Last Post From Borneo

on Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This will be the last post on my recent trip to Sabah on the island of Borneo. For me personally, the highlight of my trip was the visit that the conference delegates paid to a remote interior village located within the Crocker Range Park.

It was the village of Ulu Senagang Keningau. The name approximately means the settlement in the upper reaches of the river named after the odd shaped rock which is inhabited by the Keningau clan of the Murut tribe. This village is about 4 hours from the city of Kota Kinabalu by car and maybe an hour from the nearest neighbouring settlement. It is not the most remote village by far as some villages require a few days walking to get to. The village though is however located within a community use zone of Crocker Range Park.

The Park was formed to protect a very important watershed area. However, the villagers were already there before the formation of the park and part of their farms and fruit orchards now lie within the Park boundary. Rather than forcing them to abandon their homes, the Park authorities are trying to develop a community management of the affected area that allows certain activities to continue as long as the Park's objectives of conservation are not compromised.

Part of the welcome line. (LGS)

The villagers were told that a bunch of visitors from all over ASEAN were going to visit and they went out of their way to prepare for the visit. When we arrived, we could see a long line of villagers, from the old to the young, patiently waiting to greet us and shake our hands. It took quite a while for the 40 odd visitors to shake the over 100 waiting hands. This hand-shaking ceremony was delayed also because for many of the 40 visitors, arrival at the village meant the first chance of a toilet break in 3 hours.

Milling around outside the toilets (LGS)

Wewere then ushered into their school building and regaled with speeches and a dance. After that we were treated to tea and coffee and a selection of staples such as tapioca, sweet potato and sago that had been steamed in banana leaves. Very nice though starchy in consistancy. Later, we had an opportunity to look at and purchase some of their traditional handicrafts.

The people were wonderfully warm. They were not shy or self-conscious which is the experience I have had with the First Peoples in Peninsular Malaysia. Instead, they were very self assured and openly friendly. We had a good time interacting with the young to the old. The children were very happy to see themselves on the playback screen of digital cameras.

Spirits of the Dance (LGS)

The handicraft were in stunning colours with black, red and yellow predominating. On display were baskets, food covers, fish traps and also photo frames custom made for tourists.

I had one very interesting experience. At the entrance to the village was an old hand pump. It was part of a Canadian-University of Malaya project to install and test handpumps which could be easily repaired by local villagers. This project took place in the 1980's and was in fact part of my very first job. I never came to Sabah to install any handpump but this was clearly part of the same project. The handpump has now been motorised but clearly the well shaft was still in use. It was interesting to see something from the start of my working career.
Handicrafts (LGS)

Blast from the Past (LGS)


Janice Thomson said...

What a neat way of working together in a community effort to protect the watershed. The native dress is colorful as are their crafts. I love seeing other cultures from so far away, via this wonderful tool the internet. I very much enjoyed this post LGS.

Ellie said...

I love hand pumps. My paternal grandparents had a small one in their "summer kitchen" and I LOVED getting my water from that pump. As far as I know that pump still works and my cousin and his family are now living in that house. My maternal grandparent's had one in their front yard and afforded us grandchildren with many hours of fun in the summer. There were many water fights sparked in my grandparent's front yard.

Also, one of our friends was into "antique shopping" and he found a water pump in someone's shed and he gave it to Neil and I and we had it in our landscaping for quite a few years, when we moved, it was destroyed, but this friend had been killed soon after he had given it to us and so whenever I see a water pump I am reminded of our friend whose life ended so soon and tragically.

Another interesting post, as always.

Jocelyn said...

Those handicrafts are amazing; I love the clothes, too.

But seeing that pump again--what a wonderful moment in the circle of life.

squirrel said...

Oh those baskets are really pretty!!

Jay said...

What a cool thing to see. Sounds like a great experience on the whole. Good for you.

thethinker said...

Those baskets look amazing. I bet they put a lot of work into them.

patterns of ink said...

You've done a great job of getting caught up here. Now I need to scroll down and read. But I wanted to say the title of this post is great. "The Last Post from Borneo" sounds like a novel or great short story.

Molly said...

being a quilter i'm wondering if they use those same designs and colours in stitched articles as well as in baskets.....the designs almost look like molsa....Very interesting post.

evalinn said...

The world is a small place, isn´t it?

geewits said...

I hope you appreciate every day the great opportunities you have to visit such wonderful places. Thanks again for sharing the pictures and stories from places on this great Earth that I will never see. Nice.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It's a social and conservation experiment. Seems to be working so far but population control also comes into the picture.

Wow. Handpumps seem to feature prominantly in your childhood memories. Water fights are always fun. I don't need much excuse to get soaked.

Seeing that pump was something special. Even though it was now motorised, its nice to know it was still serving the community.

glad you like the baskets.

thanks. I know I am fortunate to be able to experience all this. (I hope that things are well with you. I was concerned about the contents of your recent posts).

They make it look very easy if you watch them make it but it is still time consuming.

Hahaha! I just try to be melodramatic.

Molsa? What's that? I am not really an expert on sewing and such but I'll probably learn from you before too long. Ummm. I can only tell you that some of the design motifs are also present in their clothes but I am quessing that it is more sewing rather than weaving in the case of the Murut tribe.

yes it is small but its still big enough for discovery. Thanks for linking to my site.

Hope you might come out and see this for yourself one day. I'll give you hints on where to go, what to eat and how to keep your head!!!

Dr.John said...

Thank yo0u for your comment on my blog. I enjoyed reading of your visiot to this community. It is amazing what you can learn and the people you meet.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for bringing us along for the trip. I enjoyed your posts and all the pictures.

JR's Thumbprints said...

My neighbor next door has a handpump that still works. What a neat experience you've had meeting other people.

ivan said...

Top drawer pictures.

National Geograhic quality.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
Thanks for coming by. Life is for learning and we learn a lot from other people.

Thanks. I am glad you enjoyed coming along.

I was just thinking that the next generation may no longer know what a handpump is! I think you would enjoy the trip cause you are a good people watcher.

wow thanks and on my cheap camera too.

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