Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Month In Borneo

I Must Be Dreaming
Birthday surprise.
Crystal Blues is anchored on the very peaceful Sungai Tulai, and the sun is just peeping through the open hatches.  I'm still sleeping when I hear a choir of sweet young voices singing (very quietly) "Happy Birthday."  Of course I think I'm dreaming, so I lay in bed, sleeping, drifting off.  Then the choir starts up again, a little louder, and through the fog I realise - this is for real ! The singing is coming from the cockpit !  I stumble out of bed and through sleepy eyes I see nine children, a stack of gifts and a beautiful cake with candles burning.  After blowing out the candles, and opening the gifts, the children paddle home in their canoes.  What a fantastic way to start our birthday !

Then I turn on the computer.  As soon as Skype loads birthday messages and calls come flooding in.  Gary and Sue on SV Yaringa made a quick video call from Japan, just before they depart on passage to Alaska.  Our Seirra Wireless modem and the Celcom data card is provividng excellent service up here in the jungle. I quickly emailed some of the birthday images to Neil, who is still in Singapore.  Our birthdays will be spent apart, as Neil flew back to India and Singapore for a week of work.

Jungle Barbecue

Kikki and Betty preparing the middin fern
Jabu and Chanda suggested a barbecue in the jungle one afternoon and invited all the cruisers.  A children's committee was formed, menu and costings were calculated.  Coconut rice in bamboo, hot dogs, marinated chicken wings, fish bits, sausages and midden fern were on the menu.  I added an Aussie touch with potatoes in foil, cooked in the coals.  Next morning we speed off in the dinghy to purchase the supplies and others prepared the barbecue area and cut down the bamboo for the rice.
Two fires were prepared, one for the grill, one for the bamboo rice and potatoes.  While the food was cooking Jabu, Beretin and Dominic took the cruisers to explore the jungle.  The boys showed us large Nepenthes, (insect eating Pitcher plants), hanging orchids, birds nest ferns and many tall native fruit trees.  We arrived back as the food was being served on large green leaves.  Everyone agreed that it was a great adventure.
New reading glasses and big smiles!

Reading Glasses R Us

Kikii from SV Endelig and we on Crystal Blues had been collecting reading glasses and sun glasses.  One evening whilst visiting the long house we asked for a book and distributed the glasses.  Then we sat back as glasses were tested.  Eventually all those who needed new reading glasses found a suitable pair.  Our Iban friends will often "go without" with no complaints, but are happy to accept when the spirit is right.

Rubber Tapping Iban Style 
Jampie collecting the latex
Although this was our fifth visit to the longhouse, we had never visited a rubber plantation.  This year our good friend Jampie asked us if we would like to go and watch him tap and collect the white, silky latex.  Robert and Elaine (SV Sunrise) joined Ley and the kids early one morning to watch Jampie.  We saw the simple tool that is used to just skim open the the bark each morning.  He carefully poured the collected latex into a bottle and then turned over each cup so that the mosquitoes could not breed in them.     
Jentang and Asat rolling out the rubber.

The latex is then taken back to the long house and mixed with a coagulating chemical (an acid), left to firm up and then pressed out into rubber slabs.  These are then dried and sold off to the traders in town. Even after four years of visiting Rumah Lidam, we are still amazed by their culture and life skills.

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