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...