Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bidayuh Supermodel!!!!!

(20 May 2011, Leamington Spa, UK)

A Bidayuh in Leamington Spa

It was six in the evening. Cliff stopped his PIAT car at the roadside. Clift, Sylvester and I were going to have a dinner at The Union Grand Restaurant. We crossed a road and entered into a restaurant. I knew it must be the restaurant that Sylvester always mentioned to me in his facebook. Clift, Sylvester and their other friend set up the restaurant together. However, Clift and Sylvester had to sell their shares to their friend. The reason was they wanted to spend more time for vacations, than in the restaurant. Before entering into the restaurant, Sylvester asked me to look up. At the top of the restaurant main door, I saw a small, long aluminum plank that notified that Sylvester was licensed to sell beers, wines and spirits. As a Bidayuh, I was proud with Sylvester as he represents the successful Bidayuh “dari” (dari means man in Bidayuh). He is an academician, scientist and businessman, and yet he still remember where he is a Bidayuh from Sarawak.

Inside the restaurant, we sat at a couch while waiting for the server to set up our dining table. It is a common practice in any western countries; the customers will wait until there is a table for them. It is different in Malaysia where you just sit down if there is an empty table inside the eating outlet. Clift ordered a glass of beer, and Sylvester and I ordered a bottle of Rose Wine. Twenty minutes waiting, we took a few pictures of us together, and decorations inside the restaurant. The restaurant still maintained the Dayak decoration. I knew that Sylvester did put his ideas in decorating the restaurant. Once our table had been set up, we went to the basement. There, I saw a big hall with many tables and chairs. It was beautiful, and I felt like a timid Dayung that should not deserve a great treatment from the two of them. Sylvester knew how I felt, and he assured me that they would treat me like their own little sister from Sarawak. We spent more than an hour enjoying ourselves with English-France cuisines. Then, we went upstairs again to meet their two English friends.

Bidayuh can be an international model

Five of us sat on a large table. Sylvester introduced me to his friends. They greeted me and asked few questions. Then the conversation shifted to sharing any jokes and gossips about their friends and someone they knew in Leamington Spa. I was entertained with their stories. They were just like our local people, sharing many stories at coffee parlor or Kopitiam. Sylvester diverted my attention and asked me to talk with him. We conversed in our language, Bidayoh Bau or Bibau.

“What do you think about Leamington Spa?” Sylvester asked.

“I like it. Nab (Sylvester’s nickname), I like your lifestyle. You are not in a glamour world, and yet you enjoy your happy life here.” I praised him.

“Kembang hidup (a Malay expression to show how proud a person is)! We must enjoy our life. How hard it is, we must make ourselves happy.” He advised me.

“Nab, how did u manage to become a part-time model? Sorry to say, you are not tall like any male models, and yet the agent picked you up to be their advertisement model.” I asked about his part-time job as a model.

“It was a coincident. I walked along the boulevard in London. Suddenly, there was a man. He stopped me, and said that I have a unique face. He asked my origin, and I told him. I was proud to be a Bidayuh from Borneo. He was pleased with my explanation, and he said I could be a model. He gave his card, and asked me to come for an audition next week.” He paused, drank his wine and continued with his story.

“I was not sure at first, but Clift said I should try. I went to the audition, and I got the offer. I had beaten tall, masculine and macho European men. From that exposure of being a model, I believe that Bidayuhs can be international models.” He looked at me and smiled proudly.

“Nab, wow! Such a great experience. They picked you because of your unique Dayak face. I wonder if I did my PhD here, I will be spotted and picked up to be an advertisement model.” I just made a wish.

“I believe, you can Dency. I went back to kampung (kampung means village in Bahasa Melayu), and I saw two beautiful dayung. They have those packages to be models. Small, tall body; pointed, small nose and smooth skin. I was attracted to their unique faces. They were still young, probably 17 years old. I did not dare asking whether they were interested or not to be models. I waited for the next summer, and I did ask where these two girls from orang kampung (orang kampung means villagers). They said, both of them got married after finishing their Form Five. Both of them have a bright future ahead, and yet they preferred to be housewives.” Sylvester sighed thinking the future of those two girls.

“That’s their choice. If they are exposed like both of us, maybe they will choose to upgrade themselves. Both of us have big dreams, and we worked hard to get where we are now. When I went back to kampung, looking at our people, I always told to myself how lucky I was to get this opportunity to travel around the world. My mom did advise me, to read as many books as I can if I want to travel around the world. She was right, and I should thanks to her.” Suddenly, I missed my mother back in Kuching.

“Our mothers always know the best for us. We shall thanks them. You mentioned about your mother, now I’m missing her. I can’t wait to see her again. She will arrive on the day you will be in the Tring. You are so unlucky that you will not meet with my mother and my sister here.” Sylvester mentioned about his mother and his sister would have a long holiday together with him in the UK.

“It’s ok. Maybe I can meet you all in kampung. The Next year, probably. I must come back home every summer.” I smiled at him, and he nodded agreeing.

We continued our chat with others, while drinking our wine. The night was a bit bored. The first male singer did not play happy songs. He played few gig songs that bored many patrons. Then, he was replaced with another male singer. The new singer chose nice songs that entertained many patrons in the restaurant. Clift, Sylvester and I spent there until the time showed 10 pm. We made an excuse with Clift and Sylvester’s friends in the restaurant. They all said goodbye to all of us. Tomorrow we would venture around the Leamington Spa. I could not wait to sit next to Sylvester in his silver convertible SUBARU sport car. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dayung and her purple bag

(18 May 2011, London to Stowmarket, UK)

At Heathrow Airport Station

I smiled after passing the gate out of the UK Border Control at the Heathrow Airport. After the second interview, the woman officer allowed me to enter to her country, the United Kingdom. I did not pass my first interview. The other man officer disallowed me to pass the border, as I did not provide a full complete of Dr. Sylvester’s address. He asked me to stand outside of the line, and try  to get a full address of Dr. Sylvester. How stupid I was for forgetting the most important thing as a foreigner in other countries. I must have a full address for me to stay in their countries.

Luckily, I saved Sylvester’s phone number in my Blackberry. I inserted my American AT & T Sim card into my Blackberry and straight sent a text to him, asking his house full address. Five minutes over, I still not received his reply. I called him twice, but he did not pick up his phone. I sat at one corner and waited patiently. Twenty minutes later, I received his text. After reading his message, I picked up a new form and filled important information about me including Sylvester’s house address. Sylvester did remind me to show the letter from my Professor, that my other intention to visit UK was to do my research in the Natural History Museum, in Tring. While waiting for my turn to be interviewed, I called Sylvester to tell about my condition until my cellphone battery went out. When my turn had come to be interviewed by the women officer, I impressed her with my complete answers and she accepted my reasons and immediately she stamped my passport. I knew I was accepted to enter to enter UK.

I took a left turn after passing the border exit gate. I walked happily to get my big, purple bag at the baggage carousel that was located outside of the airport gate border. There were five carousels and I walked from one carousel to the next, looking for my bag. I did not find my bag after searching from all five carousels. I did not panic, as I believed my bag could be at the baggage counter. I went to the counter and asked a man whether they took my bag. I gave my baggage ticket, and he helped me to check. To my surprise, he said my bag was still at one of the carousels. I mentioned to him that I could not find it as they are many bags. He assured me that he would get it for me. I waited for him to come with my bag. Five minutes waiting, I saw him carried my bag. He handed my bag and I thanked him for helping me.

I carried my bag to a bench. There, I sat down and started thinking my next plans on how to go to Pener’s house at Stowmarket. My first plan was to dispense a certain amount of money from ATM, and next plans were to buy a UK sim card and a train ticket, as well as recharging my cellphone. Without wasting my time, I dragged my bag to the nearest ATM and dispensed 150 £ or USD300. Then, I walked around the carousel area, trying to find any plugs so that I could recharge my cellphone battery. However, I did not find a plug within that area. I decided to walk out from the airport to the eatery area, hoping I could find a plug. Again, I could not find it. A bit disappointed, I walked slowly and I saw an internet kiosk and a big box that sold cellphone-prepaid cards. I started to devise a new plan. I bought 20 £ cellphone-prepaid sim card. Then, I went to the internet kiosk and checked on an untended computer. I was lucky indeed, the last person who used the computer had left another 1 pound for me to use. Without wasting my time, I opened my facebook and sent a message to Pener telling that my cellphone battery went out. I also gave my new UK cellphone number in case she could call me if I managed to recharge my cellphone.

After sending the facebook message to Pener, I set my journey to find a plug before taking an underground train from Heathrow Airport to London Liverpool Street Station. After 10 minutes walking, I found a plug. I was happy and sat down near to the plug. I opened my purple luggage to take out my Blackberry recharger and an international adapter. I put my recharger into the plug. The light of my recharger blinked for 5 minutes only, and it went off. I unplugged and replug my recharger, thinking I probably did not plug it rightly. The charger light was not blinking. I did not want my cellphone to get exploded; hence I just unplugged it. There was an old man staring suspiciously at me while I tried to recharge my cellphone. I stared back at him, and he just walked passing me. I was not sure whether I did something wrong that made him stared at me like that. I put my charger back into my big, purple bag.

The time was 9.45 am. My next plan was to buy a train ticket at a ticket counter. I followed the signboards that guided me to the way to the ticket counter. I reached at the counter after 10 minutes waking while dragging my purple bag. Since I was not sure the exact trains to go to the London Liverpool Street Station, I asked a woman at the counter. She politely taught me which trains that I was supposed to use. She also mentioned that I needed to transit at Holbron Station before taking another train to London-Liverpool Street Station. After paying 5 £ for a train ticket and said thank you to the woman, I straight carried my purple bag walking along a tunnel, went down using an escalator and walked again into a small tube leading me to the train track. There, I waited the next train to arrive with the other passengers. I stood next to an Australian man. His arms filled with tattoo. Then I turned my view to the walls along the track. I saw a map that show other next stations that the train would stop after and before the Heathrow Station, a big sign of Heathrow Underground Station and three big advertisements of any activities in London. The train finally arrived after 10 minutes waiting. I carried my heavy, purple bag into the train, and I put it at the luggage area near to my seat. After all passanggers boarding, the train made a move to the next station, the Hatton Cross.

To help and not to help

After stopping at the Hatton Cross Station, the train then moved to the next stations; Hounslow West, Hounslow Central, Hounslow East, Osterley, Boston Manor, Northfields, South Ealing, Acton Town, Hammersmith, Baron Court, Gloucester Road, Knightbridge, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Piccaddilly Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Along the journey, the train passed a long red, black tube tunnel. All the sign stations have the same design as in the Heathrow Station. The sign is a combination of a white circle that overlaps on a red big circle and a blue horizontal crossing the two circles. The station name was written on the blue horizontal. I fixed my eyes on each sign by looking through the train windows until I saw the Holbron Station sign. After the train fully stopped, I went out together with the other passengers.  I dragged my heavy bag along the way out from the Piccadilly Line tunnel and straight went to the escalator that would bring me to the Central Line tunnel. After using the escalator, I went to the tunnel to get a train to the Liverpool Street Station. I did not expect that there would be no ESCALATORS to go down to the underground tunnel, except staircases. I started to think on how to carry my heavy bag down the stairs. I saw three Indian young men walked to my direction. I stopped and then politely asked them to help me.

“I’m sorry. Could you help me, please? My bag is so heavy, and I don’t think I can carry this bag down the stairs.”

The three of them were willing to help me to carry my bag. One of the men said that my bag was too heavy for me a small, petite woman to carry all the way to the next station. I just smiled at him. After dropping my bag on the last step, I thanked them for helping me. I dragged my bag again until the next tunnel and again I saw another staircase. I was speechless and stood for a while, to think to get some helps or not. Suddenly there was a charming Englishman tapped on my shoulder.

“You seem have a problem with your bag. You want me to carry it down.”

He smiled looking at me. I just said YES and Thanks to him.

“Sorry my bag is heavy.”

“Oh my wife’s bag is even heavier than your bag. I’m used to carry her bag, and she will carry mine.”

I giggled listening to what he said about his wife’s bag. Both of us went down to the last step, and he put down on my bag. I thanked him again for helping me. I dragged my bag until I reached at the waiting area. It was not a long waiting for me. When the train stopped, I dragged my bag into the train and then sat on a long bench. I put my purple bag next to the door near to my seat. I looked around of me. Suddenly I noticed an old Muslim man and a young man. Both of them sat opposite of me. The old man tried to start a conversation with that young man.

“Are you Muslim?”

The young man nodded his head agreeing to what the old man said. Then the old man started to preach about Allah and Islam teachings to the young man. As I closed to both of them, I could listen every detail of what the old man said to that young man.

“Allah is good. Allah will help those who help poor people. Islam teaches us to help our people. Do you agree that a good Muslim is the one who always helps others who are in trouble?”

The young man nodded his head. The old man continued his conversation.

“Young man, I am a poor old man. I want to go to the next station, but I don’t have enough money to buy a ticket. You are a Muslim, and as a Muslim, you will not mind to help me to give some money.”

I was shocked to see a drama that was set in front of me. I thought the old man wanted to preach about the goodness of Islam, but the truth the old man wanted to beg from the young man. The young man said he did not have coins to give. I noticed that he was not comfortable entertaining the old man. The old man tried to beg him again. Maybe the young man fed up with him; he just ignored the man’s plea. Suddenly the old man said nasty words to the young man.

“You are totally not a good Muslim. Allah will not help you if you are in trouble. I just asked for two pounds, but you don’t want to help me. You are really a bad Muslim. You will not get rewards from Allah. Shame on you.”

When the train stopped at the next station, the old man went out. Throught the train windows, I saw him stopped another young man. I bet the young man was a Muslim student based on his apparent. Both of them greeted according to the Islamic way. Before the train started to move, I had seen the young man had tried to get his wallet from his pocket. I assumed the old man already had his victim.

From the Liverpool Street Station to Stowmarket Station

Less than 25 minutes, the train reached the Liverpool Street Station. I took my bag and went out from the train. The Liverpool Street Station was a large station. From afar, I could see the ticket counter. I dragged my bag to the counter. Again, I saw a staricase go up to the counter. I suddenly hated staircases. I was so tired and sat down on my bag. I looked at a 30 plus years old man. He looked at me too. I stood up, approached that man and asked a help from him.

“Excuse me, could you help me to carry my bag to the upstairs.”

He smiled at me.

“I can see you look tired, and your big bag. I’m glad you ask help from me.”

“I just a bit shy to ask help from you. My bag is so heavy for me to carry to the upstairs.”

He tried to carry my bag.

“Oh my, this is really heavy.”

“I have told you so.”

After helping me, I thanked him for his kindness. I went to the counter, and the man at the counter,  asked me to go to the next counter on the left side of the station. I learned that the counter was for the underground train while the other counter was for the regional trains. I went to the next counter, and a man greeted me. The man suggested me to buy a return ticket as it was cheaper than buying a single-ride ticket, but I declined. I just paid about 25 pounds for a way ride.

The time was almost 2 pm, and I was hungry. I bought a sandwich, but I could only eat half of it. I was so exhausted, and plus again I started to feel the jag lag. My body was 6 hours late than in the UK time. I waited outside of the gate until the train-worker opened the gate and let passengers went into the train. I dragged my bag and in front of me were a couple. The man entered into the train first while her wife helped him to bring their two bags into the train. I patiently waited both of them to finish storing their bags. The man saw me with my big bag, and he offered his help to bring my bag into the train. He told me that my bag was very heavy. I smiled and thanked him. We chatted for a while. From our conversation, I found out that they are from Canada, and they wanted to visit their daughter in UK. I chose to sit at a table seating on the left side while the couple sat the other table seating on the right side. Soon, many passengers came in and fulfilled many seats. A Spanish couple sat and shared the table seating with me. By 2.45 pm, the train started its journey to Norwich. Along the way out from London, I saw a big stadium that was under construction. The stadium would be used for the 2012 Olympic Game. A ticket conductor came to check a ticket from every passenger. Almost an hour, the train stooped at the first station, Colchester. The Canadian couples and few passengers went down. Both of them said goodbye to me. After 10 minutes stopping, the train continued its journey to the next station, Ipswich. I was preoccupied with the scenery outside of the window, until I did not listen to the announcement that those who wanted to go to Stowmarket, must embark at the Ipswich Station first before heading to Stowmarket.

Once the train stopped at the Ipswich Station, almost everybody went down. After 10 minutes, I looked around me, and there were five passengers still sat on their places. I saw a Chinese boy sat on the opposite side of my seat. The train continued again to the next destination. I was sure it would stop at Stowmarket Station. After fifteen minutes departure from the Ipswich Station, I saw an old building that had a “Stowmarket” word written on its wall. I knew I would be arrived soon. After ten minutes passing the old building, I felt uneasy, as the train did not stop. I asked the Chinese boy whether the train would stop at the Stowmarket Station. He said yes, and then I sat for a while.

Suddenly the boy said to me “Madam, I think this train will stop at the next station, not the Stowmarket Station. I am sorry. I suggest that you ask from the ticket conductor on how you are going to get to the Stowmarket. I’m really sorry.”

I was shocked after knowing I already passed the Stowmarket. I saw the ticket conductor on the way to my seat. I approached him. I told him about my ordeal, and he said I could stop at the next station. Not long after that, the train stopped again. I went to the bag storage and carried my big, heavy luggage out from the train. I took a breath, put my luggage on the floor and looked around. There was a crossing bridge and an office on the opposite side from where I was standing. I sat down on my luggage, and started to think on how to carry my heavy luggage to cross over the bridge. There was no lift or even an elevator. From far away, I saw a young Englishwoman in a black uniform. She could be the staff of the UK National Rail. I approached her and asked whether she wanted to help me to carry my luggage.

“Excuse me. Could you help me? My luggage is quite heavy. I want to go to the other side. This bag needs two women to carry.”

She tried to carry my luggage, and put it back on the floor.

“Oh my! Did you carry an elephant inside your bag?”

I chuckled listening to what she said. We devised our plan on how we were going to carry my bag to the other side. She took a hand carry on the left, while me on the right. We dragged the bag up on the bridge stairs, crossed the bridge, and then walked down the stairs on the other side. At the end of stairs, we took our breath and laughed together for how silly we were carried that bag in an awkward way. I said thank you to her, and she told me to take the second train that would bring me to the Stowmarket. Within 20 minutes, the train arrived, and I dragged in my bag into the train. After putting my bag on the luggage storage, I sat down on the last seats row. Within 15 minutes, the train already arrived at the Stowmarket. I dragged my bag out from the luggage storage and went out from the body of train. Finally, I set my feet on the final destination. The train continued on to the next station. I was alone at the Stowmarket Station. I did not see Penny. The time was 3.15 pm, and I was a bit shivering. The weather was a bit cold on that day. I pulled out my fleece jacket from my backpack and covered my body with it. I wanted to go the other side of the station, and asking if I could charge my Blackberry, but I was tired to carry that heavy bag. I dragged my bag to the bridge stairs and sat on my bag.

Suddenly, I heard someone called my name.


I turned my back and there I saw Sister Penny waved her hands and the other side. She ran across the bridge, and when we met, we hugged. I knew that I was safe.