Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crow's Feet 2

A couple of years back, I rather impulsively wrote a short blog post entitled "Crow's Feet". At that point in time, I had - out of the blue - begun to miss one particular weh from Long Lamai, that was Aunty Uyang, and so I'd decided to write about her to temper my melancholy a little. However, thinking back, it was slightly odd that I should have missed her at all. For during my previous trips to Long Lamai, I'd spent the bulk of my time with the village kids, a little time with the men (who'd occasionally do nice things like bring us out on river picnics and such), and hardly any time with the women. So I'd barely scratched the surface of knowing Aunty Uyang - yet I loved her enough to miss her nine months on. So I posted in my blog:
"She was one of those people who radiated joy. When I talk about joy, I don't mean the smiling-all-the-time kind of joy (although Aunty Uyang did smile a lot of the time). I mean the kind of deep, delicious, indescribable joy that bubbles up from within; the kind of joy that gives you crow's feet at the edges of your eyes although life has given you more than your fair share of wrinkles and frown lines."
Fast forward two years ahead. 


I step into the familiar green-walled church the morning after my team's nine-hour journey to the village. I see many faces: many are new, some I vaguely recognize, and others I greet with exuberant familiarity. Then I see Aunty Uyang. We exchange our salam; we touch our hearts. Nothing much has changed about her, and in the best way possible - she is still kind, she still radiates joy. She still has her crow's feet.


The ladies help to cook our meals each day, and today it is Aunty Uyang's and Diana's turn. So they turn up at our house bearing armfuls of leafy, freshly-harvested sayur. At this time of the evening, I usually perch myself on the wooden bench at our verandah, waiting for the sky to explode into a palette of flaming sunset hues. But today, I sit on a tiny handmade stool in the dimly-lit kitchen. I'm too shy to start a real conversation with Aunty Uyang, so I distract myself and play silly games with Nadia instead.


Heacalis and Maureen get married, a celebration of the start of a new family. After the simple service, the whole village merrily troops over to the balai under the starlight to share a community meal. Families are expected to sit together in groups while smoky chunks of barbecued wild boar are doled out from storage boxes. I wonder where I am to sit: Aunty Uyang beckons for me to come next to her and Pr Sammy. I sidle over and stay there for the rest of the night. I tease her about her overuse of "itu-itu"; she threatens to stroke my hair with the hands she just ate her chicken wings with. Sayang, sayang, she tells me. 


Many of my Long Lamai kids tell me that they are anak namung. Adopted kids. Yet they tell me about this in as as-a-matter-of-fact way as ever possible. There is - at least, as far as I can detect - little sense of pain or brokenness in their knowledge of this reality. I begin to learn that, perhaps, this is a natural offshoot of the communal Penan culture. Every child is everyone else's child. No child is left behind. Each child is loved: sayang, sayang. 


I experience more and more changes the longer I stay in the village. My skin browns - even padengs - and my inner being becomes ever more attuned to the sounds of the forest, to the finer nuances of Penan life, to the whisper of the One who made all things beautiful. I start to think that I may be less Chinese than I believe. Redo Penan. Not yet, but maybe soon.


Heacalis and Maureen's wedding dinner is in full swing. We tuck into wild boar, chicken, vegetables, nasi bungkus. Joli Jengan is singing and being delightfully ridiculous up on the stage. The conversation is lighthearted. I turn to Aunty Uyang and Pr Sammy: Kamu nak ambil saya jadi anak namung tak? I mostly mean it as a joke - but a little part of me secretly, actually, really wants it to happen. 

And simultaneously - "Bolehhh." A celebration of the start of a new family.


Nepah. I learn a new word: to nepah is to drop by someone's house, to visit, to spend time with another. Something like what the Chinese do during Chinese New Year. So I begin to nepah Aunty Uyang, or "Er er" (Penan for mom), all the time. She teaches me - hopeless anak bandar that I am - to cook vegetables. We tread barefoot to the stor together and she lets me split rattan for weaving. She regales me with stories of hunting and of Siamese gibbons and of her old life at Ba' Lai. 

Along the way, she tells me: she, too, is an anak namung.


What could contain an Er er's love for her child? 

"Ah anakku, kamu ambil lah yang ini."

Perhaps a gaweng - an intricately woven rattan bag, well-worn from years of loving use in the ladang, sawah, gereja, everywhere - can. 


It is over. Perahu. Airport. Gaweng on my back. The Twin Otter arrives; it is ready not only to bring me home - but also, to tear me away from home.

Rivers of tears, running down her face.

The Twin Otter takes off, and takes me away - it soars over majestic mountains, and over riv—

Rivers of tears, running down my face.


'Til we meet again. Temeu kepéh.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Penyeruh Maréng 2

Dau iteu, Team 2 lepah moléé jin Lg Lamai (rigah mu'un owh!). Hun iteu - nyavuu' mé jin Team 1 jah laséh éh lepah - irah kio tusah kenin uban tiba-tiba peju ngan irah tong leboo'. Irah kio bahat kenin uban bé' seminga kepéh ngan anak-anak éh réh pika. Irah kio tawai mu'un kekat-kekat éh pu'un tong leboo'. Ngan bé' irah awah éh kenat; anak-anak sekulah péh kio mangaa' uban tawai mu'un abang-abang ngan kakak réh. 

Tapi na péh lu' béé'-béé' peju hun iteu, uleu tekep nesen: uleu ngelayau pemung lem Yésus. Lem sebayang, uleu pemung. Lem iman, uleu pemung. Lem Facebook, uleu péh pemung hehehe. Uleu jah usah lem Yésus, nyavuu' éh benara lem surat Paulus: "Kenat péh na' péh uleu' pinaa' usah, uleu' péh barei' jah usah awah dalem Kristus, ngan pu'un pemung pekua' barei' kekat arong éh pu'un tong usah kelunan." (Rum 12:5) Na péh lu' peju (pu'un éh mokoo' tong Lg Lamai, pu'un éh mokoo' tong KL, pu'un péh éh juk tai tong USA, ngan kekat arong tana' kepéh), uleu ngelayau padéé' lem jah usah éh ulun néh Kristus. 

Jah dau éh juk tuai, lu' juk mu'un-mu'un pemung kepéh, hun mah Tuhan tuai keruwah koléé' néh!

Pinaa'-pinaa' usah lem jah usah! :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Today I came across this Facebook page, and my heart actually kind of broke when I was scrolling through the posts and comments. Of course it was partially because I felt hurt by all the blind and baseless accusations made (on behalf of my own yellow people haha) - but more so because I was hit so hard by the amount of hate that's going around in Malaysia at the moment. 

I felt moved to respond to the post - with reconciliation of course, not with more hate - and although I'm half-expecting backlash, it doesn't really matter. I just really want the users of that page to know that not all Chinese hate Malays. And that many of us are actually true bros with our Malay friends. Kita bersaudara. Really. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Penyeruh Maréng 1

Lebéé mu'un akeu bé' maneu' ineu'-ineu' blog posts (pelapah pinaa' kereja sekulah! :( ), pah avéé kio yeng ke kelunan péh éh purung blog iteu'... tapi bé' ineu' lah haha. La'ah akeu' seruh, uban kenat, jian lah hun akeu' maneu kuraa'-kuraa' post lem ha' Penan dokoo' akeu ngelayau nesen ha' iteu. Hun yeng ke pinaa' kelunan éh juk purung blog iteu, la'ah yeng ke pinaa' kelunan péh éh juk bé' jam ineu-ineu éh ku' purung tong siteu hehe :) La'ah iteu renungan ké' jin Rengah Jian dau iteu... menyat jian hun ateng' ké' tercampur-campur si'ik ngan ha' Melayu atau ha' putih haha (akeu' pekalai keto, bé' jak akeu jam kekat ateng Penan...).

"Uban akeu' jam bé' pu'un ineu'-ineu' éh omok pepetat uleu' jin penika Kristus, pengematai péh bé' omok, meliket ngan ineu'-ineu' péh éh ja'au tong seruga péh bé' omok, bé' pu'un ineu'-ineu' hun iteu péh ngan vam péh bé' éh omok, bé' pu'un ineu'-ineu' éh bau lu' ngan éh ra' lu' péh bé' éh omok, bé' pu'un ineu'-ineu' ngan semah-semah péh éh omok pepetat lu' jin penika Allah éh pepoléng Néh ngan uleu' dalem Kristus Yésus éh Tuhan lu'." (Rum 8:38-39)

Taun lepah akeu' pekalai' tong university tong Amerika Syarikat. Na péh pinaa' kelunan seruh Amerika inah tana' éh pinaa' mu'un kelunan éh ngelan Tuhan, bang sebenarnya pinaa' mu'un éh bé' ngelan Tuhan tong sinah. Uban kineu? Tong sinah, pelapah pinaa' kelunan éh bé' jam penika Tuhan - irah kio jam séé' inah Tuhan, bang irah bé' mu'un-mu'un jam penika Néh ngan irah bé' suai alaa' Iah lem kenin réh. Contohnya: pu'un belah irah éh seruh Tuhan ngelayau merek ngan kekat kelunan. Pu'un kepéh éh na'at pengeketa tong tipo tana', la'o inah, irah bara', Tuhan bé' pika 'lu - la'ah réh bet iah. Ngan pu'un péh éh bara', Tuhan bé' murip, iah bé' pu'un, yeng ke Tuhan tong tana' ngan tong langit. La'ah irah béé'-béé' bé' omok alaa' kekat penika ngan pengejian Néh.

Bang sebenarnya, hun irah omok mukap kenin réh, irah juk jam, penika Tuhan pelapah ja'au! Pelapah jian! Hun mé' béé'-béé' tuai saa' jumen Tuhan ngan kenin ngan urip éh suai alaa' pengejian Néh, améé' juk jam penika Néh inah éh ja'au kepéh jian. Barei' éh benara Paulus lem surat Rum, "bé' pu'un ineu'-ineu' ngan semah-semah péh éh omok pepetat lu' jin penika Allah éh pepoléng Néh ngan uleu'". Ngan kepéh, lem surat Yohanes (10:28), "bé' pu'un séé'-séé' éh omok ngelebu [ko'] jin kamit [Néh]". Tuhan pelapah pika mé'. Jianlah hun améé' mukap tapé kenin mé' dokoo' Iah omok masek. :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tawai Mu'un!

It's been three days since I got back from Lg Lamai, but I still feel like I've left something behind there that I can't quite get back. Part of my heart has already been left there since 2010/2012, but now I feel like even more of it's been hidden away somewhere in the village. I almost feel... empty(?) now that I'm away from the place + people I love most :( I really really miss my er er, amam, sisters, and the most loving/sincere/precious kids in the world. There's nothing I want more now that to just go home to my leboo and hug them all again - but that's not really going to happen anytime soon :(

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Dang I really love (almost) everything I'm doing now, but there's just too much work piling up. Five papers and a midterm tomorrow and a UN thing coming up and lots of little unnecessary logistical things to deal with. Dang you spring semester. It's been so great so far - and it still is - but the workload now is getting a bit much. I'm sorry if I seem grumpy, snappy, all round much less bubbly than usual - give me a month or so and I'll be chill again!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Asking For It

Wowzers. Just came across a Facebook post suggesting that Aisyah (of the recent BFM fracas) was "asking for it" - "it" being the rape and death threats - as the consequence of criticizing hudud. Umm, no - rape and murder is not okay, and there is categorically nothing that should / can legitimize it. Not in the least your personal opinions and preferences.

Also, on a semi-related note: PAS needs to get its act together. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


On one hand: so many questions; so few answers.
On the other hand: no questions; and therefore no answers as well.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Slacktivism is possibly one of the most irritating things that social media has ever engendered.

"Wooooo lemme take a selfie of myself holding up a symbol or sign, or making some sort of hand gesture. Tag other people. Add hashtag(s). Don't necessarily have to actually read up and gain a nuanced understanding of what I'm campaigning for. Awyeah I've changed the world. #hashtagging4change"

So yeah. Most of the time, our slacktivist posts don't do much beyond: 
i) conveniently letting the world know that we are do-gooders. #inspiring #youths #changetheworld 
ii) enabling us to be humble brags. (e.g. "more people really need to know about this Massive Problem In The World!!!" - subtly implies that poster is a knowledgeable, well-read global citizen) 
iii) giving us an excuse to post selfies. 

That said, though, I would concede that there definitely are exceptions to my snark; some social media movements have legitimately sparked some great, actual responses to significant issues. And those are awesome. It's just the co-opting of "activist" causes for mindless, feel-good, self-promoting purposes that really get to me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Homelessness: Safe Hugs

I hugged a homeless man by the subway station yesterday (this was Kevin, if anyone cares to remember the granola bar post I put on Facebook a while back). And it was, by far, the best moment of the day for me - Kevin just has a way of making anyone's day that little bit sunnier, if only one would bother to stop by and exchange a word or two with him. 

But then once I got home, a stray thought entered my mind: whoa, people would totally flip if I told them that I go around New York hugging homeless people. And even as I write this quasi stream-of-consciousness piece, my mind subconsciously, warily, carefully filters words such as "homeless", "man", "hug" and such - for fear that some person who cares about me a little too much might tell me to get my act together, and to stay off the streets entirely, and to keep safe. Or he or she might tell me that Kevin is dangerous... that Kevin is not a friend.

But why? No one flips when I hug a college friend. Or even just an acquaintance I barely know. Or even a "safe", middle-class, well-brought-up stranger I've just met. But they'd flip if I hugged a homeless person whom I pass by (and talk to) virtually every week. Is that to say that homeless people are inherently dangerous? That it's not actually plausible for someone in my social class to be friends with a homeless person? 

Far too often, we treat the homeless as little more than receptacles in which we throw our coins. We trade our coins in for the assuagement of guilt and obligation, for the socially cheaper and more convenient avoidance of eye contact. We throw our coins in to convince ourselves that we have checked off our civic checkbox of "helping the needy" - when, in actual fact, we have failed at the most basic level to acknowledge the humanity of the individuals whom our eyes uncomfortably glaze over (even as we drop coins into their cups). This is the woman standing by the doors of Chipotle, this is the scruffy man sleeping by the steps of the church, this is Kevin, who stands at the 110th St subway entrance every evening.

At this point, a question that would probably (and quite understandably) have emerged in any reasonably caring and concerned person's mind is this: but what of safety? Let me address this on two levels. On the first level, the lack of a home does not, by any means, instantaneously make one a criminal. In all the time I've spent talking to homeless people, I've only ever met a few who - for lack of a better term - seemed "sketchy". (One was too inebriated to say anything sensible, and the other was evidently mentally unstable. But I struggle to find any other examples of hostile homeless individuals I've encountered other than these two.) For the most part, many of the homeless people I've befriended in the past have been strikingly nice. We've had conversations about their travels, about their children, about the circumstances which got them out on the streets. And I've told them about my classes, my life in college, my thoughts on life in general. And for the record, nothing terrible, nothing headline-grabbing, has ever happened to me in their company.

On another level, perhaps, even if homeless people were unsafe to be around, would that alone justify our distancing ourselves from them? I write this part from a Christian perspective - and my personal view on this is: no. We're not justified in throwing a few quarters into a cup and then averting our gaze from the individual to which the cup belongs. If Christ is Emmanuel, and if Emmanuel means "God with us", then his name itself declares that he is not a distant God. He has drawn closest to the broken and friendless and hurting in the world. And furthermore, by no means did he come to Earth to lead a "safe" life - rather, he came with the purpose of dying (and if you take some time to think about it, we're pretty unsafe people ourselves; I mean, we killed him). So, to cut to the chase: I don't actually believe that we've been called to live "safe" lives, away from the sidewalks, away from the corners of the subway, away from the homeless. Sure, we may (and should!) take sensible and wise precautions wherever we can, yet at the same time, we were never called to a quarantined, sterile, utopian existence of ignorance and indifference.

So maybe I'll end with a quote. It's one of my favorites, not just because I adore C.S. Lewis - but also because it reminds me that love is often most powerful, most authentic, when it involves some element of self-sacrifice, discomfort, and vulnerability:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.