I never had a penchant for poems. I like reading them, especially ones written by Usman Awang (he’s my absolute idol) and I follow A. Samad Said like a bloodhound because I know where he lives. I am admitting to stalking an innocent, talented old man but I am not creepy, I swear. I just surprise him once in a while, just pretending to be interested in small chats. You should listen to how each word rolled out of his tongue – just unaltered old keroncong melody that most did not recollect. He pronounces it as the people in the 1950s, naturally and ever so carefully like gift wrapping the most precious of gifts.
Words. Now, thrown so carelessly like they didn’t matter shit.
I actually won second place in a poem writing competition when I was in university. It was a Malay poem, written in August which is the month celebrating the independence day. I had the cheesiest title and the most sarcastic of rhymes. It was called ‘Mereka Kata Hari Ini Kita Cuti’ or ‘They Say Today Is a (Public) Holiday’. I was playing around youth’s perception of celebrating the National Day as a public holiday instead of grasping the meaning behind it. It was meant as a joke, really but I won 2 paperback novels for it. I secretly hated the winner. I figured he probably had more books but I never saw him. The ceremony took place during the weekend and I was at home watching Spongebob Squarepants. The prize was delivered on my study desk and I feel a surge of proud, gold medal winning moment in like 2 seconds. And then I laughed at my pathetic poem.
My father is quite an accomplish poet. I saw some of his poems printed in old newspapers which he kept in a clear album. I saw about 3-4 of them, including an 80% completed manuscript about conflicts in teenagers. I remember one poem about ‘Biskut Kering Dari Eropah’ or “Dry Snack from Europe” which talked about drugs and another poem called ‘Kubasuh Mereka’ (I Washed Them) about purity and innocence in children. Those were not bad at all. He didn’t pursue this career, probably because any career that involves embellishments of pretty words is not paid quite enough to earn a decent living.
And here I am, embellishing like crazy.
I am poor, but not defeated. I hope one day to be able to command my words like a general commanded his army.
The highlight of my visit was watching this smug flower bloom.
My sister was so excited. She had never seen a Rafflesia in such a pretty perfect state before. Usually they found the ones that slightly went to waste. The rafflesia blooms for about 3 days after about 9 months of flowering. After that it decomposes.
Even while blooming, it smells like something is decomposing.
The dark spheres around it were the little buds.
Later I was brought to see these little fellas at Kampung Luanti.
They tickle a lot. Some might even bite and scratch you with their little mouth. They are believed to cure some illness and many come for the therapy.
They provide you with food and you can see the familiarity with human makes them quite a greedy community.
On the way home I saw this boy acting very smug on the back of the pickup. They were coming back from school so it was quite a view when he shielded his face feeling so shy when he was flexing his muscles a second before.
I was still on cloud nine a week after flying back to Kuala Lumpur. I found my special place in the sun. I never really felt like this before. All I wanted to do was travel around the world. I never really belong in one place, not even the place where I grew up as a child.
If I were given a choice, I’d pick Sabah and stay.
I have heard Sabah is a wonderful place but I have never been there. The excuses were lame; it’s far, it’s on the other side of the South China Sea (I live in the peninsular) and the flight expenses will cost me an arm and a leg.
But I have a sister doing a master’s degree in Botanical Studies (she’s an expert in orchids) and had been staying there for the past 7 years.
One fine day, I just bit the bullet and tell her that I was coming. I cannot tell myself the same excuses again.
She was over the moon and set up my itinerary asap.
This is the very scene she sees every morning from her faculty in Universiti Malaysia Sabah. See that? That is the South China Sea. Who in the world would refuse is view? This fine wind? For the first time I understood why she wanted to stay.
The first stop was the tip of Borneo. Not kidding. The very tip.
I haven’t heard of it but I trust my sister.
Oh, the open sea. So this is it?
Oooooooooooooooh..so many people!
See that flat rock immersed with water? That’s the tip of Borneo. My heart was pumping real hard. I see that many people were climbing down the ridge. I was not wearing an appropriate thing for climbing so I had my doubts.
It looked jagged and rocky and my clothes would be turned to shreds but I have no fear for bleeding bottom. It’s the tip of Borneo, for God’s sake. Many people wished they were here and I was there worrying about my clothes.
So be it.
This was how it looked from below. Nothing happened actually. My clothes and dignity were intact. I was worried for nothing!
So I just hang out on the tip of Borneo until my sister told me it’s time to go.
I have always preferred walking than other activities. You can see I tried to get a good look at the plants/flowers/fruits, the view of the left and right (a lake, paddy fields, off the beaten paths), I tried to capture the moon on the ripples of the lake and try not to look idiotic while at it.
This is the main dish on Hari Raya. We usually steam them after a delicate process of wrapping it with a certain kind of leaves. There are 2 kinds of ketupat for Hari Raya but I only know how to make this one.
Pardon the pineapple tarts. It actually tasted nice, despite of the not-so-nice appearance (first row, first from right). The rest: (first row) chocolate chips cookies, fried popiah skin filled with fish serunding, (second row) semperit, kuih sarang semut (another traditional cookies), honey-cornflakes
Normally each house presents a dish for the guests so that they would not go hungry just eating ketupat and cookies. My house offered laksa.