TYPICAL STREET SCENE IN OLD BINTULU
EVERYONE HAS SATELLITE
ONE OF THE LONGEST LONGHOUSES WE HAVE SEEN
A LONGHOUSE BATHROOM, YES WE USED IT!!
BEHIND THE LONGHOUSES
BATHROOM IS THE FIRST DOOR ON THE RIGHT,
CHICKENS AND PIGS ON LEFT
|PARK IN BINTULU|
FLAMINGO AT THE PARK
It is finally here---the long awaited Iban harvest festival or Hari Gawai. Many people have left town to return to their long house where they were born and where their elderly relatives still live. They have parties, sing and dance. Our branch had their Gawai party on the 23rd because they are all gone now. Today at church there were only about 27 members and one or two 'friends of the church' (investigators) and that is counting 4 missionaries. We expected fewer than that and so only planned to have Sacrament meeting. Most shops are closed and there are few cars on the road. Everyone is gone. Next week will be kind of quiet for us so we have saved up some office work to do.
After church we were given the opportunity to accompany another missionary couple to visit a member of their branch so we did. Since two sets of elders also wanted to go we drove our car with two elders and Elder and Sister Budge drove their car with the other set of missionaries. The long house turned out to be about 120 km from here and the last 20 km were over a very rough road. We bottomed out the car several times in the ruts and pot holes. The road was paved at one time but much of it has been washed out and repaired with gravel which is about as good as nothing. It took us about 2 and a half hours to drive the distance. It was along that rough stretch that we saw the '!' road sign.
It was a big long house---72 'doors' or apartments---and each 'apartment' was huge. Many of the people who live there are related to each other. We took a lot of photos and Bill will put them on for me. They fed us---rice (of course), chicken curry, salted pork, a local vegetable like celery root, pickled cabbage/carrot/chili/cucumber salad, and fresh fruit from their orchard---3 inch long bananas, salak (pronounced sala---swallow the 'k'), and oranges. For gawai they make special foods (like we do at Christmas) and many of them are made from some form of rice. There is a fine rice noodle that is fried and then sweetened with syrup---it is crispy and sweet. They also use rosette irons to make rosettes (thought that was a Norwegian thing) but they make them using rice flour and I don't think there were any eggs in them. Not the same as we are used to. Then they make a gawai cake that is very dense and has different flavors like yam. Ya gotta be sort of adventurous here in Malaysia. I'll try just about anything once. I did draw the line with the smoked catfish. I've seen the rivers where they catch those bottom-feeders and I know what goes in those rivers and it is not nice. I gave Bill the signal to not eat it so about 2 minutes later our hostess brings me a choice piece. I thanked her, smiled and tasted it and hid the rest under my banana peel and a pork bone. Sure glad I've had my hepatitis immunizations.
We admired their sarongs and several women brought out sarongs and put them on Sister Budge and me, over our skirts. They are beautiful. We protested but they insisted we keep them. We then went to visit relatives where each hostess treated us to another glass of soda or juice and snacks. Everywhere we go all the kids come to see the white people. They like to try their English on us.
Before our trip home---another 2 1/2 hours over that bumpy road---I needed to visit the little girl's room. Keep in mind that the men had all gone behind the bushes back down the road before we arrived at the longhouse. So I told Sister Diri my dilemma and she took me out back past the caged chickens, past the pig pens, through all the lines of drying laundry to a hodo (that's an outhouse). Another interesting experience of which I will spare you the details.
As we left, a little grandma came out carrying a sack in each hand, one for Sister Budge and one for me. It was a bag of Iban rice which they grow themselves. It has a flavor different from any other rice I've eaten---very good. We felt very honored. The elders tell us that it gives that family status among the others in the long house to have had white people visit their home.
Last week we were asked by the elders to accompany them to the home of Kuinn and his wife, Florida. Kuinn has been having a health problem and been to a doctor (about 10 times, he told us) and they tell him there is nothing wrong and give him some pain pills. His feet swell up and are painful preventing him from working to support his family. He is an otherwise healthy looking young man. Quite difficult to assess but I think we convinced him to go to a different doctor and find out what the problem is. I suspect an auto-immune disease or allergy. This family live in a kampong which is a village of shacks. They have no utilities, no furniture, 5 children under 6 years old (2 babies) who he was taking care of because his wife had to go do his job or he would loose the job. I hope he follows through with that plan but I don't think he will because he is very shy.
We finally went to visit Tamas Tumbina which is a botanical garden/zoo. It is less than 2 miles from where we live and we have wanted to go there since we found it. It was early afternoon Saturday so quite warm and we took time to see about half of the park. We walked up a long trail to see a tiger but it was sleeping inside it's den and not to be seen. We did see a honey bear. I think all our grandkids know what a honey bear is because I have read them that book by Jan Brett about the honey bear. We also saw lots of birds---hornbills, parrots, flamingos and others. We will go back to see the reptiles, butterflys and the fern garden.
We continue to see that the gospel blesses the lives of these wonderful but primitive people. The gospel culture is so new to them and they have a hard time not reverting to their primitive ways of superstition and animism but they try and they gradually become stronger.
Bill talking now:
This is our week for longhouses. We go again today and then an overnighter this weekend. Where will we shower?