Sunday, November 6, 2011

Winter stories in Texas

(December 16 to 27, 2010 in Houston, Texas)

Stories from the Aggie

I stayed together with Roslinda for two days in College Station. On the second day there, we went to visit George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the Gigantic Graduate Ring, the Aggie Bonfire Memorial and other campuses within the Texas A and M University. Roslinda told many stories about her University. There were two stories that touched my heart: the bonfire tragedy and the number twelve American football player. In the first story, she told about the twelve students (known as Aggies) who died while constructed a bonfire on the campus. The tragedy happened around Thanksgiving in 1999. From that on, the Aggies are not allowed to construct any bonfires within the university compound. The latter story, it is about a fan who volunteered himself as a substitute player during a big match between A and M University and Texas University. During the battle between the two teams, the Aggies lost one player due to the injury. However, they needed few points to win the game. One of the fans jumped out from his seat and ran to join with all the players. Eventually, the Aggies team won the game, and the story became a widely known throughout Texas.

The whole morning we spent time venturing the A and M University. In the afternoon, we went to the College Station Town. It is a small town, and I saw a railroad along the town. The shop buildings resemble the studio sets in the Cowboy movies. It was not a surprise for me as I was in the Cowboy state. We went back before 3 pm, as Roslinda would attend a meeting. We had our late lunch together. She went out by 3 pm, and I started baking a Honeycrumb cake for her. I just put the cake into the oven, when she arrived. That night we had our dinner eating the cake, roti canai and the leftover fruits that she brought from the meeting.

Apai Renduan’s Stories

On the third day, I took a ride with Roslinda’s friend to Houston City. She dropped me at the Macy Shopping Complex, as Lina and her family would meet me there. I know Lina from her relative in Sibu that coincidently has a family connection to my cousin’s wife. Her family is among the Dayak families from Sarawak that have made America as their second home. At Macy, I decided to wait for them at the Jessica Simpson’s booth that was located near the department exit door, and I sent a text message to let them know where I was about. After 20 minutes standing alone with my purple bag, I saw Lina and her husband approaching me. I was filled with joy knowing that I finally met Lina after a year chatting in Facebook. We hugged, and her husband carried my bag to their car that parked at the other side Macy. After putting my bag in their car, then three of us went to meet their children at a bookstore. There, Lina introduced her children, Renduan, Nanang and Ringau. I talked with Renduan, and found out she could speak in Iban. I was proud of her as she still can speak her parents’ mother tongue language.

We all have a coffee break in the bookstore. Then we went to the ice ring to see people skating around the ring. I was not interested with the skaters, but I was thrilled to see the gigantic Christmas tree. It was a living tree decorated with colourful lamps and ornaments. Lina took her husband’s camera, and asked me to become her model. I love people taking my photos. I did with many poses, and both of us enjoying what we were doing. We stopped when Apai (Father in Iban) Renduan called Lina to go to this eatery area. All of them were waiting us there. We all met there and decided to order Chinese food. When we all sat down and feasted ourselves with the food, Apai Renduan started to talk with me. He began to ask about my family and my study in LSU. He was so proud to know that his wife is making friend with a Dayung who is continuing her education in America. Then, he started to tell a story when he was an engineer with SHELL Miri, before he transferred to SHELL Texas. 

“I still remember when I was in Miri. My Dayak colleagues who worked in SHELL and I decided to set up a group dedicating to help Dayak students in Sarawak. Our main aim was to help Dayak students in education. We wanted to see many Dayak students have opportunities to go to universities. We visited many places to teach villagers about the importance of education. Even, many schools in Miri and other divisions, invited us to give a talk to students. While doing roadshows, we would try to find smart Dayak students and encourage them to apply for SHELL scholarships and other scholarships that were offered at that time. Dayak students from rural areas are not so lucky like the urban students. They were not aware any news about scholarships or any college openings. Hence, we would inform any college or scholarship openings to them. We even helped them to fill in the forms. Even though we sacrificed a lot of time to be together with family, we were happy and glad to have supportive wives who understand our volunteer and charity work”. He looked up and smiled after telling me about what his friend and he did.

“Wow, that is awesome. It’s not an easy job to do. You are so lucky to have Indai Renduan that understands your work and your ambition to help our people in Sarawak.” I gave a salute sign to him.

“Dency, this story might interest you. This story was 7 years ago. We visited a long house in Baram. We met this one old woman. She mentioned to us all that she has a nephew. His name is Satu. She wanted her nephew to further his tertiary education, since he scored well in his Form Six examination. However, the problem was he did not have a birth certificate and IC (Identity Card) to let him to apply to further his study. One thing, they are poor. The boy has to look after his brother and sister. Their parents divorced, and their auntie adopted them. When we visited them, Satu was not there. His auntie said he was working in a Shell pump station, in Baram. We all did not want to waste our time; we started to look for him. We forgot to ask the location of the pump station where the boy was working.” Apai Renduan stopped to drink, and then he continued his story.

“We decided to stop at any pump stations and asked the station managers whether they hired the boy. Before that, we prayed to God to help us search for that boy. I drove my car, and let my instinct told me. Then I saw a pump station, and I felt that I must stop there for a while. I parked my car, and I asked the young pump attendant whether he knew Satu. To our surprise, the pump attendant said his name is Satu. We were so glad to find Satu. We told him about his auntie and her intention to see him to have a success in his life. He told to us that he wanted to further his study, but he did not have those two important documents. We assured him that we would help him. Within a month, we managed to get those two documents for him and even for his other siblings. Then, we tried to apply a place in UNIMAS for him. UNIMAS accepted his application, and he must register within two weeks. We called his auntie to ask him to come to Kuching to register himself at UNIMAS. We were shocked to hear that the boy was out in the sea, working as an assistant trawler. We have to call the ship manager to ask him to come back to the shore. It took us for almost a week to wait for him. Once he arrived at the port we brought him straight to UNIMAS.” Apai Renduan sipped his drink again.

“Owh, you all amazed me. God was good to you all and to the boy. I’m glad Satu managed to further his study in UNIMAS. Did you all see him again?” I asked Apai Renduan whether they met Satu again.

“Yes, we did after almost a year we sent him there. We went to UNIMAS for a roadshow, as well as to meet Satu. When we walked near the football field, we saw a young man ran into our direction. We all shocked to know that man was Satu. He saw us walking and abandoned his friends just to meet us. He was so happy and told his life in UNIMAS. That was 7 years ago. I am sure he got his degree and now working. I missed all those time. When my friends and I transferred to any parts of the world, the charity and volunteer club dissolved. We were sad, but what we could do. We are hoping there will be other Dayak clubs that could help all Dayak students. You are an educated young woman; for sure you can help our people.” Apai Renduan expressed his hope that other educated Dayaks in Sarawak will continue their work.

“Apai Reduan, there are Sarawak Dayak Graduate Association or SDGA and Bidayuh Graduate Association or BGA that can help our Dayak students. I’m myself a BGA member, but not an active member. I’m still studying, and after I finish my Phd here, I will come back to serve our people. Of course, I would like to help our people.” I assured him.

“That’s what I want to hear from young people like you. May God guide you always.” He was glad to hear my assurance.

For almost an hour, we sat down eating our dinner while listening to Apai Renduan’s story. After that, we all went back to their house at Katy. At home, Apai Renduan and I continued with our conversation. He talked about his undergraduate life in the UK. Most of his stories were entertaining. We talked until the time was almost 12 am. I yawned and I knew it was sleeping time for me. I excused myself and said good night to all of them, and they back greeted good night to me.

Stories of Malaysian families

I enjoyed doing many family activities during my stay with Lina’s family. On the first day, we went to church together. At church, I met Inna and her three sons. Her eldest son is Miah, followed by the middle Paul and the youngest Wawa. Her husband, Fitz was not with them. I soon found out from Lina that Inna was expecting her husband to arrive in Houston from Kuala Lumpur. Inna and her husband are old friends of my adopted brother, Dr. Sylvester Arnab. After the mass, we all went to the Fung’s Kitchen, one of the Chinese restaurants in Houston. At that restaurant, Inna found out that Dr. Sylvester and I are close friends. It seems my world is quite small, and I know a new friend from someone I close with. We all had a fabulous lunch together. It was my first time I ate real Chinese food in America. Then we went to Asian Market to buy Asian food. In the afternoon, Lina and Apai Renduan, Renduan and me went to La Centera that is located near to their house. It was an evening of glamorous between four of us. Renduan and I became free models, while her parents took photos of both of us. We took few photos in front of the Christmas tree and with Mr. Santa Claus. On the next day, we all family went to the Moody Garden in Galveston. There was a light festival in the Garden. We again had our fun together taking pictures with all decorated lights in the garden. The next day, we all busy prepared food, as we would have a dinner together with Fitz’s family and Tom’s family. I thought Renduan how to bake the Honeycrumb cake, while Lina cooked laksa Sarawak.

About 7 pm, Tom’s family arrived first, and then followed by Fitz’s family. I was glad to meet Mary’s family, and we talked in my father’s language. Mary introduced her children, Al and Amy. Al had just arrived from London. He is doing his undergraduate study in the UK. Inna also introduced Fitz to me, and Fitz was glad to know that I am Sylvester’s adopted sister. The three Dayak families and a Dayung had fun together eating all Sarawakian food. Then all children did their own stuff. The old folks including me just sat down drinking wine, listening to the men’s stories as well as talking about our life in Malaysia and the USA. From their conversation, I found out that SHELL sent Fitz to Kuala Lumpur for a year, and he left his family in Houston as his children are still schooling. For almost a year, Inna became a father and a mother to their three sons. They just communicated through phone and SKYPE. Fitz mentioned how he gave an hour sons-father section every day to Miah and Paul, and another one-hour with Wawa. Inna just smiled listening to Fitz’s story. Then, she talked how Wawa stood outside of their bedroom in the early morning afraid that his father would fly again, and he would miss saying goodbye. Fitz told him that he would never fly away again without him, and he smiled and wanted his father to bring him back to sleep. Everybody was so touch listened to Inna’s story. Fitz and Inna are a truly blessed couple with wonderful children. We were so proud of two of them for making a one-year separation, a blessed year for their family.

On the eve of Christmas Day, I met another family, The Praba’s family. They are from West Malaysia, but Mr. Praba ever worked in SHELL Miri before with Apai Renduan, Samak (Father in Bidayuh) Al and Fitz. The Praba’s family and I went to church together to celebrate Christmas Mass. Then, we all went to Fitz and Inna’s house for a small family-Christmas gathering. Inna prepared the green mug porridge for all of her guests, while others exchanged Christmas gifts to each other. I was chuckled to see Wawa showed his gift, a train that was given by Apai Renduan, to Fitz. Everyone was so happy receiving gifts. Then we continued with our usual activity, exchanging stories, and I just listened to their captivating stories. They talked about their children education. They expressed their willingness to continue their working contract with SHELL Texas for the sake of their children’s future. Mr. Praba mentioned that he accepted a job position in ESSO Texas after a year retired from SHELL, so that both of them can be together with their children in Houston. Their children are undergraduate students in A and M Texas University. Listening to their stories, I suddenly remembered my family back in Kuching. My mother did call me early in the morning, and she said Merry Christmas to me. They celebrated 14 hours ahead of us in the USA. I certainly missed my own family, but the feeling evaporated in the air when I was with all of the Malaysian families. Suddenly the clock chimed at 12 o’clock, and we all tossed our wine glasses and said Merry Christmas to everybody. 

A story of a Bidayuh man

On the second day of Christmas, Apai Renduan’s family, Fitz’s family and I went to Kemah Boardwalk. It is a rides and amusements park, which is located about 30 minutes’ drive from Houston City and near to the Mexico Gulf. We moved first while Fitz’s family stopped somewhere to buy jackets for Fitz and Wawa. It was not a long enough for all of us to meet again at Kemah. We all walked along the Boardwalk and took many pictures. Wawa did play a few rides in that park. He is such an adorable, smart and talkative boy. We then took sunset pictures at the Gulf. Inna and I sat down on a chair looking at sea, and the rest continued on taking more photos. Inna then asked a question.

“Dency, are you closed to Sylvester?” I said yes to Inna, and she continued asked from me again.

“Then, I guess you know one of our old friends. He is a Bidayuh like Sylvester and you. He went to the same college together with Sylvester, Fitz and I.” 

I said to her that Sylvester never mentioned about his other friend except Fitz and her.

Inna told me that their Bidayuh friend was an ex-roommate to Sylvester. He is the son of a prominent leader in Sarawak. She could only recall the first letter of his name. I asked Inna, why she told the story of her old friend. She just smiled and said she just wanted me to know about him. Then, Fitz called Inna to join with all of them taking family pictures. She ran to meet her husband, and I left alone standing near to the chair. I looked towards the sea, and I started talking to myself.

“Who is that dari (man in Bidayuh)?” my heart said.

Suddenly, I saw a white seabird flying across the Gulf. I smiled looking at the bird. I believed, the bird was just like a messanger from God, asking me to know and make friend with that Bidayuh man. Only Sylvester could help me to connect me with that man. I came back to reality, when Inna shouted my name to join with all of them. I ran towards them, and stood next to Miah before Apai Renduan clicked his camera. 


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