Friday, January 01, 2010

Balik Kampung

Fact 1 : I dont have a kampung. Born and raised in Port Klang. Balik kampung for me used to be visiting my late grandma in Penang, during the school holidays for a week or so, and when grandma passed away, there was no more balik kampung trips.

Fact 2 : My dad passed away when I was 11. I grew up without one. 

1983, in ITM, I joined the Program Anak Angkat (homestay programme) - one month staying with a foster family and experienceing real kampung life. It was a real eye opener for us, youths from town. It was in the early 80's and this is a real kampung. Padi field people. No electricity, at night we use lampu pelita (kerosene lights) or candles and no water taps in the hosue. We took our bath outside, plunging a small container  tied to a long rope, deep down in the well to get our waters - they have huge "tempayans" (water container) to stock water for everyday use and we will ferry water from the well (telaga or perigi in malay) to the tempayan everyday so that we have enough water supply. It was hard initially, from having pampered of having flush toilet in the house to this one (I never went at night no matter how i needed to go, very dark lah and very scary ha ha). The houses then are all wooden with stilts, but still comfortable

the toilet outside the house, this can still be used!

This is typical type of houses back in the 80's but this was taken yesterday hence the car ..owner still keeps house in good shape :)

I stayed with the Semans. And I immediately fell in love with my "dad" There he was waiting to see his new "daughter" decked out in his best sarung and shirt and smiling his perfect white teeth. When I went to stand with him, the kampung folks all commented that I could actually be his daughter, we look alike. I have a dad. I was thrilled. (this trip  having me gained a father was really meaningful for me) He took me home from the community hall on his bicycle, 3km ride on red soil road to his  house. I remember being terrified that we would slip and fell and I would be decked in red all over! I remember the nights when we would have dinner and then sit and talk, them getting to know me and me getting to know them, I had two younger sisters and one elder brother in the Seman family. The one month we stayed, we did community work, helping out to clean up the school, giving extra morning classes for the small kids, did performance on weekends at the community hall for all the kampong folks and we work with them, helping out with the daily chores around the house. I was really attached to Ayah. The folks would often tease me and said that I should marry the elder son so that I can stay in the family. I was fervently hoping that Ayah did not think the same! I mean I love Ayah, I am happy to be his daughter but I certainly didnt want that title to change to daughter in law!

Two houses away was Mak Ngah Yam and her family. Pak Ngah Saad, their 3 sons and 1 daughter. I often go over to chat with them since my best friend was staying with them. And I got to be close to them too, especially Mak Ngah, she adored me, and I her. In her simple ways she never ceased to amaze me. 

They all worked really hard. Those times there were no machines and all the new technologies. They  harvest their padi fields with their bare hands. Hard work. Really hard work. But they are happier than the people  that have everything today.

I promised myself and Ayah Seman and Mak Ngah that I will not forget them. And I did not. I went back to visit them during my semester breaks. But then life got in the way. I started working and got busy, and I got married and have kids and moved overseas. I didnt get to visit them but I never lost touch. I wrote letters and when finally the kampong had electricity and water, phones were available. So all these years, we were still in touch. I went back 5 years ago and again few days ago with my kids. Pak Ngah Saad passed away two months ago. Ayah Seman is a frail man now, but still remembers me and hugs me and I can see it in his eyes that he still loves me like before (even my kids observed that) and Mak Timah and Mak Ngah and her family. It was a short stay but I am glad I went. The kids had their first real kampong experience , even though its now with paved roads, and toilets and bathrooms, but generally mostly, its still a kampong. Some of the houses are still the old ones, repaired and strengthened and some has new huge ones, but the kampong atmospehere is still the same, with the same simple folks and simple ways of life.

We stayed with Mak Ngah this time. One because I didnt make it to Pak Ngah's funeral and two, Ayah Seman  and Mak Timah are living on their own and I didnt want to bother them. Mak Timah would have to cook for us and all, she wouldnt mind I know but I preferred not to burden her. Mak Ngah on the other hand has her daugther with her and much easier because she allows me to do what I want in the house. I get to help to wash the dishes and help around with other things. Ayah wouldnt allow (I am a  special guest and also I needed to rest would be his argument) and Mak Timah would be really tired by the time we left ! But I promised Ayah the next trip down I will put up a night in his house.

I am glad I went back to see them. Infact I am gonna make it a yearly trip. And the look on Ayah Seman's face when he finally recognized me, was priceless. The look of love. The swell of the heart with gratitude and love. Its all there in the eyes and the smile. He is the father I never had. 

scenery from the kampung, padi ready for harvesting end of Jan, sunset and morning sun

With Ayah Seman and Mak Timah, and yes, she is THAT small :)

With Mak Ngah and gang .. her daughter Yatie and her son Ikram (the elder one) and nephew Irfan (her brother, Sham's son)

At night at Mak Ngah's, lepak time and Azam with his two new brothers

And it gets really cold in the wee hours of morning, Yana is somewhere under the pile of blanket

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