Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Roadside Iban Family Socio-economic Life

This family has left a strong imprint on my mind. I was in need of a rest after a long journey recently.

The grandmother opened her home to me so that I could have a little rest and she welcome me to use her toilet. She actually has two toilets she told me. One for passersby and one for the family. She had the former built because too many people drop by. Nope she does not charge. Afterall the rain water she uses is from God - free.

She led me to her family washroom which she said was bigger and had more water.

I bought some drinks from her to repay her kindness.

As she had been putting the finishing touches to her mat I told her that I would like to photograph her making the mat. She was shy but she did pose. Without looking up. She did not mind my muddy shoes at all as she warmly said in a very hospitable manner "nadai ngawa-nadai ngawa " meaning "no trouble-no trouble". I was so touched by her kindness and friendliness.

I noticed that she must have made enough money to buy nice shiny tiles for her verandah. An upward socio-economic move - modern tiling.

This is her grandson who watches cars passing by their roadside stall. He is not old enough to go to school. Baby sitting him is easy. He sits on the wooden platform while his mother and sister sell freshly barbequed fish and catfish kept in huge tubs.

Will he have the opportunities to get a tertiary education and help his family break free from poverty?

The ubiquitous oil drum is such a useful re-cyclable item used as a good stove for smoking fish.

Mother and daughter selling freshly smoked pond fish.

I have learned to eat smoked fish when I studied in Devon many years ago. And Sarawak has a lot of smoked fish or ikan salai. You can use smoked fish in soups or stews. Freshly smoked fish can be cooked in a good sweet and sour sauce or re-heated in an oven . You can also prepare a Thai sauce (chillies and limes with some fish gravy and honey)and pour over it. Excellent instant dish when you have just completed a seven hour journey.(too tired to take this photo - next time)

While huge four wheels or Kancils drive by this humble road side stall this Iban family eek out a living day in day out without complaint. They are glad that their men can have jobs with the oil palm plantation and that they too can earn some pocket money to buy a sarong or two and some cheap children's t-shirts and rubberised shorts.

They however have not lost their humanity to be kind to a tired traveller. May God bless them for their kind hearts and genuine hospitality.

14 memories:

justin said...

The material the Iban grandmother is using is not rattan?

sarawakiana said...

The rattan is a very expensive organic material and not many Ibans living in the lowlands would be able to harvest it.
This lady uses bengan (I must get the spelling corrected).

She is not using bambang which is available along river banks.
Each bambang mat is now around 50 ringgit as it takes two to three days to complete. The harvesting takes longer too. So when I get a Christmas gift of a bambang mat I am over the moon.

Superman said...

Now the long house is getting more and more modern. Many become double storey brick long house equipped with Astro and aircon!

sarawakiana said...

As I am writing this I think of having kampua and kopi 0 at Moi Soung.
Thanks Superman. Most longhouses are brick and tiles with lots of modern amenities. Some even get electricity supply from SESCO!! And no more stilts.

Daniel Yiek said...

Ibans are very warm people. Whenever I go back to Sarikei, I chat to Ibans along the streets.

You should get one of the rattan mats. Very cooling. But a bit cool to use as a bed cover.

catherine said...

Hi It's really a nice little boy there. The girl has a good smile. I hope that they are all going to school and getting a good education.

sarawakiana said...

How are you? Hope you are working well and in the best of health.
Yes Iban people are very warm hearted and straightforward people.

I have been looking for a Kayan mat (which is now really tooooo expensive). Pity I never bought one before.

sarawakiana said...

Yes as usual I left them with thanks and told the little boy to go to school. The sister is a day scholar and she goes to a school every day with the father on a motor bike. Hope the school will help.

ngoh said...

This is a good reminder how hard life is in ulu Sarawak. My grandparents never lived in town. They tapped rubber. So your stories are quite the same as theirs.

sarawakiana said...


I do have a lot of rubber tapping stories to tell as my mother came from Sg. Maaw and my grandmother was a good story teller. Besides many of my relatives were rubber tappers.

rubber tapping is not foreign to me at all. In fact once I told my friends the smell of formic acid and smoking rubber is the smell of money. Beautiful money!! You can laugh at me for that!

Bengbeng said...

well written post. i agree with the hospitality bit. on my travels i have always found them to bend backwards to try to b gracious hosts. they r so genuine too. that is why on my part i try to return the favor when i meet them in a town setting or in my home

sarawakiana said...

Beng Beng You are absolutely right!! They bend backwards in their efforts to be nice.
their warmth is very genuine.
It is good to meet them in travels.
And we must return the favours wherever we can.

RW FINE ART said...

even the air that we breathe is free.

sarawakiana said...

We must value all that is worth while even though free like Mother's love and real friendship.
We must treasure all that nature can provide and not waste like pure clean mountain water.
God bless.


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