No Place As Home
Contact Daniel: noplaceashome at yahoo.co.uk
General Musings (2)
Guide to this site
At home in the world
Not very heroic
Small town West Bengal
An ending approaches
Sights, frights and memories
Everyone's cup of tea
Introduction to Gari
In the hate period
Don't take this too seriously
Making the bag
Things which make me angry
August 04, 2004
Certificate of survival
Hi everyone, I'm now back in KL, feeling terribly sad and alone. It has been a wonderful time staying with Cayce. We have become very close friends, we've talked about so many things, it felt so miserable sitting in the airport departure hall after our goodbyes.
She has been a lovely person to get to know. Cayce wears her heart on her sleeve, she is unfailingly infectious when happy, always transparent when upset. When excited, she tends to ramble with an increasingly large smile, getting vaguer and more disjointed until she can't speak anymore and just sits with a beaming face and wobbling hands. Everyone around her can't help grinning happily by this stage. And she is as enthusiastic whether it is good news concerning her friends' lives or her own.
Cayce's friends have also been lovely towards me, I miss them all. It could have been really awkward being introduced to ten girls, all familiar with each other - it wasn't. We've had fun houseparties and trips to the cinema, I've really loved being part of a circle of friends for the last four weeks. On my last night in Sarawak, the gang gathered in Marita's house, sitting outside in the warm air, talking, drinking some wine. Marita suddenly stopped proceedings, and produced a wrapped gift from all the girls to me. They had designed a "Certificate of Survival" for me - not, obviously, referring to my nine days in Batang Ai's rainforest, but my far more challenging four days with them during the music festival. It was a wonderful present - I felt surrounded by people I valued very much. It referred to the ten "meek and gentle ladies of Sarawak" - a joke that grew out of my explaining that in West Malaysia I had been told the women of Borneo were meek and gentle. They all found this hilarious.
I lived in Cayce's house for almost all my time in Sarawak. Although I have no idea what her parents made of me at first, they immediately adopted the standard Malaysian policy of force feeding the house guest continuously. Their kitchen seemed to have something cooking throughout the day; this sounds wistful unless one takes into account it required me to eat nonstop. Her father, though certainly a practiced speaker in his public life, during his time with his family talks in a loud, thickly accented mutter. Cayce's mother's voice is very clear, but she is it seems slightly deaf now, so, all in, her parents and I had a tendency to smile uncomprehendingly while the other was speaking. A moment of utter relief for everybody came when it emerged Cayce's dad and my dad are both keen golfers - this was an area with simple answers and distinct topics, and so over one dinner her father rambled to my eagerly glazed eyes about the different golf courses of West Malaysia.
Even more incredible, the end result was actually green - the chopped up aubergines triumphed over the orange Indian powder. When Cayce's mother lifted the lid on the bubbling green wok, her slack jawed astonishment tasted even better than the meal itself.
A highlight of Kuching, for anyone visiting: Cayce brought me to the Kuching Cat Museum. It's hard to describe the bizarreness of this place, but just, if you're in Kuching, go. It seemed the work of either a simpleton, a lunatic, or else a bureaucratic committee that had lost all touch with the real world. Everything cat related had been dumped in, without explanation or thematic connection: stuffed cats, animals that looked a bit like cats but weren't (sivets), animals with "cat" in their name (catfish), films with "cat" in the title (such as "Cat Ballou" - Cat short for Catherine, so... nothing to do with cats), mannequins standings on a "cat walk", an entire glass case of miscelleanous cat themed key chains. It felt very much like walking inside the brain of a madman. Sarawakian readers should also reflect they are paying to maintain this free museum with their taxes.
Cayce and I talked a lot during our trip to Batang Ai about her plans for the future. She wrote more eloquently than I can on her thoughts and doubts here, but I could see how tough working "in the field" must be. Neither living in the city or the forest, she would spend two weeks in Kuching, with little to do in the office, then the next two in Batang Ai with her team of Ibans. She felt it hard to get very close to them - being both the woman boss and a friend was just a step too far. It is a job she feels very strongly about, but equally, I could she was feeling worn down after three and a half years. I'm not sure what she will decide to do, but am certain good things will come along for her. It felt a real privilege to be around someone who was considering her life afresh and coming up with so many possibilities.
Daniel, 4 August 2004, KL
PS Hey girls, I just realised! I must have misheard my friend back in Port Dickson, on the whole meek and gentle line - I guess what he must have really said was "geek and mental"...
PPS Here is a photo of Stimpy, a loveable if extremely mentally challenged dog of June's. Stimpy and I grew very fond of each other, which is more than can be said of some of the other three dogs in the house.
Posted by Daniel on August 4, 2004 05:51 PM
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