Friday, 22 June 2007

A Different Education - Flight Lessons

For the past three weeks we've been holding afternoon school aboard Crystal Blues, working with primary and secondary students to improve their English comprehension. Ley has devised a grab-bag of games and projects to use, and some of the older kids have been working on our computers, completing homework and school projects. From 3.00pm most afternoons you can't move in the cockpit or the cabin for kids and projects.

Yesterday we cancelled the normal classes and arranged to visit the longhouse with games for the kids. In preparation we'd photocopied (in bulk) several patterns for folded paper aircraft, and we organised a competion - the longest flight, the best decoration (they had to colour them in before folding), with prizes for boys and girls. 10 children took part, with lots of laughter and delight when the flight competition began. The longhouse verandah is enclosed, about 150 metres long, plenty of room for paper planes !

The real surprise was what happened next - the mothers, who had been watching their kids in action, wanted to participate ! We issued more patterns, and 8 mothers folded deadly accurate little aircraft - no time for decoration, this was serious......and very competitive.

Then another surprise. We had noticed a group of young men at one end of the house looking disdainfully at all this "kids stuff", but when the mother's aircraft flew very far and very true, the young men sent an emissary. Can the men make planes too please ? Sure, so more patterns came out. Despite the young men's best efforts, the womens paper plane building skills won out - they still proudly hold the distance record. To our surprise, a childrens game ended up involving almost the entire longhouse population - everybody went home happy and sore from laughing ...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Two Birthdays In Borneo

Lat. 02degrees 10.54north, Lon. 111degrees 40.90east

We haven't moved since our last report, still at the longhouse on Sungai Tulai, but we have had our birthday - Ley and I both being born on June 13 (yes its scary).

Life on Sungai Tulai is very peaceful. On Sunday we went to church (twice), in both cases following the service and songs using an Iban text - not so hard to follow, since the tunes were familiar. The people here are Methodist now - most services are conducted by lay preachers from the longhouse, but once a month a pastor comes from the city, in the afternoon, and provides an additional Sunday service. That was last Sunday - hence the two services. We were pleased to host the pastor and his crew on board the boat for afternoon tea.

For our birthday we had a celebration lunch in a Chinese cafe down river in Bintangor, having ordered a special seafood meal in advance. It's a twenty minute run in the dinghy from here. We invited four of our friends from the longhouse - two came by powered canoe and two by motorbike. Later in the afternoon we had cake and tuak (rice wine) at the longhouse with about 60 well wishers, and made it home just before dark. The children of the longhouse made small birthday gifts for us - little figures made from balloons, sand and thread. One boy gave a us local river fish (live) in a tiny jar, with two glass marbles and a tiny pack of fish food - an aquarium he said in English! We also received sweet potatoes and cooked local prawns. We've transferred the fish to a bigger home, changed the water and fed it, but so far resisted naming it .....

Really a memorable birthday - lots more pictures in the Tulai River photo album - check it out in the right hand column.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Sungai Tulai Has Become Home For A While

Lat. 02degrees 10.54north, Lon. 111degrees 40.90east

Salamat Hari Gawai..... If you use the Lat. and Lon. information above (plug it in to Google Earth) you'll see that Crystal Blues is nowhere near the ocean. We've travelled 80km upstream on the Rajang River ("Batang Rajang"). From Bintangor town we took the Batang Bintangor to reach the Batang Tulai, arriving here on June 2nd. A couple of miles up the Tulai, and we're amongst old friends, a great long-house community (5 long houses) and wonderful people. Its our second visit here.

The river is just over 120' wide, but still deep, averaging 8 metres, which is just as well as we had 5 meter tides for the first few days. As the tide turns, the boat swings and the davits on the stern almost touch the jungle on the river bank. The locals have welcomed us in fine style, with lots of Tuak (rice wine) and partying. Each day we join them for some activity - yesterday we hiked into the jungle to gather wild vegetables, which were shared amongst all the families in the longhouse, with a suitable portion for us.

To our delight we're now referred to as "Auntie" and "Uncle" by all the local children - a term of endearment and trust that we're very happy with. Each afternoon the kids swim across the river to play on and about the boat, and most evenings we spend in the long house. Boat visits have been very popular, with some people swimming to us, others arriving by local canoe and many carried in our dinghy. Over 100 people have visited in the past 4 days - Ley has baked three cakes and we've run out of self raising flour and sweet biscuits...

Now that we know the various families and children, the relationship is closer. Yesterday we had a movie (DVD) afternoon for all the school-age children on board, with cake and drinks afterwards. After that they all made drawings of characters in the movie - Monsters Inc. The kids then asked Ley is she could help improve their English skills, so English reading lessons filled the afternoon until swimming time at 5.00pm. In the evening we took part in the longhouse ceremony to end the Gawai (Harvest) festival - around 150 people with traditional gong and drum music, lots of dancing, and beautiful local food. We ate the heart of young sago palms, some stuffed and cooked with tiny immature banana's, plus chicken and noodles. The longhouse chief made a speech, we all drank tuak (rice wine), and Gawai was over.

You can see more photographs at :