Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My First Lemonade in Miri

It was 1959 and my first bus trip to pasar or the bazaar. I did not use the term town or city then.

With two cents to rub in my pocket I went to the shops thinking that they would be like the shops in my own Limbang. I was a small little 13 years old and a little overage for Primary Five. But I was determined to make it in life.

Coming to Tanjong Lobang School made me feel as if I was in the heaven of education. The door of knowledge was opening to me a school boy from Ulu Medamit. Just a few months ago I was cooking my own rice in my little rice pot in a 15x15 school hut which doubled as our hostel with about 8 other boys and catching my own fish for dinner. "School" was Cikgu Bijit. " School" was all wooden and some exercise books. "School" was one room.

This was what Miri look like then. (Photo from a studio)

I walked all the way to the town early in the morning with Abu Bakar Matassan.

The shops were quite a sight I remember but I was not too intimidated or daunted by the hustle and bustle. I took up my courage and went into a general store and asked for "lemonade" a drink I remember having in limbang and I thought I could get it in any "kedai" or shop.

I believed the shop keeper was gently amused if not speechless upon my request. He was polite enough to this ulu looking boy and turned to his wife for help.

In a split second the towkay neo went out and I was asked to wait a little.

She came back with a black looking bottle with a label. That was my first bottle of aerated water made in Sarawak.

The towkay did not laugh at me or say anything unkind. But I remember this incident until now. That was kindness.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Desparate Effort : Helicopter Flight

Helicopters or aeroplanes dropping yellow sheets of information paper to the people about the rebellion updates in 1962.
Helicopter used in those days....flying over Sarawak.

Two big events happened in Sarawak : The Brunei Rebellion and the 1963 Flood(http://www.did.sarawak.gov.my/hydroen/resource/fld63.htm) known as the worst flood in the history of Sarawak. I was very much a part of them in my small ways : I was a young teenager speaking a bit of English from the Ulu and I was terribly affected by them.

At the end of 1962 I went home from Tanjong Lobang after my Form Two year not knowing that Brunei was in the throes of a rebellion but as a young student and a Sarawakian I was told to board the Government boat at Bandar which took me to Limbang. I was uneasy though because there were many soldiers who look like Ibans but they did not speak the language. They turned out to be Gurkhas. There were a few British soldiers too.

My father was waiting for me and we quickly left the town in our small boat. Nothing else happened. There was just this sense that there was a black cloud hanging over our heads. I did not realise that a huge political event was happening at that time.

I only knew that I was going home to the long house and that some kind of "soldier activities" were going on. Perhaps this was the preparation for the Independence of Malaysia that I have heard and read about.

And then all of a sudden our Limbang Valley was hit by a huge flood. My family lived on a hill at that time. Although the longhouse was not inundated our farms were. But then as padi farmers and people with very little material things we were not so concerned with damages. We could plant again. We could fish and we could hunt for food.

When it was about time for me to leave for school in Miri I was a bit concerned. My father took me to Medamit where there was a huge timber camp owned by Limbang Trading and we could not find any transport to Limbang and worst of all my trip to Miri was inconceiveable! It seemed that all communication was cut off. There was the flood and the rebellion was still smouldering.

While waiting impatiently to go to school I caught sight of my first helicopter. It descended almost perpendicularly on to the camp field. It was amazing. Then a few dark looking soldiers jumped out from its belly.

My father was as usual very cool and taciturn.

When the propellers stopped fluttering I gathered up my courage to approach the English pilot. With the little English I have learnt from school in Tanjong Lobang I approached him and asked " Sir where are you going after this?"

He said :"Seria. What can I do for you?"

I said: "Can I go with you?"

He said "Why not?"

He was thoroughly amused by this little dark boy who must have learnt to speak English somewhere. I then told him I was late for school in Miri. And I went to see my father about it.
My father was not too sure but seeing that going up in that prawn looking plane was better than waiting forever for something that might not materialise. I had to go to school after all.

I never thought about paying. I was desperate to go to school. I did not even know what was being thick skin. I was just thinking that this empty helicopter would have space to take me to Seria.

Upon reaching Seria the pilot was so kind that he decided to take me all the way to Miri!!

I have never known his name but I would like to say how much I appreciate that lift from Ulu Medamit.

That was another miracle in my life...being airlifted all the way to Miri from Limbang via Seria because of a kind English gentleman during the 1963 flood.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

All Round Education at Tanjong Lobang School

It was in 1966 when we were all gathered together at the school assembly hall to listen to something which was quite new to us.

A young Dr. Chan was to introduce a very important topic to us : Family Planning.

Most of us did not know what that was.

Dr. George Chan was then very young and he had just come to Miri and we all knew that he had a beautiful American wife. That also amazed most of us at the school.

What I remember most was Dr. Chan introduced us the Loop and he told us how it was to be inserted into a woman's body. A friend tried it in his clenched fist and decided that it was
To this day I still remember that statement.

It could really be ticklish I thought.

When it was Dr. Sulaiman's turn to give a career talk he took all of us Form Six students to his quarters at the Peninsular next to the old Miri Hospital.

He and his wife entertained us to what I considered as one of the most impressive career talk I had ever attended in my life.

His pretty wife served us a smashing and delicious iced fruit juice. And to this day I have never forgotten that particular drink too.

But I have forgotten most of what Dr. Sulaiman told us.

I believe that most of my school mates have to this day very lasting memories of what these two men brought into our lives. Poor students like us often needed that little inspiration and that little human touch to make us feel that our minds could be moulded.

And both of them inspired us to use the English language.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Miss Sylvester

Photos are courtesy of my school mate Ahmad Rony Assim.

Below is Miss Sylvester at the Subang Airport in 1970.

Miss Sylvester with her class in Tanjong Lobang.
We as students would never ask Miss Sylvester her first name. It was not the done thing. So I do not know her name until now.

As I have said previously most of my school photos were burnt by the fire which razed my long house in 1978. So thanks Rony.

Miss Sylvester was one of our favourite teachers. She taught us Geography and helped our imagination to extend beyond our limited hills and rivers.

A little on the shy and quiet side she was never one to raise her voice or say anything untoward. We all liked her in her special elderly ways. She was petite and slim and was always very upright . We would of course never try to upset her in any way. So it was politeness all around us whenever she was present. Our native instincts so to speak were suppressed by middle class values learned in the class rooms.

I remember very fondly for a few encounters I had with her.

One day my friends Reggie and Alec and I were waiting for the bus to go to attend a concert and dance. We heard that Eugene Cox and his brother Sonny were going to play in their band in the Youth Centre. The bus took a long time to come. Miss Sylvester stopped by and asked where we were going.

I was kind of desparate at that moment because I so wanted to see the band and I also knew that a dance would follow. So I blurted out "Miss Sylvester do you think you could take us down to the youth centre? We would really love to watch the band playing."

that was my request in the most polite English I knew .

To our shock and pleasant surprise she turned her little car around and took us down the five kilometres of road!!

Just as we stopped at the entrance of the youth centre I again asked her if she would like to join the dance with us!!

To our greatest surprise she consented and did a few dances with us. We Iban boys were really short of dance partners. But we really wanted to dance very much.

And of all people Miss Sylvester understood us. She did!!

A teacher from Heaven. I will never forget how happy we were to be able to dance in the hall with our very own teacher. We remain forever grateful to her for those precious moments of our lives.