Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Death by Deer Meat

Having a part of my childhood in a Foochow riverine village with rubber tappers and fairly deprived women (low education, low income,etc) can be quite extraordinarily ordinary. But it does have a charm all of its own and I am terribly grateful for it.

I was brought up in Sibu town by my own mother and father but because of my mother's poor health then, I was shipped off to grandmother during the holidays. Perhaps it was also my nature. I did not want to go home to mother after the holidays.

I was just so mersmerised by village life and village ways.

First of all, the women impressed me because they could carry pails and pails of water using their Pian Dan, a bamboo pole fashioned into a wonderful but simple lever which they slung across their shoulders to make carrying of water easier. The Pian Dan came from China and it is still used in many parts of China today. The strong, big legged Foochow women could easily sprint up the plank walk with two huge pails of water taken from the huge Rajang River. Today's weight lifters have a thing or two to learn from them.

Water would be poured into tanks and clay jars for use. The former would be used for baths and washing for the elders and the latter for cooking. Each woman could make a few trips to the river each evening.

Younger women and children would dive into the river for their daily baths. I learned swimming in this way. My uncle threw me into the river, I struggled for a while, and after that I was a water baby.

women from the houses further in the riverside would cycle out to take their baths and wash their clothes. They would carry their newly washed clothes on their bicycles on one side, and on the other side, a tin of water.

This tin was fashioned from huge cooking oil tins. At that time, everything was recycled and put to good use. Nothing was ever thrown away. Because of this influence, I find it difficult to throw anything away to this day. I could use the item sometime later...thus like most Foochow women, I am quite a hoarder and it is difficult to explain.

The gathering of women by the river side on the jetty brought a lot of fun to all of us. Gossips were exchanged and ever lasting friendships made. The washing place on the jetty was the social centre of the riverine village.

We had a particularly jolly woman amongst them. She was loud, outspoken and a few good men's girl friend. She was a widow by the time I got to know her.

One day, some Iban came by to sell a newly caught deer and she bought about 5 katis of it. We were amazed how she could buy so much meat. She told us happily that she was lonely and she could do with a bit of fun eating ("eat for play" in Foochow) and a bit of drinking that night. She stopped by the village shop, which was located
in my grandmother's huge house, and bought several katis of ginger which was the aromatic reqired for the stir frying of deer meat and a bottle of cheap brandy.

She bade us farewell with a wave of her hand and cycled into the darkness.

That was the last time I saw the cheerful woman.

That evening according to her neighours she had a grand meal of deer meat and brandy. She collapsed and died after the meal.

According to her relatives she had made the meat too heaty for herself. She had put too much ginger and wine into the stir frying of the meat.

she probably had a brain hemorrhage or a massive heart attack. But no post mortem was carried out at that time to verify her death.

So to me, it was death by deer meat.

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