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.