Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Take me home

In 1999,  the 5th formers of 1971 Methodist Secondary School in Sibu, Sarawak, organised a reunion 28th years after they left school. It was the first time we had invited our teachers from USA, UK, and Australia to celebrate with us. It was also the first time many of us met. I was privileged to host our American Teacher Miss Jackie Fries to stay with me in Singapore. It was an excellent chance to know her better as an adult than when I was a 15 year old.

During the function, my classmate, Martin Ho, from when I was 6, sang John Denver's song. Take me home. Miss Fries felt very emotional, we all felt very emotional when she told us that she grew up in West Virginia. It was like Martin has special vibes.

In 1974, I had a gap year after my 6th form before I went to Canada. I went to a small town , then called, Binatang, now changed to Bintangnor. I had great fun living and teaching in Kai Chung School. Though I could never even walk in Miss Fries' shoes. She had traveled all the way from USA and lived in Sarawak for many many years, my experience was a miniscule of Miss Fries. I was there for 20 months.

With the magic of Facebook, some of these students found me, despite a gap of almost 40 years, and  and a change of name. Their messages evoked a lot of memories. Sadly, 4 of my colleagues had died. Here are some of the photos they sent me. This is from Francis, a typical Chinese village home in the Rejang River basin.The house is reminiscent of my grandparents' houses.

This is for the Save the world meme:

Houses then had stilts, and no running water or electricity. The stilts were because the Rejang River tended to flood. Though my grand pasents houses were not in a flood prone area. It was also to keep the house cool. The jar evoked many memories of children raised in the town, but of their grandparents' in the country. The jar contained water, and at that time, we didn't wear shoes. In this case, a small tin container was attached to the rim, and you scooped water to wash your feet before you went into the house. You didn't need to dry your feet, as by the time you walked up the steps, your feet is dried. My grand dad Chan's jar was different, no, it wasn't the big salted eggs jar. It was much smaller. The opening was bigger, so we got inside and rub our feet or in the case of th eyoungsters, we did a jiggle and dance. We had great time, even washing our feet. I know, because my siblings who now live all over the world relish such minor things which our children can only imagine.

Francis, Jenny and Mag are organising their own reunion. I wish them every success. This song is for all the students who now live all over the world, and even to those who had left the little town. Take me home.

Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees,
younger than the mountains
growin' like a breeze.

Ref.) country roads, Take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, Mountain momma, Country roads take me home

All my mem'ries, gather round her,
miner's lady, stranger to blue water.
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky,
misty taste of moonshine
teardrop in my eye.

Rit: country... Take me home,

I hear her voice in the morning hour she calls me,
the radio reminds me of my home far away
and driving down the road I get a feeling
that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.


Ginny Hartzler said...

Interesting stories about these houses on stilts, and cleaning your feet with the water jars.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

Richard Kong A can was attached aside to collect water and clean the feet before steping onto the house after working in the farming land...... correct me if i am wrong.....remind me at kid-age....1/2 century

Chen Francis Sure Ms Chan

Jenny Yau-Peng Chew where is this Chen Francis?

Chen Francis ‎Jenny Yau-Peng Chew the small wooden house in my fruit garden at Sg Maradong

Iris Nancy Wong Francis, that's a nice one, should maintain the building well so next generation can still see the beauty of it

Christopher Gan most all teh sam ba house hv this those day to wash yr clean yr leg before entering the house..

Philip Wong The jar should have a small metal milk tin to draw the water to wash your feet.The wider rim jar would be the'dragon' jar.(hard to source now) that was used to store century or salted eggs.(imported from China)

Mag Yaw Lee Chewchia I remembered when I visited my friends house at Sampa, we use the tin can to wash our feet before entering the house. Chen Francis, Iris is right you should maintain it. Wooden house is very cooling with the breeze, like my grandpa's house in the kampung when we were kids.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

Jenny Yau-Peng Chew ann, to be honest i wont dare to get in one of this! scared of snakes, leeches etc etc...

Ann Chin Peng, you were PAK SAK/ townie people , and I was a SAN BA /village people.

Jenny Yau-Peng Chew underneath your feet u felt the mud oozing in between your toes right?

Ann Chin we even ate log worm, straight from the log to our mouth. San Ba/village people will eat anything. LOL

Ann Chin of course, kampong people, re: mud in your toes, my Ah Kong's house has a giant jar at the bottom of the stais, meant for us to rub our feet an toes to rid the mud. Sometimes, we symbollically dunk of feet in the water and walk up the stairs. %%^^&&* goes my stp gramdma.

Chen Francis I was a SAN BA kian/child too! I try to get a photo to share

Ensurai said...

I have always found the jar of water an exceptional brilliant idea for tropical lifestyle...even though the water may now be from pipes....the jar of water is such an iconic welcome sign to visitors and such a practical housewives' concept for housekeeping!!

It is like today's welcome mat at the clean your shoes before you enter the house.

simply love the post.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

Jenny Yau-Peng Chew ‎Mag Yaw Lee Chewchia, don u think grandpa's hse is a bit spooky, dark, huge n so quiet???? the worst thing is trying to go to the kitchen to still some coffee! so far away from the front of the house! its nice only when there is a lot of ppl in the hse! hahaha

In the old days, the kitchens were separated by a big balcony without any roof. The idea was should there be a fire from the kitchen. the main house would not be affected.