(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.