Saturday, February 12, 2011

When Americans Met a Dayung in the Sky

(Flew from Kuching International Airport, Sarawak Borneo Malaysia to Changi Airport, Singapore on August 18, 2010)

Two American couples

I checked my hand-watch. It was almost time to depart. I looked around, expecting to see attractive people in the waiting room. Suddenly, a young woman in MAS kebaya made an announcement to all passengers.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, you are all invited to line up for boarding pass inspection. Please present your passport and your boarding pass to our staffs. First, we would like to invite old citizens and parents with small children to embark first. Then, follow by "first class" passengers and lastly the economy class passengers.”

Parents with children, old citizens, and business class passengers rose up and went forward to make a long line next to a counter where the lady made her announcement. After all of them entered into the docking station, the economy passengers were asked to line up. Since I sat in the front seat, I got into the front line. After getting the clearance from one of the staff, I walked straight till reached the airplane door. There, I was greeted by a beautiful Chinese air-stewardess. I replied to her greeting, and she ushered me to enter the airplane. Inside the airplane, I checked my seating number on my boarding pass. It was 14F, a seat next to a window. I put my bag in the bag compartment and then sat in my seat. While waiting for the other passengers to come in, I read the MAS Going Places inflight magazine. I was occupied with my reading, till I did not realize two white couples sat next to me. From their conversation, I could guest both of them are Americans. The lady looked and smiled at me. I smiled back at her. Then she asked me a question.

“Are you going to stop in Singapore?”

“Yes, but only for three hours before flying back to the United States.”

“Very interesting! We are originally from America. What are you doing there, my dear?”

“I’m going to start my second year as a graduate student there.”

“I see. That’s good. By the way, I’m Marilyn. This is my husband, Donald.”

“I’m Dency from Kuching. It is nice to know both of you.

Their missionary works

They were so interested to know me more. I was willing to tell about my personal background to both of them. They were delighted to know that I could perfectly speak English with them. For them, this was their first time to meet a native lady from Sarawak that is currently doing her study in their country. I got to know that they worked as missionaries in Sibu, and they flew to Singapore as they wanted to visit their friends there. I asked what kind of missionary activities they had done in Sibu. Donald answered my question.

“We went to this Iban kampong and visited few families there. Teach them about Jesus. Few of them are poor. Life is so hard for them. We helped whatever we can.”

“Do you have a hard time communicating with them?”

“At first yes as they speak Bahasa Melayu or Iban. Even our helpers talk little English. But, it’s not a problem for us as we also learn few Dayak Iban words from them.”

“Our native people in rural areas still lack many basic facilities.”

“Yes Dency. Indeed. I believe that there is a better hope for all native people in Sarawak. Probably, you as an educated native woman could change this situation.”

“Let me finish my study first. Pray for me that I will pass and then I will come back to Sarawak to help my people.”

“That’s the spirit girl. Keep it up. I’m sure you can do it. Believe in God that He will always help you.”

Three of us talked till the Captain made an announcement that we would be starting descent into Singapore Changi Airport within 15 minutes. Then, one of the female stewardesses asked all passengers to fasten their seatbelts. Soon, we would be parted and went in different directions. Donald and Marilyn wanted to keep in touch with me. We exchanged our email addresses and promised to add in each other as Facebook friends. Marilyn did invite me to visit them in Minnesota in future.

A gift of remembrance

Once the airplane landed and parked at the gate terminal, sound of seatbelts clicked could be heard within the airplane belly. Everybody was busying themselves to take out their bags from the above compartments. Donald took out their bags and my backpack. Before three of us went out, he gave me a book as a gift with his email address written on the front page. Even, he took a picture of me. Then, we walked out from the airplane belly together. At the lobby area, Donald and Marilyn reminded me to keep in touch with them. I nodded my head and promised to do so. They excused themselves and said goodbye to me. I stood looking at them walked among people until both of them disappeared from my view. I took out the book from my sling bag. I found out that they gave me “The Book of Mormon-Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. I smiled knowing that I had met lovely, nice people from a foreign country who dedicated themselves to help my native people in Sarawak.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Night at Annah Rais, Padawan

(Last August 14, 2010 at Annah Rais, Padawan, Kuching)

Along the road

The rain had stopped raining. I rolled down the right-side window of my mother's white Viva car. Cold breeze flowed into the car through the opened window. I switched the car air–conditioner and let my body lingered by the fresh, cold air. The clock displayed on the car dashboard showed 5.00 pm. I shifted my view from the clock to the front window screen. In front of me, I saw two cars moved on the opposite lane. Both cars entered to a small junction on the right side and disappeared from my view. For almost 10 minutes, I drove alone on the sealed Borneo Heights road before another car came from the opposite direction and past my mother’s car. Tired of waiting for the next car to come, I diverted my eyes to the scenery along the road. Hills were engulfed with misty fogs, and the sky was colored with gray with some orange streaks behind the horizon.

Fruit trees, small huts, blue and yellow signboards adorned along the road. I passed few Bidayuh villages before reaching the big entrance of the Highland Resorts. Highland Resorts brought back my old memory together with Suzy Rini. We went there in year 1998 after finishing our Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Malaysian Certificate of Education). At that time, the resorts were not fully finished. Even, the Borneo Heights road was still covered with pebbles and would be muddy on rainy days. I just smiled thinking about how misery both of us enduring the cold temperature at the Highland Resorts.

Ten minutes before 6.00 pm, I saw a blue signboard marked with large white words, ANAH RAIS. It was a sign that I already reached my destination. I turned to the left into a small junction and drove till I reached the parking area. While looking around the area, I picked my Blackberry and made a call to Fondalyn.

“Could I speak to Fondalyn, please?”

“Yes, I’m speaking now. Is that you Dency?”

“Aha, you are right. How do you know that I call you?”

“The way you talk almost like an American.”

“Hahaha. I thought I spoke Malaysian English with you. Lyn, could you show me the way to your homestay.”

“You know the bridge. Just pass the bridge and drive into a small road till you see a big orange house along the road. About five minutes driving from the football field.”

“Alright, just wait for me.”

Following her direction, I drove slowly till I saw the big orange house and a small green house. I parked in front of the green house and made a call to Fondalyn to tell her that I had arrived. Soon, I saw a young, attractive lady walked towards my mother’s car. I opened the car door and met her. We hugged each other, and she invited me into her house. I took out my backpack from my mother’s car and followed her from behind.

Miss Sarawak

As I entered into her house, my eyes were wandering around looking at the simple decorations and furniture in the living room. Fondalyn showed me my bedroom that was located on the first floor. After I had put my bag in a cupboard, I went down to join her for a dinner. We have an ice breaking while savoring ourselves with all the food prepared on the dining table. While talking with Fondalyn, she mentioned that she was expecting more guests coming to her homestay. We waited for others to come until 9 pm. I could see that Fondalyn was getting upset. I tried to pacify her not to be sad. She just shrugged her shoulders and accepted the truth that her friends broke their promises. She then suggested continuing our conversation at the verandah that was located on the first floor.

I went up first as she wanted to prepare drinks for me and herself. At the verandah, I saw two sofa chairs, a bluish green smocking shisha on a coffee table and a wooden elephant on a top of a small wooden three shelf arranged in one corner. I brought myself to the biggest sofa and sat while waiting for Fondalyn. The night was a bit cold, and the air was filled with the smell of burning charcoals. The burning smell made me remember of the time when I was a child. I would take a small piece of charcoal from my grandmother’s traditional wooden kitchen. I used it to draw any pictures on her kitchen walls. When my mother saw all the comical draws, she would shout and order me to clean up all the mess. I smiled alone remembering my childhood. I did not realize that Fondalyn was standing in front of me.

“Hei Dency, what are you dreaming of?”

“It’s nothing. Just remember my childhood in Bau. You know what Lyn, I love to smell the burning woods. The smell makes me remember of my late grandmother. I miss her so much.”

“I see. I also love to smell the burning woods and plus the smell of fresh air from the forest and the village river. I love being a lady from kampong.”

She sat down on the other sofa, and we continued with our conversation. Joda, Fondalyn’s cousin suddenly appeared, and he brought a plate of chicken wings for both of us. We asked Joda to join us. He agreed and sat down on the Bidayuh handmade rattan mat. Three of us talked about our lives and our dreams. I got to know that Joda ever worked in Singapore before he decided to help Fondalyn running her homestay business. We fell silent for a while. I suddenly remembered that Fondalyn ever won a beauty pageant a few years ago, and would like to know more about her experiences being a beauty queen.

“Lyn, I heard you won Miss Sarawak 2006. Is that true?”

“Hahaha. Dency, I just a small kampong girl who was born and raised in a traditional longhouse. She made her way up from scratch, likes a phoenix raises from the ashes. Sorry, I did not answer your question. The truth, it was my friend’s crazy idea. She filled in the competition form on behalf of me. I did not know anything about that until I received a letter asking me to go for the audition.”

“Were you surprise after receiving the letter?”

“Yes and my friend pushed me to try. I could not believe that I won the competition and became Miss Sarawak 2006.”

“How did you feel after winning the title?”

“Of course, I felt very happy. It’s a dream comes true for me. However, I did not really anticipate all events prepared by the organizer. At that time, I was in Kuala Lumpur working with MAS as an air-stewardess.”

“You ever worked with MAS. But why did you move to Dubai and work with Emirates, still as an air-stewardess?”

“The reasons are financial, and an opportunity to travel all around the world. Plus, I love to serve people.”

“Cool! Am sure you are enjoying yourself so much.”

The Dayung’s Dream

Fondalyn nodded her head and smiled at me. Then, she talked about her other dream.

“You know Dency. Besides travelling, I want to try to start a tourism business. That’s why I decided to migrate to Dubai. I want to get extra money to start up my own homestay business. The result you can see right now. A big, and beautiful house for my dream project. I invested a lot to make my homestay business different from the other pioneers here. I asked Joda to help me to look after my business, while I am outstation.”

“Wow, you know what Lyn, I admire your spirit to start something that you really like to do. How’s your business at this moment?”

“A bit harder Den. Right now, we use a generator to supply electricity into this house. Every time, when someone asks about my homestay, Joda and I will explain about this generator. We are afraid that our prospective customers don’t like to hear any noises when they are planning to stay here. We did write a letter to SESCO asking them to extend the electric cable from kampong to here. Until now, we do not receive any replies from the electrical company. My business quite slows this year, Den. I know, I’m just starting, but I’m hoping by next year, everything will be fine.”

“Lyn, starting a business is the hardest part for everybody. I’m sure you can overcome all the obstacles within a year plus. There is an English idiom for you. No pain no gain.”

“Yes, you are right. No pain no gain. Thanks Dency. I’m so happy to know you and become your friend. You are so kind.”

“Lyn, you make me blush. I just want to put a smile on your face. Actually, I am glad that you as a Bidayuh woman have a gut to start this kind of business.”

“Dency, we are in the same boat. Struggling to achieve what we want in our life. Let’s celebrate our little achievements. You manage to finish one year as a graduate student in the United State of America, and me for having a big house that is almost ready for my homestay business. And to Joda, thank you for helping me.”

Fondalyn, Joda and I raised our wine glasses to wish for all the best in the future.

Note: I dedicate this post to Miss Fondalyn and her family in Anah Rais, Padawan, Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia Borneo. For those who want to know more about Miss Fondalyn’s Bidayuh Anahrais Longhouse Homestay, click the links below and you all will be directed to her website and Facebook web-page.


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