NY Celebration

Okay, before I proceed, just to let you know, I accidentally deleted the things I wrote here. I didn’t know how it happened, but it happened very fast. So, I had to retype it. It was not a good day for me, particularly tonight. You will know it later.

So, today marks the 15th day of Chinese New Year, also a final day of New Year. 15 days gone, just like that. People got off work early today, just for the celebration; good food, firecrackers, fireworks, and maybe listening to Chinese New Year song for the last time this year. For me, I posted the video of pupils dancing to ‘Everyday is a good day’ song on Instagram.

Tua Pek Kong temple was once again filled with worshippers causing traffic congestion. It wasn’t their fault though, they had to fulfil their duties; give thanks for the things that happened for the past 15 days and to ask for blessings throughout this year.

I planned to celebrate it with my family tonight, but it didn’t go as planned because I had a dinner at a restaurant tonight. I wasn’t looking forward to go, not because I wished to be with my family at home and celebrate with them, but because I was fighting flu. I wasn’t feeling so well.

Nevertheless, I had to go there with an open heart and positivity. I went there with such great spirit, but met with disappointment. You see, there were three of us in the initial plan. Three of us agreed to attend because nobody else wanted to attend. None of them showed up. I was disappointed because I felt like I’ve been left alone. Now, I was trying to be a baby or to give in to self pity, but I wasn’t particularly comfortable sitting at a table full of strangers. I wasn’t good in meeting new people.

So, I need my teammates with me! I just could not enjoy my meals and yes, I left after the second dish because I felt stupid and because I was feeling very tired and quite sick. I think, if one of them was there, I would feel better. But yes, I was quite sick, so I decided to go home and it was already 9pm! We had just finished our second dish!

I left with disappointment but at the same time relieve that I had left. I could breathe the air again! I went for a slice of pizza and went home. There went the last day of CNY celebration. Slowly my disappointment slipped away and I listened to ‘Everyday Is A Good Day’ many times. I tried to sing along too. It didn’t matter what happened tonight, I am still living.

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One Sunday Morning…

On Sunday morning, I took a walk at a local mall here in my town.  There I met two people – two friends, to be exact.

I was coming down from a digital shop where I met a friend.  We greeted “Peace be with you”, and I responded the same.  I asked her “How are you now?” and she said “I’m in a healing process…” we talked a little while and I had to rush down because my mother was waiting for me downstairs.  She lost her husband few weeks ago and is still grieving, but with the support of fellow legionaries and friends, she remained strong.

As I reached the ground floor of the mall, I met another friend, my ex-classmate.  Now, she is working at a local university.  She said “I’m getting married next Sunday…please do attend my wedding day,”.  We talked a little while and we left.

My First Video Blog

So, I am trying something different.  I’ve always wanted to do a video blog.  I attempted few times, but I didn’t continue to do because i felt it was dumb, and I didn’t know what to say in front of a camera.  Anyways, this video blog is about a trip I went few weeks ago.  I love going to the longhouses, there you could find the friendliest people, I believe…you could ever met in your life.  I don’t get to travel very often nowadays, so one of those few trips really mean a lot to me.  I will be uploading more videos soon in my YouTube Channel.  I will share about my life.  Enjoy the video and at the mean time, feel free to check my posts in this blog.  I know i had not been very active lately, nevertheless, I am looking forward to upload more posts in this blog.

The Conversations

Blind people have amazing stories to tell.  About the amount of fear that they had to go through; of living in darkness all their lives; of trying to live their lives without being too depended on others, although most of them have to live with financial assistance for the rest of their lives.  Getting out of the house, getting in and out of the bus, going out to the market for groceries, somehow the environment wasn’t very friendly to them.  The only tools they could use to ensure income was their hands.  Basket weaving was the main income for many of the blinds here, well…once upon a time.  Rattan is getting scarce these days and so the demand for them to develop more skills is getting higher.  Some chose to become masseuses – as health is getting popularity, sometimes, they could have decent income.  Some chose to beg on the streets.  They had a centre to help them to develop skills, but somehow, not knowing the reason why, they refused to be in the centre despite numerous persuasions.

Nevertheless, many were forever grateful for the centre and for those who had helped them so much in their lives.  Those who sent them for massage training for example, those who trained them to make crafts despite not able to see, and those who trained them to become excellent athletics.  Douglas Nyambung is a great case.  He has been Malaysia’s defending champion in paralympic swimming for almost 20 years.  No one in Malaysia had ever broken his record at the pool, except himself.

I’ve also talked to people with cerebral palsy – great stories of success and triumph – about dreams of breaking ribbons,  just like Joseph Choo.  Running has changed his life.  Joseph is also an Olympian, a competitive runner who won many medals.  He made it to Paralympic games in Athens in 2011 and of course came home to his proud parents with medals.

Talking to an autistic boy was an interesting one too.  Though a little skeptic whether a conversation could actually take place, 13-year-old Clement Belun answered my questions with so little problem.  He came into spotlight when he first step on the stage to become an emcee in June, 2012 during the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) opening.  He was a little shy, but not shy enough to share his dreams to me.  He loved cultures and lifestyles and he liked to put them into frame.  That led to his great passion – photography.

“I want to become a photographer when I grow up.  I know to take photographs.  When time comes, I will capture the lifestyles and cultures of different people in digital images.”

I had the privilege to talk to a world famous Canadian BASE jumper Lonnie Bissonnette last year.  An inspiring man who didn’t give up on his dream despite been told that he would never jump again.  He had an accident when he did his 1,100 jump.  Bissonette is the world’s first and only paraplegic BASE jumper.

Remember those school times,  where you passed around those papers just to have conversation with your friends behind you, in front of you, or maybe just beside you.  Teachers were teaching in front no one was allowed to make a noise.  Two of you were having conversation, but it looked as if you were taking notes.  Interviewing 27-year-old Amy Lau brought me back to that old times.  She was probably one of the most interesting people I’ve talked to thus far.  She had hearing impaired since birth.  I don’t want to say ‘deaf’ because it felt rude.  Anyways, it was interesting also because it was the quietest interview i’ve ever done.  It didn’t feel like I was interviewing her at all.  I felt like I was talking to a new friend.  There was no recorder, just notebook and a pen.  It was just smiling and writing.

Her life was pretty ordinary – not all that great like the few people I’ve mentioned.  But, one thing she was passionate about; her family.  Amy is married and her husband also has hearing and speaking disabilities.  However, the couple is blessed with a one-year-old son who did not inherit their disabilities.

Amy told me that she wanted to become a good sign language teacher.  I’ve always wanted to know how does it feel of not being able to hear, she said everything was just quiet.  Well, obviously.  She did not know how music sounds like.  Surprisingly, she loved movies, of course with the help of the subtitles.  Her talent was in making crystal and baking.

Her husband worked as mechanics.  He switched from being a baker to mechanics because he needed better income to support his wife and son.  His aspiration was nothing but being a good husband and a good father to his son.  I asked them, ‘Do you wish that you could hear and talk just like other people?’ and their answer was no, because they learned to to live with their fate.

“It’s okay that I can’t hear or speak.  I can still communicate with others in my own way.  I have a family and I am not lonely,” Amy said.

Water, Such A Treasure

Most of the traditional longhouses in Sarawak were built by the bank of a navigable river.  Water was their source of life; their culture, their identity.  The river is their way of life; the most precious thing they treasured, along with other natural jungle produces.  However, in this 21st century, it was all about to change.

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Decades ago, the people of Sg Naman and Ulu Naman, Sibu bathed in the river, decades later, they are still bathing at the same river.  The different between the then and now is the condition of the river they bathed.  Vast and rapid development had taken place and the expansion of oil palm plantation had all brought impact to the river.  It is now shallow; the water is no longer clean and free from pollution.

They are in fact, drying up.

I met some locals who were willing to share some of their stories – struggles and ways to live in the desperate situation.  How they went about their everyday living could impress you.  Almost everyone was talking about the same thing.  All survived despite not having piped water for decades.  Of course, everyone had to admit that it was much easier before.  But when time changes, and as the surrounding changes, they didn’t change.  And that brought problem, because their life wasn’t parallel with that changes.  Everyone was suffering from the same hardships.  Everyone desperately needed some change, some help that never seem to come.

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“Grasses are growing.  They are covering up the drains, which are already drying up.  Sometimes, there are people spraying weed killer.  We shouldn’t bath there, but what choice do we have?”

The disgusting sight with its brownish colour and the smell, it was quite unbelievable that they could actually go through life like this.  The locals built a small shade at the riverbank and that was their ‘bathroom’.  It was simply a place to sit and bath and for washing.  Nobody dives in the river or pond now as they used to do, and fun wasn’t there anymore.  Unhygienic it could be; but as the locals put it, what choice do they have?  It was the only way.  It was the only water source for bathing and washing.  The only place they could clean themselves…or was it?

I dropped by a school and met three very friendly women – Alice Rantai, Janoi Luat, and Jessi Tanjong.  One of them clad only with sarong, but showed no sign of uneasiness towards my present.  They were very open in their stories and very welcoming to the camera I was holding.  Their house was in the school compound, and just outside their house was a man-made pond.  They were bathing and washing their clothes there.

The little girl who was sitting with her mother was not very happy with my present of course.  I asked the mother whether she was going to bathe her daughter, surprisingly, she literally did so.  “Mandi…mandi” (bathing…bathing).  The little girl was taken by surprise that she cried and that was my call to stop taking pictures of her.  According to Janoi, everybody had problem of itchiness on their body.  She showed me her leg and there were red spots on her leg.  Apparently, the water was so unhygienic that it created some skin problems among the locals.

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Rainwater was still needed for washing and cooking, even in school.  Each school that was affected by the lack of clean water supply has a tube and treated water and the water is safe for consumption – a supply provided by the government.  “We still need to ration the water to ensure that it is enough for everybody.  We would try out best to avoid the tank from going dry.”  A principal who requested anonymity told me this.

However, in the event if the tank did run dry, welfare department could be called.  Fortunately, the department would respond to the call.  In an effort to ease the people at the school, especially the children, a councilor built a tank to store rainwater somewhere in the school for cleaning purposes.  Even that, it didn’t help much.

Lemba Kom, 65 said she had to pay RM2.50 for others to get five gallons of clean water supply, about 30 minutes from her home almost everyday.  The water itself was free, the money was a transportation fee – 50 cent per bottle (one gallon).  It didn’t mean that whoever helped her to get water supply was trying to get opportunity to earn more money, it was just a fair deal (gas and time).

Ironically, just a kilometer away was longhouses from another district, the folks there enjoyed clean water supply, though sometimes, they also experienced no water at all.  The month of June and July are nightmare periods for the folks of Ulu Naman and Sg Namans as it was drought period.  Even when there was pouring rain after long drought, the rain wasn’t safe for cooking as it smells of smoke.

To conclude all this, as I visit the folks (with a help of a guide), listening to their stories and standing under the scorching sun, I realised one thing; no one appreciates clean water supply as these folks do.  I’m not speaking in a global context, but at a smaller scale among the community of Sibu.

There are many places in Sarawak that experienced the same thing; some voices went unheard.  As I talked to them and looking at some sights that I didn’t expect, instead of feeling sorry for them, the first thing I felt was gratitude.  I could do without electricity, I could do with the heat, but without clean water, I’d go crazy.  Seeing their hardship, how they treasured clean water, I must always remind myself that there was absolutely nothing to complain.

However, I do hope that these folks could finally enjoy clean water supply soon.