February 3rd 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
The courtyard at Long Bedian

Breakfast was a similar meal to last night’s dinner, with the addition of tortoise-meat during + coffee after – both were welcome additions.  Afterward we took the opportunity while people were around to hand out our remaining presents.  There was a length of decorative braid which we gave to the Headman – he wound it around his waist like a belt.  To his wife we gave a mirror.  It was from China,+ had a Chinese snow-scene on the back, but we were able to say that it depicted English-style weather.  We handed out a few badges, an old woven bracelet, + some sweets.  In return, we asked for some of their forks, + tho’ they seemed reluctant at first, one guy started whittling – they’re made from a single twig – + then ther Headman seemed to bully the young men into exerting themselves.  At any rate, we ended up with 5, each carved by a different man.  Very highly prized gifts.

We were thinking to leave this morning, not thinking there was much to gain by a one-day delay, but before we could make any positive moves, we had to wait for the Headman to finish his speech.  It wasn’t about us, I’m sure – neither he nor any of his listeners looked at us at all – + I would love to know what it was about.  We’ve observed similar circumstances before, where a leader or elder gives a talk – it can’t be described in any other way, for he isn’t interrupted,+ it lasts for 5 mins or so.  Generally, it commands attention, tho’ vital business is still attended to.  It doesn’t seem to be devotional however, + quite possibly it relates to day to day running of the village, internal politics, or some other matter it is impossible to translate into the terms of our society.  One is very frustrated by the barriers of language.

Once this was over, we made our departure, bidding our erstwhile hosts a friendly goodbye.  Some more presents – old clothes on our side, an old basket on theirs – + we were off, accompanied by 2 other villagers on their way, so they told us, to Long Pato, another Punan village about 6 kms beyond the timber camp.  There’d been no rain in the past couple of days, so it was an easy + pleasant-enough walk.  I was in an introspective mood, so walked alone, 20 yds ahead.  At Camp Layun, Mr Lu himself was not present, but his office girls were equally hospitable.  We were given cans of root beer + chocolate biscuits, + were allowed to use the bathroom, to wash ourselves + our clothes. 

And at lunchtime we were very privileged indeed, when we were invited to join them for a meal.  Mr Lu had returned by this time, + presided over what can only be described as a banquet, with 7 or 8 dishes to choose from, virtually all of it fresh.  There were 2 large baked fish, dishes of shallots with ham, mushrooms with pork, stewed steak, a sort of taro/potato dish, boiled chicken, a bowl of soup… and all of it quite superb.  It required a positive effort to slow down so as to be able to eat more, especially difficult when all around one were racing.

After lunch, Mr Lu drove one of the Land Cruiser pick-ups down to the camp at Bedian, + offered us a ride.  We felt slightly awkward, as we had met Mr Forones during our walk in, + didn’t know whether he would be expecting to take us back, but thought it wisest to take the first opportunity, so hopped in the back – 2 office girls had the front bench seat.  We really enjoyed the ride, standing up + holding onto the rail right behind the cab.  The sun was warm, + we could enjoy the countryside.  I still intend, despite my advancing years, to have an open-top car at some stage – in the meantime, I will have to make do with such rides as this.

Instead of dropping us at the camp, as we had expected, Mr Lu drove us as far as he could to Long Bedian; then goodbyes + thanks.  Bullan wasn’t around, but another member of the household made us welcome + gave us a drink, + we whiled away the afternoon.  Some good news was that the camera appeared to have dried out, + was working properly… so far as we are able to tell.  So we snapped a new film in + took some shots around the kampong.  The bad news was that the Security Officer from the  Camp was in the village, trying to persuade us to spend the night with him, but Val went with him to the shop + allowed him to buy her an orange juice – I wasn’t around at the time, so escaped.

Our evening meal was served to the whole family group at once, which made a pleasant change, tho’  the food itself was uninspiring, especially in comparison with our lunch-time feast.  Afterwards, Val + Bullan sat down to one of their handicraft sessions, so I, feeling restless, wandered off to the shop.  And who should I run into but… the Security Officer.  He was quite drunk by now, + so even more boring than before, but he bought me a beer, + then I bought us one, + I listened to him ramble on for a while.

After the relative dietary privations of the day before, it was very welcome indeed to find ourselves guests at a proper Chinese feast; everyone we have met up-river has been unbelievably generous and hospitable.

I do have my open-top car now, by the way, so for monce an ambition achieved. Though not necessarily under the best of circumstances, as I received it as a bonus of surviving cancer.

I note that I have used this photo before, but really I have no alternative… apologies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.