Day 237: Meeting The Locals

Sun 7th April 2013

Looking like a localToday we have the luxury of both a late start and a late checkout from our room. It should have been easy to make a 12:45 checkout ready to be off at 1pm but somehow it wasn’t. At 12:40 we were still running around like mad things frantically stuffing clothes into backpacks and daypacks.

We are preparing for our trip to climb Mt. Kinabalu. Although this is still a couple of days away, we have an opportunity to leave a bag in storage at our hotel as we will be returning after the climb. Bulky heavy items (like the underwater housing for my camera, which won’t be of much use on the top of a mountain) are better off being left here. It does beg the question as to why our backpacks aren’t easier to pack and lighter given we have taken stuff out of them??

Kota Kinabalu Sunday MarketThis is also our only opportunity to see the Sunday market in KK – not very inspiring and very, very packed. We lasted about 20 seconds before deciding that we’d seen enough and heading off to the shopping centre where there was both an outdoors store and a Starbucks. It’s not just a last chance for a decent coffee but we will need head torches. Apparently, not only is the summit ascent on Kinabalu made in the dark, it also involves some sections where we will need to clamber up boulders using a rope. What have we let ourselves in for?

We are just about ready on time – if you hold your watch up to the sun and squint at it – and we join the others bundling into our minibuses. Looks like we’ll only have 2 rather than 3 minibuses this week so it is a bit more of a squeeze. Our destination today is not Kinabalu but to a homestay in Taginambur village a couple of hours from KK and one hour from Kinabalu National Park where we’ll be tomorrow.

Our homestayWhen we get there we find a quite nondescript house set back from the main road. It doesn’t really have the uniqueness (or rusticness) of our previous homestays in the Iban Longhouse or on Lake Titicaca. However, our host, Robert, is very welcoming and explains that we will have the opportunity to learn a little about the local Dusun culture as well as to meet some of the local school children. It was interesting to talk with him and hear about the history of his village, and the local school – founded by Christian missionaries in the 1950s – and how both have grown.

Preparing rice for supperOur first activity of the afternoon was de-husking some rice for our meal this evening. Robert has some recently picked and dried local rice and our task is to get it ready for the pot using the traditional tools and techniques. The rice is poured into a block of wood with a conical hole bored out of it. We then have to pound the rice with wooden sticks to break off the husks from the grain. This takes about 45 minutes, so we all get a go working in pairs and trying to maintain a rhythm as we pound alternately. Once separated, the rice and chaff are poured into a flat woven basket and then using an action like tossing a pancake, rice and chaff are tossed into the air. The rice falls back into the basket and the chaff blows away. Simples! A method unchanged for thousands of years.

Dinner timeWe needn’t have worried too much about the rice (though it was good to have succeeded) as there was another feast set out for us. Along (and to go with) the Sweet and Sour Fish and Chicken Curry was the rice that we had prepared earlier – and some supermarket bought rice. You could taste the difference. I particularly liked the Drunken Chicken Soup (made with rice wine) but was less sure about the Bitter Gourd (too much on the bitter side).

The girls in traditional dressFood scoffed and plates cleared, it was time for the evening entertainment and we were joined by some of the children from the local school. Ages ranged from about 8 (very cute) to 18 (very personable) and the girls were in their traditional, ceremonial dress. We were treated to two of the traditional dances accompanied by boys and girls on their gongs. The music was like Gamelan, but these gongs are suspended from ropes whereas Gamelan gongs (bells? chimes?) are set in a horizontal wooden frame. Anyhow, I think the music is growing on me.

Getting ready with the gongsAfter the demonstrations, inevitably, it was our turn both for the dancing and the gongs. I have to confess to being hopeless at the dancing (always weight on the wrong foot and heading in the wrong direction). The girls did well to keep a straight face and keep us more or less on track. I enjoyed the gongs more – particularly as I had worked out that the bass gong had one of the easier parts (two strikes on the fourth beat of each bar). I say so myself, but I think I managed this pretty well. Still, I don’t think we’ll be signed up by a record company any time soon!

Quick lesson - when I nod my head, you hit it!Lastly, came what was for me the highlight and, in retrospect, was our payback to the village. We were asked to interact with the school children. Both we and the kids divided into groups and we sat down and had a chat. Janet and I met with a girl called Andrea. She was 18, wearing her aunt’s ceremonial dress, had just finished school and was waiting for her exam results to see if she had the grades she needed to get into university. We talked about our homes, our families (she is one of seven siblings), music, our villages and places that we have been.

With the absolutely delightful AndreaWhat a lovely, self-assured young woman. Her English was excellent and she explained that it was through these evenings that she both improved her English but also built her confidence to be able to go and converse with complete strangers. I enjoyed our homestays in the Longhouse and in Lake Titicaca but this was by far my favourite. I was left with two thoughts:

  1. I am so glad to have been able to give something back by helping the development of these young people; and
  2. If these children and young adults are the future of Robert’s village, then the village is in very good hands.
This entry was posted in Asia, RTW Trip and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

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