A mixed week of work with the branch and work with our projects. We sure do love the people here and especially the humble members of the Kota Kinabalu branch. They are so eager to learn and want to do things right. They have had some challenges in the past and I'm sure they will continue to have challenges but they try so hard. One thing we have just discovered is that in the past 5 years there have been 9 different branch presidents---one was president for only 21 days. We will only be here for six months more so I'm not sure we will be able to make any change there but hopefully there can be better continuity and more stability in that area.
We go to the presidency meetings; Bill to the priesthood and I meet with the Relief Society presidency. They are now meeting every week---all the presidency or whoever can be there. This week we are preparing for the Relief Society Birthday Dinner which is this evening. We have to start at 6 PM sharp so we can end at 8 PM so those who ride the buses can catch the last one. I have also been working with the Primary president and specifically the Primary music leader who is Cecie. Cecie has been a member for almost a year. She is 19 years old and the only member in her family. She was called as music leader in Primary about 6 months ago but has never had a "Children's Songbook" (there isn't a copy for her in the branch) and does not know the songs. (How could she?) She is very motivated to learn and to teach the children. So I meet with her. She now has a CD of about 20 of the songs and I have downloaded copies of the music and words for her. She is learning to direct music in a very simple way. (Did you know that a figure 8 works for just about anything?) And she is learning what her responsibilities are. The Primary president is also learning how to let Cecie do her calling. What would I do without the internet? I use it so much for information, pictures, music . . . .
On Wednesday morning we flew to Kuching. It was nice to have a direct flight for a change. We are learning when they are and how the flight number indicates the size of the plane. We had a little down time in the afternoon and then we met with Elder and Sister Erickson for dinner at a delightful restaurant just a short distance from their apartment.
DRYING THE RICE
WINNOWING RICEOn Thursday we were met by President Sulai and Brother Bago who were our driver and navigator, respectively. Both translated for us as we visited the kampungs where we are helping to improve the water situations. Elder and Sister Erickson went with us so they could see what we are doing. At Begu were able to meet with two members of their water committee, Francis anak Sanyet and Anang anak Rakub, who told us where they are with their project. We took into consideration that they are in their padi (rice)harvest. In fact, we got some great photos of the harvest process.
This is a very important harvest for them as padi/nasi/rice is their staple. They grow their rice on hillsides because they live in the mountains. It has to be harvested by hand unlike the padi that is grown in the flatlands and is harvested by big machinery like what we see harvesting wheat in America. After it is gathered, they must dry it and that is done by spreading it on rattan mats in the sun, raking and turning it and hoping it doesn't rain. We have seen elderly women with 20 foot long sticks guarding the rice that is drying---keeping the chickens away. After the rice is dry they winnow it by hand, scooping it up on a flat woven 'basket' especially designed for such and tossing it to remove the chafe. From there they 'thrash' it to remove the husks. Some have electric 'thrashers' but if the community can't afford one, it is done by hand as it has been done for hundreds of years. They have traditionally stored their padi in 3 to 4 foot tall pottery 'jugs' which have a small opening in the top to dip out what they need each time. We have seen some of these old jugs and they are quite beautiful (to the eye of an antique collector) but not many people have them so they use woven plastic bags much like we use to store whole grain in America. They have to protect it from vermin and moisture and they are able to do that.
I WILL USE THIS BASKET
WHEN I FLY FISH FOR TROUT
Kpg. Begu has their pipe laid from the source of water up on the mountain. They need about 2 km more of pipe to complete that part and they need to build the dam to provide for the intake area. Kpg. Sadir also has laid their pipe to the water source. They are also harvesting and have had several funerals which have slowed their progress. Not to worry. Both communities are very committed to finishing their project to improve their water.
BASKET LADY WITH HER BASKETS
In Kampung Sadir we visited the basket maker as we always do---we pass her home on our walk through the village to the community center where we meet with the leaders. She was splitting rotan (rattan) to use in her craft. She is quite elderly and this visit we saw her walking which she does bent from the waist. She can not stand up straight. We purchased a fishing kreel from her. Elder and Sister Erickson bought one of her rotan floor mats which took her about a month to make and will last for decades. It cost 30 ringgets which is less than 10 USD. We do not haggle prices with her. It is her way of supporting herself.
We are back home now for 2 days so I did up the laundry and ironing and we will pack to leave right after church tomorrow for Ba 'kelalan where we are going with Patrick and Anna Panai to assess the need for help. We have been told that there is a great need for water in that area. This is the community where Patrick grew up. I think I wrote about Patrick in an earlier blog. He was destined to be the headman for his kampung but wanted to go to school. He finally was able to go---walking several days to get to a school where he boarded---and has become quite an educated man. His family had a wife all picked out for him when he was about 14 but he wanted to continue with school and did. He met and married a Chinese woman in Singapore and did not return to be headman but he and his wife teach. What an interesting couple they are.
YOUNG MOTHER IN BEGU
BURNING THE JUNGLE HILL FOR ??? "IT IS JUST
WHAT WE DO HERE"
A DELICACY FOR SURE!!
We have been watching the transformation of the jungle-covered hill next to our condo over the past few weeks. First we saw some clearing done at the bottom of the hill and a small community of about 8 houses moved to another area. We had not been able to see them before the clearing started but now they are out in the open. Then, every night we saw fires being set---big fires with flames leaping to the tree tops---which would burn all night and sometimes for a couple of days. Then the big machinery moved on up the hill, scraping down the hillsides and building dirt roads. We are interested to see what is happening. Are they going to build another condo or making access roads for squatters? They sure are tearing down the lovely trees and vines. That is sad to see. We haven't had fires for the last week but they could continue. I know that there are a lot of birds that live in there and also a large group of macaques. Wonder what will happen.
Bill here, One thing that I have discovered is how personal this experience is for us. We try to describe as much as we can what we are doing and seeing. However the actual interaction we have with the people and places is hard to put into words. I now understand how our 6 children have felt about their mission experiences. We feel so blessed to be able to be here and help and interact with a new culture and country. As we come up on our year mark we have thought a little about our return to normal life. Our kids have told us that will not be any easier than leaving in the first place. We have yet to go through those emotions. It will be so hard to leave these people and this work.
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