Thursday, 19 July 2007

Reflections On Sungai Tulai

Lat. 04deg 23.11N, Lon. 113deg 58.34E. Miri Marina

Its over two weeks since we left our friends at the Longhouse "Lidam" on the Tulai River, and we find our hearts are still very much attached to the place and the people.

Each day or so we receive a letter or an SMS message from our friends there - some good news, some family and school updates, and some very heartfelt "we miss you" messages. Ley suggested that the children continue to practice conversational English in our absence, and we're pleased that this is really happening. Well done Jabu, Dina, Dungert, Beretin, Rebeckha, Dominic and Dayang ! Jabu has sent us a letter (written in English) to update us, and he also told us how boring it is at the longhouse during the not infrequent power outages.

Through our longhouse friends we also met many of the wider Iban community in the area, including the congregation at Bintangor Iban Methodist church. In Sarawak there are two methodist church organisations, Chinese and Iban. Only language separates the two, but they maintain separate buildings, organisations and even training structures for ministers and lay preachers. The Iban church has managed to incorporate aspects of traditional Iban culture within its services - we were thrilled to see traditional dance and music in use to celebrate the end of the Gawai Dayak festival at a special church service. The dancing was beautiful !

Here in thoroughly modern Miri, we're missing the traditional connection with the rivers and the land that our Iban friends shared with us. Last night we celebrated at an up-scale seafood restaurant and payed way too much for giant freshwater prawns. Only last month we gladly accepted these through trade with the local fisherman who caught them....... for a small fraction of the cost.

The locals tell us that these are more prolific in the dry season, when the salt water moves up stream. Right now the water is fresh, so catches are down. We'll be back on Sungai Tulai in October, and we hope that our fisherman friend Graman can catch some more to share with us again !

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