Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Month or So in Borneo

It has been a month or so in Borneo, my homeland, my hometown, my love. After a long recess, the non-update of my blog, I believe this is the time to get rolling again despite the stark difference of online capability I have here (in Borneo) as compared to that of Chambana's. This time, I would like to notate few observations and thoughts I deem deserving to be shared to fellow readers.

When I first arrived after a long journey from Chicago - Los Angeles - Hong Kong - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching, I did not hesitate to appreciate more my safe arrival to my homeland.

"Alhamdulillah (Thank God)", I uttered to myself once the MH airfleet grounded its wheeled foot on Borneo soil - safe and sound. And that marks the first moment of precious time in my homeland.

My family picked me up - my parents and my siblings were present. All noted my physical change - my long hair. Besides that, they still "complaint" that I'm still not much difference *ehem* in terms of weight. Well, that's about my physique. But I would like to reflect more on what I've witnessed so far on what I've seen in my hometown, Kuching.

After two years leaving the city, I have seen quite an astonishing material development of the Cat City. The most pleasant one is the existence of a Mid-Valley style Megamall - the Spring, which was once quite a distant dream for Borneo inhabitants is now available especially to the Kuchingites. Also, the opening of another large emporium, the Boulevard, also signifies that Kuching is fast becoming a metropolis of the exotic Borneo.

Next, the roads. When I first arrived, I was confused by the roads in Kuching. This is because many new roads have been built since I left. These include few long flyovers and intersections to better serve Kuching residents. Though confused, certainly I am happy with longer miles of tarred roads in Borneo.

Third, my own family. I have moved to a new house and my siblings are now matured than before. Yea, I notice this with less ramblings and cat fights in the house - a sooth.

With the changes, I am pleased to think that Sarawak is developing at the reasonable phase despite the already long hiccups in world and national economic situation we are facing. The advent of two large shopping malls, newly build roads and oh, some completely new residential and commercial areas definitely are signs that Sarawak is progressing in its economic development. Before, to shop in high-end stores was only equated to Kuala Lumpur for many Sarawakians. Now, they can shop those in their very capital city. This can also be a proof that Sarawakians' living standard has improved - now, at least the gap between fellow Malaysians in the West Coast of Malaysia is lessened though there is still much to be done.

However, not all are roses; there are also thorns. My experience of living in the West for two years has taught me to be more observant about civic awareness and civic values of our citizens - for they are still lacking both.

I cannot help but compare the reckless driving culture of my fellow citizens with the conscious driving culture of the Americans. Now I realize how dangerous Malaysian roads are not primarily because of the quality of roads we have, rather the driving habit of the people. In the States, pedestrians and light-vehicle users (bicycles etc.) are respected but not very much here. In the States, cars slow down when they see crossing pedestrians even when the pedestrians are "guilty" (jaywalking is not allowed in the States) but not here whereas here car drivers (not all) pretend not to see the crossing pedestrians despite the red-light for them and the green-light for the pedestrians at the crossroads!

Next, the queue. Perhaps the first cultural shock that I have once I set my foot in Malaysia is our inability to form a proper queue in public spaces. This happened when I tried to enter a train from KLIA International Terminal to KLIA Domestic Terminal. Waiting for the arrival of the next train, my fellow colleagues (who went back to Malaysia with me) and I were forming a line at the frontest of the train entrance door. Well, a line looked like a line when there were about 2 minutes before the arrival of the train. However, once the train zoomed near the platform, the lines are now… wiggles! The entrants wanted to push their way in and the exiters wanted to gleam their way out. This reminds me of waiting in Champaign bus stations. Even during snowy days, people still care to line up. Not to mention them helping the less able to board the bus with the ramp-facility and trained dogs they have…

Another that disappoint me is our young generation - my generation. Contrary to my prior thinking, I thought this "lepak" culture was a sickness inherited from the hedonistic Western culture. Only after I returned to my homeland I realize that this is a unique sickness of our own. There, I rarely, if ever, see young teenagers (aging 11 - 17 years) loitering around malls, roadsides and bus stops. Here, it is almost like a ritual. I see the lepakers with bizarre guises and hairstyles, boys and girls, with perhaps their only activities are watching people passing by, chatting with themselves and teasing girl bypassers. In Chambana, I see these youngsters volunteering for charity groups and their school. Even if they sit still, they sit with a book in their hands. Oh adik-adikku… :(

Political situation… This is perhaps the most highlighted story of the day by our media, our bloggers and our storytellers. Let alone the judgment of sodomy and the Altantuya case issues to the side. What I want to highlight here is our political culture that is centralized on attacking personal characters rather than discussing on policy matters. No wonder what is defined as "newsworthy" in our 8pm Prime Time News is when our Parliamentarians exchange among themselves words such as "katak" and "barua" rather than an insightful speech about the problems of constant power outage in Sabah and the answer related to it. Do we need more of these?

Economic situation… Well, it is a shock to me when Utusan Malaysia a few days ago reported that our projected inflation rate is anywhere around 6-7%. What does that mean? It means that our money is shrinking in value. Even the high yield of Tabung Haji and ASB dividends are almost neutralized if that is true. Oil price? It is soaring… with the purchasing power of the people hardly able to catch up. Also, the food shortage (especially the rice) is a looming worry for the nation. The rice is getting expensive due to the international shortage and export limit imposed by rice-exporting nations. What next? I think we should plant our own food in our backyard.

Time to pen off for now.

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