Monday, June 14, 2010

It’s Not all Paradise

Some of the amazing cultural and societal differences that our team noticed are described in the following journal entries from Tracey, Dina, and Mandy.

In a lot of ways Sukau is an animal lover’s paradise. The attitudes of the local people are very conservation-oriented in 2010, largely due to the influence of Dr. Isabelle Lackman and Marc Ancrenaz of KOCP. The one aspect of Sukau that is not “green” is that Sukau has no trash or recycling services. One option for local people to recycle and dispose of their trash would be to drive bins or bags of trash to Sandakan in their personal vehicles. This would be ridiculous due to the distance, road conditions and the fact that many residents of Sukau do not own personal vehicles. Another option would be to dig a hole on their property to create a small personal land fill on their own land. This option is extremely labor intensive and not a feasible long-term plan. Another method we witnessed was to carry large quantities of trash to the Kinabatangan River and dump it in to the river. Most people in Sukau do not do this, but there are some who do utilize this option to dispose of their trash and recycling. The most common method we observed is to burn trash, including plastic bottles, which releases toxic fumes into the atmosphere. It was very sad to see such a conservation-minded village have no choice but to pollute their river and environment.

The traditional bathing method in Indonesia and Malaysia is called a mandi bath. This involves using a ladle and pouring clean or river water over yourself instead of sitting in a tub or standing in a shower. Every bathroom has a drain in the floor so you just stand in the bathroom (or on the river’s edge) to take the mandi bath. We asked about the tiny structures at the river’s edge, in front of each house – what are those? They are for the women to change when they take a mandi bath!

Mandi bath.

Women's changing rooms at the edge of the river.

Probably the cutest tradition we learned about is that the youngest child of the household is supposed to kiss the hands of adults (friends and family). Here is a photo of Mincho’s twin sons kissing Tracey and Stephanie’s hands.

The five widows are a group of women who perform traditional music. They came to our home stay with their unique musical instruments and did a special performance for our group. The music was great and everyone had a fun time!

The Five Widows.

Music night with The Five Widows performing for the group.

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