I ever had the pleasure of teaching KD in schools. But I have been an accidental KD instructor (material developer mostly) in UMS since a few years back, and now even an occasional teacher when we have enough students to distribute among us three teachers (two of them are language teachers employed to teach KD). Despite having another set of job description teaching something else (my tugas hakiki real job), I always welcome the opportunity to conduct a KD class. We adopt a slightly different approach than the one in schools, and I'd like to think that we are improving gradually in UMS :)

29 June 2011

Borrowing the Malay plural system

"Romou-romou matoku lumuyung id pingasku
aiso pinoborosku, aiso tiso pinikianu ku"

(tears of my eyes, running down my cheeks, I had nothing to say, I didn't ask for a single thing)

"tusak-tusak do piginawaan
owongi oh koungkaladon"

(the flowers of love, they unfold with sweet fragrance)

These two excerpts are from two lovely Kadazandusun (KD) songs. And they are living examples of a growing phenomenon in the use of the KD plural; that is borrowing the system from Malay. It's hardly surprising, since Malay is the dominant language, and the younger generation can't help but become hybrid in their use of languages.

In Malay, plural words are mostly formed by full reduplication. Anak-anak, (children) barang-barang (things) etc. In the KD dialects that I know of (and I think I've heard quite a few although I do not claim to know all dialects), plural is indicated by the prefix 0ngo- (also realized as anga-) as in tangaanak (children), ongodungau (cats). Sometimes ongo-/anga- is used with t- in the front as in tangaanak.

Some people told me that there are instances of words that are fully reduplicated in KD like tanak-tanak (child) and tasu-tasu (dog). But based on my experience, this type of reduplication doesn't indicate plural. It is something else...something that people say when they want to downplay the importance of something, or when they want to be humble about something.

But, supposed there are really plural forms indicated by full-reduplication, I wonder which KD dialects would have that?

23 June 2011

Man's Best Friend

When it comes to the Dusun people, it is quite true that dogs are really man's best friends. Go to any Dusun's house at any kampung and you'll definitely see a few dogs outside the house.

This is Gurod, my parents' loyal dog. She's been around for about 7 years. A few times, she had shown some signs of aging and dying, but she has never missed a chance to 'go hiking' (going to the farm up the hill) with any member of the family. She lost the function of a leg as a result of stealing a chicken when she was young and playful. Mom said Bapa hit her so bad with a stick that her leg was broken and eventually became useless. But Bapa denied that vehemently, saying that it was because she was attacked by the other dogs. Both my parents love her like a child though.

This one is Kadiu, which my children have accidently christened 'Cardio' when they were readjusting to the local pronunciation, post-Australia-living. Kadiu is a special female dog that had never given birth to any puppy. She's the most fierce of the pack- the leader of the pack according to Mom. She guards the house jealously, never letting any strangers get in the compound without alerting the household.


This one here is Panda, named so because of his colors. He used to be so cute and panda-like that he was allowed to be the 'inside-dog'. Later, he opted to be an 'outside-dog' like the rest of the dogs. He's been much more lively ever since, though his good look had vanished because of his fondness of playing with dirts.

And these three little puppies here didn't get the chance to enjoy life. They didn't even get names that stuck. (In my parents' household, there is this tradition that a puppy will be called a few names until one of the names stuck). We started calling them 'the three princes-father unknown' but they died barely a month after they were born. RIP triplets.

Finally, we have Tuti, the irresponsible mother of the triplets. She doesn't have a single motherly bone in her body. All she knows is to get pregnant, give birth and leave the puppies to tend to themselves. It's no wonder none of them lived long so far.

Actually there are more dogs in my parents' place but these are all the pictures I have. They keep adopting, tirelessly tending to these dogs- feeding them and taking them to the vets. In return, they get loyal guards, and companions to go to the farms. "At least," Mom said, "I never have to worry about stepping on a snake in the bushes. The dogs take care of that for me".

22 June 2011

The perfect 'tapai'

My mom was becoming very restless. She's been here about a week, with the intent of helping me out with the kids' breakfast and lunch boxes while I recuperate from my operation just over a week ago. So I asked her to make some tapai (rice-wine), since I have some beras pulut (glutinous rice) and sasad (yeast,) leftover from my last effort (that would be months ago). (Being me, I can't help but feel that tradition should be carried out by those who can, no matter that I don't drink alcoholic drinks myself).

The tapai-making session turned out to be an eye-opener for me. Strange, I thought I knew all there was to know about making tapai. Turned out that like any other type of learning, it's a continuous process.

The first comment I got from Mom was "you need a proper cooling-mat" (which would ideally be a recycled sugar or rice sack, the white woven type that normally holds 50kg of rice). Mom said that if you don't cool the cooked rice properly, there's a chance that the tapai would turn sour instead of bitter or bitter-sweet. Because I don't have one of those, she had to be contented with using my rilibu (winnowing basket).

Her second comment was that I was not supposed to store my yeast in the fridge, even though they are in an air-tight container. "The best tapai can only be produced by using properly-dried yeast", said Mom. She took the bunch of yeast out and dried them under the sun-thankfully the sun shone gloriously yesterday.

She cooked 5kg of beras pulut in my giant rice-cooker (and complained that the fragrance of the rice would have been much nicer cooked in a large pot on a hearth over suduon (firewood)). After, she let the rice cool on the winnowing basket, and hours later, after the bunch of yeast were crisp from the sun, she put them in a zipped bag, and crush them with a rolling-pin. (In her own place, she would have used a custom-made pestle for that purpose). She mixed the yeast with the rice well, and stored them in two of my empty jars.

A month from now, the tapai would be good to consume, either as siopon (to be taken straight from the tajau using a straw) or lihing (rice-wine.

Mom's tapai has always been perfect, while mine varies from bitter to sourish. Good thing the lesson she gave had made me aware of the reason for the sourish taste now.

21 June 2011

So, we are from China?

When my grandparents were still around, I used to ask them "where are we from?". And 'ama' (that's my grandfather), with his typical humor, would tell me a story of how there were seven sisters that lived on top of the Kinabalu Mountain, who got blown away by the wind and scattered to different places. "From the seven places, the various races were formed", he'd confidently said. 'Ina' (grandmother) would dismiss my question with "ungka" (don't know), and told me not to ask too many questions. I supposed no one told them of their origins, and that's the way it was supposed to be...from them, I never did learn much about the origin.

Through the years, I've heard many versions of the origin of the Dusun (Kadazaandusun) people. Then I came across two archived articles that mentioned the name(s) of the person/s responsible to bring the Dusun here in Sabah. It's quite fascinating, although the writers themselves wrote that that theory needs further research (and that was in 1858, and 1923 respectively).

According to Crespigny (1958), "...they (the Dusun) revere the name of Kina, their first leader, who having brought them to this land from another, ascended the mountain Kinibalu, and was no more seen of men. They also kept in rememberance the name of Hung-sum-ping, the brother of the Emperor of China, and Malekbatata, from the same country, whose names are connected with a curious legend". I find it interesting that although this piece of information seems so infused with myth, the mention of China and those two names seem real.

Another version ((Hewett (1923)) says that Kublai Khan invaded North Borneo in great force in 1292 (Thanks Tina for noticing the typo. I wrote 1912 earlier) and founded a Chinese Province, in which included the Sulu Islands. (and perhaps from there, the people spread to Sabah?). One evidence given by Hewett that I find curious is "the bamboo bridge over Tampasuk river at Kaung Ulu, a survival of Chinese days. No Dusun nowadays could design such a bridge". I wonder how the bridge looked like. The same author states that from Sulu records, a guy called Ong Sum Ping settled in Kinabatangan River in 1375...and if one relates this with the Dusun legend, that the people originated from Nunuk Ragang (which is very accessible from Kinabatangan), there might be some truth to the claim.

Anyhow, solid research will be needed to explain the genesis of the Dusun :. As it is, I continue wondering...

18 June 2011

Jar cleansing ritual

I learned a new thing again. As usual, from my mom, who like most moms, is a fountain of knowledge.

Mom says that in the olden days, there were a lot of rituals associated with moginakan (family gathering of sort). One of them is the jar cleansing ritual or mongibai. Interestingly, mom, who was born in 1951 had only experienced this ritual once before everybody stopped ritualizing many things.

Mongibai was a ritual performed to cleanse two types of jars, tompok and bagaton (in Bundu Tuhan) that were believed to be inhabited by spirits to make them fit for rice-wine storage. It was believed that if the ritual wasn't performed before filling the jars, the spirits would play havoc with the rice-wine, causing it to become sour. Apparently, the desired taste of tapai in the olden day was bitter (unlike nowadays when people prefer bitter-sweet taste).

At a corner of the house of the moginakan host, low walls would be erected and the jars to be cleansed would be put within the walls. All the best clothes (unused) would be taken out and draped on the walls. Then a bobolian (shaman, priestess) would start the ritual by singing a chant called tibai. Too bad mom can't remember the whole chant, but here's what she remembers:
inumon nopo'd sanganu
(if the host is the one drinking it)
misintobu kinokos
(it would be like sugar-cane)
nga inumon nopo'd sambai
(but if the guest is the one drinking it)
nga misimpaliu gintawos
misingompodu do lansat
(it would be like the bile of the langsat fruit)

and it is from the lyrics that I know bitter-tasted rice-wine was more preferred to sweet-tasted in thosed days...

02 June 2011

This is kaamatan

Borrowing Kay Kastum's song title, this year, Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) was a quiet celebration for me. Instead of taking part in the merry-making of the festival, I opted to hide far from the maddening crowd somewhere in a secluded hotel in KK and entertained the kids. Much that the kids' quarrels drove me crazy most of the time, it was still a nice time for me.

The only thing I did that reflects an aspect of Kaamatan was to buy this belt:

It's called tangkong
I think. It's the one that a lady wears with the kadazandusun costume, among other things. I happened to come across it in one of the booths selling traditional crafts in KDCA, the place where the peak of Kaamatan is celebrated every year. Thinking that all this while I've always been using my mom's, I decided to get one for myself. In fact there was another set of 3 belts that look like a chain of heavy rings that I really wanted. These three are supposed to be worn on the hips. It's just that they cost a fortune: RM1000 for the set! Well, I haven't come to the stage of having that much need for them yet. Maybe when I'm older (some people are just late bloomer anyway).

So that's my Kaamatan buy this year. Maybe next year I'll celebrate, really celebrate the (imaginary) bounty harvest of the past year, giving thanks to Bambarayon (or the Maker or Mother Nature) for good another year :)

18 May 2011

excuse me- karud?

I've always have it in my mind that a man referring to his wife as karud (literally 'female buffalo' in my dialect at least, and 'sow' in many Kadazandusun dialects) is very rude. But it was quite a common practice some years back. I remember my father's friends referring to their wives as that. For some reason I never heard of my father using that term. Perhaps that's where I got my idea that it is a derogatory word.

Apparently not everybody thinks so as I've just learned a few days ago. I was told that in some Dusun villages, karud is used as an endearment. A man's referent to his wife. Which makes me seriously think why is it that a female buffalo or a sow is associated with a wife? Is it the breeding aspect? Or the loving nature of the mother animals? I certainly hope it's not because of the expansion of one's body after childbirth.

Somehow, I still think that it is weird being compared to a sow. If ever my husband refers to me as one, I'm sure I'll give him the cold shoulder for a few months!

28 April 2011

When swearing peace doesn't mean "I forget"

A friend ask me if it is indeed true that the Dusuns are so forgiving that they swear-peace and forgive and forget when they have done so. Well, in the olden days at least, rivaling parties swore-peace (mitaruh/mitoruh) to publicly acknowledge that they were not enemies anymore. But did they actually forgive and forget? Or did they just do it to 'move on'?

My take is the latter. Although I dare not say that the Dusuns are grudge-holders (I might get killed for saying that), they definitely have long memories. That includes good and bad things. An elderly man from Bundu Tuhan told the friend and me a story about the swearing-peace between the Bundu Tuhan and Kinsaraban people of the past. (Bundu Tuhan and Kinsaraban are two places adjescent to each other, and they used to be enemies, in the sense that they took the heads of each other's people).

The man said that there was a mitaruh ceremony done in the 1890s to stop the war between the two places. A person (and allegedly, he was a bad guy) who passed by the villages was sacrificed for that purpose. The ceremony didn't really work though. Although they stop taking heads, they were still enemies in many aspects. For instance, they won't let their people marry each other because those who married still got jinxed! A series of unfortunate events involving marriages between the two groups led to the second swear-peace ceremony in the 1900s (presumedly mid 1900s), to reinforce the first one. And the most hilarious thing I heard with regard to that was that the place in which the second mitaruh took place was called Pinonorian do Kinsaraban (literally translates as "the place in which the Kinsaraban people were defeated")! Obviously, the Bundu people still wanted to feel superior even when they had agreed to make peace, not war (no offence, my anscestors were also Bundus!)

Anyway, the various Dusun groups are now friends, maybe having had realized that they are so small in numbers in this big bad world that they need to stick together :). I still dare not accuse them (that would include myself) of being grudge-holders, but I supposed deep down, they forgive but not forget! (Perhaps, just careful by nature).

19 April 2011

The Rainbow Taboo

I was driving home with the kids two days ago when they spotted a beautiful rainbow and started yelling excitedly. It was no ordinary rainbow; big, bright and disconnected, or so it looked. A large part of it was totally hidden in the clouds. The contrasts of blue, colourful and white were just too beautiful to ignore. In their excitement, they pointed their fingers to the rainbow and without realizing it, I shrieked "DON'T".

I was as surprised as them with my reaction. "Why are you acting weird, Mom?", the eldest asked. "I...ah... it was just an old habit that dies hard", I ended up saying that. And very true indeed, when one grew up having been fed with a lot of taboos, one just stored them all inside, and when the occasion calls for it, the taboo-reaction just came out.

"It was the rainbow taboo", I told them. My late grandmother was a strong believer in it. She said if you point your finger to the rainbow, you're going to lose it. "Obuntung" (the meaning of which, till now I haven't discovered). Of course I never believed in that, but it is a taboo and it is one you should practice, shouldn't it? The kids rolled their eyes, but decided not to point their fingers at the rainbow anyway. And so I've passed down another taboo to the young ones...

31 March 2011

One of the little paradises in Sabah

Well I can't claim to have been all over Sabah. After all, it's quite a journey to go round Sabah. For one thing, the roads are not good in all parts of the state. Besides, the demands of work and every day life do not really help in pursuing the plan even if one is up to it (excuses, excuses!). But this place I call 'home' (second home), Bundu Tuhan, is a paradise and I'm not exaggerating.

My grandparents and parents were born in this village. In fact, they spent a good number of years living there. For some reasons (one of the most commonly cited reasons is weather-it's too cold, you can never grow rice there), they moved out. The connection with the village has never been broken though. I remember 'going back home' to spend Christmas every year with my uncle's family when I was young. Grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins- that's what I remember most. And as Chrismastime means rainy season, the ground was always wet and muddy, which was a child's perfect idea of fun. Dipping in the cold river, pretending to help the adults with the washings was another fun thing my many cousins and I used to do as kids.

You have most wonders of nature there- greens, mountains, rivers, caves (except that I've never found out their locations). On top of that, people always tell you that you are related to them in some ways. It's awesome to have that many relatives!

The 'going back home' practice stopped gradually, but we still visit at least when there are weddings of relatives, even if they are many-times-removed-relatives. The people still refer to Bundu Tuhan as dati (ours) when they talk to us, so we feel 'included' all the time. Deep down, I always feel that I'm part of them, even though I have never been a 'real' resident of this special place.

18 March 2011

what would I have been then?

My grandfathers of both father and mother's sides were great storytellers. The paternal grandfather was already old when I was in primary school. In fact in my memory he had always been old. He was tall and lanky (and I always wished I had gotten his genes), with an air of quiet wisdom. At night when it was bedtime, he would launched into his storytelling mode, telling tales of his life journey, as well as stories of brave Dusun heros and beautiful Dusun heroines. Sadly, I can only remember the tales of heros and heroines, and not his own stories of life. As he grew even older, the storytelling sessions became lesser and lesser, and finally stopped. He died at 102 years old in 1993.

My maternal grandfather was a lot younger than my paternal grandfather. He died recently in 2007, at 89 years old. He had a very different character from my other grandfather; he was witty and funny, and his tales were always delivered in a humorous manner. Even the folktales became really hilarious when he told them. And not surprisingly, I remember the funny ones he told. His story telling sessions stopped when he became the town's tauke bahar (seller of coconut sap drink). Or that's the impression I got. But really, maybe he became uninterested in storytelling when several economic opportunities opened up for him to venture in. And so this particular grandfather of mine died an enterpreneur, not a storyteller.(By the way, his bahar was fused with a special type of tree bark to make it bitter and allegedly medicinal).

I often missed the storytelling sessions. I guess those sessions must have been important in my Dusun language acquisition, since my parents opted to raise us kids up speaking Malay. At least the Dusun words stored in my mind must have been partly due to the sessions.

Both my grandfathers were almost illiterate. (They could read and write basic things like their names and addresses, but that's it). I often wonder if I had been born in their era, how would I have survived it? I enjoy reading immensely, do not really enjoy talking too much, although I quite enjoy writing and communicating with people through writing. Talking with friends and family is ok for me. But I tend to be shy to talk with people I am not familiar with, even now that I am a teacher. (The one that speaks confidently in the classroom must be my "talkative twin sister"). I wonder what would have become of me were I born in my grandfathers' time? Would I have been forced to tell stories because there were no other outlets of the things I thought of? (and most importantly, Dusun women who were born then were deprived of education. No women of their age group that I knew read or write). Thinking this gives me another thing to be thankful of- that I am living in this era and am enjoying life the way I want to...

21 February 2011


My little boy lost another milk-tooth last night. As he was brushing his teeth before bedtime, he realized that it was wobbly. He panicked a bit, because his Dad was not around to pull out the tooth for him. I offered to do it for him even though playing dentist is one of the tasks I dread the most. (After all these years, I still shiver at the sight of blood!) He refused at first, determined to do it on his own, and because "Dad has always been the one who did it" (reads: I don't trust mom to do it).

After trying a few techniques for about 20 minutes, he gave up and asked me to try. I asked him to lie on his bed, open his mouth wide and think tooth-fairy. He lightened up a bit...but because he kept asking questions like "what colour is the tooth-fairy?" ("colourful", I said) and "what's its name?" (and I said "Casey" because that was the first thing that came to mind). I sang to him a bit. A silly made-up song about a boy who was losing his tooth and how he was rewarded by the tooth-fairy because he was so brave. Then two tugs, and off came the tooth. He cried a bit, but soon was cheered up with the thought that the tooth-fairy would come that night and gave him some money.

"Did the tooth-fairy come when you were little?", his question caught me off-guard. "Well,...yeah". He still wasn't happy with my answer. "Did you put your teeth under the pillow?". "No, no...back then we had to put our teeth at the ropuhan", I quickly said. "Huh, what's that?"...and I went on explaining the ritual of losing a tooth when I was little. True enough, my siblings and I were asked to bury our teeth on the ropuhan, the hearth that was made of soil. Later when we didn't have one available anymore, we were asked to just bury them on the ground,...or else, the new teeth would not grow, supposedly.

Hmm...I wonder how did the tooth-fairy culture get into our household? I can't quite remember anymore but it must have started with the eldest child's insistence (and she is one very strong character), having gotten her input from books and friends. Not that I mind at all. It is actually quite fun, and motivational. After all, we live in a world of cultural-fusion here in Sabah. I guess I'll just have to twist it a bit, in order to preserve the Dusun culture. Maybe get the kids to bury their teeth on the ground instead of put them under the pillows. Who knows, the tooth-fairy might actually reward them extra?

07 February 2011

here I am, befriending mother earth

"A Dusun, at one point of his/her life, will certainly long to cultivate his/her land", says me who has observed relatives and friends going through the process for years. I guess I'm finally at that stage. How else would I explain the surge of interest I've been having on growing fruit trees on our land? A few years ago, I'd have been contented to see hubby handles that end. After all, he's the one with the green thumb. It was enough for me to take pleasure in the plants he grew at the backyard.

Not anymore. I found myself following hubby to pick seedlings from the agricultural department in Tuaran, enjoying the whole process of deciding what fruit seedlings to get, and selecting the right ones. Those seedlings, we later took to Ranau to be grown at the plot of land that my parents gave us, some 40-minute hike up the hills from their house. On fine weather days, a four wheel drive can reach the place, but since it had been raining for the past few weeks, we could only drive halfway and hiked the remaining 20 minutes. It felt good to carry my seedlings on my wakid, heavy though the wakid was on my untrained back. (It was hilarious the way my 60-year old mom kept asking me anxiously whether I could carry the load when I am way younger than her!)

Together with my mom, dad, a cousin and three hired helpers, we got our seedlings safely to their destination. Hubby and I had the joy of planting a few of them. Forgetting all about my insecurity about not being a green-thumb person, I felt that I could go on doing it if not for our time constraint of having to go back to KK. We had to let the hired helpers under the supervision of my father do the rest for us.

At least, I could brag about finally being there- the stage at which mother earth is becoming more and more significant...

01 February 2011

sumakit and the euphemisms

They say the hardest level of competence to attain in any language is pragmatic competence, i.e. the ability to use words according to appropriate meanings in specific contexts. That proved true for me recently. For as long as I could remember, I had used the Dusun word sumakit to mean 'sick' in general. From minor ailment like viral infection to serious problem like cancer, I had always called them sakit "sickness". Little did I realize that I was using the word based on the way I used it in Malay, my dominant language, since the same word sakit is used in Malay to refer to those things.

Until a fortnight ago...at a cousin's house. My cousin, his wife and their eldest daughter's birthdays are all in the same week, so they made it a point to celebrate together this year. I had to come with only my eldest girl and youngest son, as hubby and second girl were not feeling well. One of my cousins, one who had had the advantage of growing up speaking 'pure' Dusun asked me where my hubby was. I, of course, answered "sumakit". She looked at me with a funny expression, burst out laughing and humorously explained to me that one only says sumakit when the person being referred to is gravely ill. Having the advantage of being a medical doctor on top of being a pure speaker, she explained the types of illnesses that one may call 'sakit', and those ailments that should be referred to as longoh-longohon "having a cold", amu osonong kopio "not feeling very well" and a few other euphemisms. I was genuinely surprised. No one had ever corrected me for my use of the word sumakit before. "Well", I said, "one never stops learning".

For the rest of the party I had to endure the cousins' teasing about that every time somebody asked me where's the hubby. At least I know that the phrase ouruan do sumakit (literally "very sick") is a euphemism for "pass away". Otherwise it would have had become another joke among the cousins.

22 January 2011

thank you for the music

It has been five years since I last taught a Kadazandusun course. This year I have to teach again. Only one class though. It was a mixed feeling when I was told the news. A bit of excitement, because I always find a joy in preparing teaching materials from scratch. At the same time nervous, because I know students who enroll for Kadazandusun courses at the uni are normally those who are good in languages that they have the courage to learn a language that is 'foreign' to them. (It's the uni's regulation to allow only students who are of different ethnic groups to learn an ethnic language).

First week of class, I looked at eight students with unfathomable expressions. Eight? I never had a group of learners that is this small. I consoled myself that maybe that was a good thing. At least the teaching and learning process will be easier. The only problem would be how to engage these learners in the classroom. I have no idea what kind of learners they are. (For some reason I notice there's always a dominant type of learners in my class every semester, and that helps me a lot in planning my activities). I quickly realized the merit of having a small number of students. The hours can be fully utilized making them understand each and every word in the texts. At the end of the class, I have started looking forward to week 2.

At the end of week 2 lesson, one of my students came to me to ask whether I could possibly translate a Dusun song "Ama om Apa" for him. Pleasantly surprised, I told him I'd love to do that. He gave me the lyrics and I decided to be playful. I gave the root word translation and challenged him to make use of all my explanation in the classroom about how the affixes work to make sense of the song. Soon after almost everyone joined in in his attempt to understand the song. 15 minutes later, the group managed to make sense of most of the words. That's it, I thought. I've found my learner type! I know now I can use music to engage them in the classroom. "Next week", I teased them, "we can sing karaoke in the classroom. You all can take turn to be the lead and backup singers", and everyone went home lightheartedly. I really am looking forward to the next class.

11 January 2011

"owh bah"

It seems that lately I've been getting more and more of this response, "owh bah", from friends, family members and even students. It's a good thing that I know how to interpret the intended meaning. Otherwise, it could lead to a major miscommunication. Especially when the response is in the form of text message. One might accidentally interpret the expression as a lukewarm answer (read: I'm not interested), which could possibly be one of the intended meanings anyway. As of now, I've come to the conclusion that "owh bah" can mean the following, and more:

1. Ok -an acknowledgement of one's statement
2. Sure - mostly in response to one's request. Could be that this bears no urgency at all (I'll do it later), or a polite indicator that the person has understood the request and will act on it accordingly.
3. Dismissal - seemingly to acknowledge one's statement or request but actually quietly dismissing it

As regards (3), I remember an incident that happened last year. The bushes by the roadside accros the road of my housing area was on fire. It was a hot day and the fire was spreading fast, at that point, moving towards the traffic light posts. I quickly dialled 999 and reported the fire. To my horror, the operator who answered my call simply said, "owh bah. Banyak-banyak sudah orang yang telefon ni" (Ok, there have been quite a number of people calling), which of course, earned him a hysterical "jadi, kenapa belum ada tindakan?!!!!" (so, why hasn't there been an action?!!!) from me.

Well, "owh bah" is an interesting expression indeed.