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.

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