8th November 2016
CEW Day 2
Belum State Park, Penang, Malaysia
Today we went back to the Orang Asli tribes’ village. We filed into speedboats, about five people per boat, and set off, skimming over the water. Since the houseboat wasn’t very far away from their home - we could see some of the huts and strings of light from our dining area - it didn’t take long.
The small boats docked against plastic boxes filled with air that floated against the water - a ‘floating dock’. We had to walk across these to the rough steps that led to the village itself. I slipped and nearly fell over, so perhaps my shoes weren’t as ‘grippy’ as I thought.
Walking up the stairs - they were seemingly carved out of the brown-orange mud, with wooden rectangles to serve as steps - we entered the village. Gathering around our guide next to a bamboo sort of ‘stage’ where we’d seen the people demonstrate a traditional dance the night before, we listened as he talked. I wasn’t really listening though..I was distracted by some young cats that came over to us. One of them, a small, brown tabby cat, started sniffing at my shoes and even tried to bat at my bag straps!
Anyway, after this, we got into small groups - my group was made up of me, China, Yu, Thea Osborn, Rucha and Ori - to plant coconut trees. We almost immediately named ours ‘Gerald’ and set about planting ‘him’ between a fully grown tree and a battered tree stump. This in hindsight was maybe a bad idea, as the plants that were already there might block the plant’s growth..oops...
Digging the hole was hard work, and I ended up mostly watching. But that was okay, as a small ginger cat with white socks came over to investigate.
This cat was familiar to us - as the houseboat was pulling away from the village the night before, we’d discovered the cat on our boat! Mrs. Dore had picked it up and tried to put it back, but it was too late; she then tried to throw it overboard, but it clung to her with its claws and she had to leave it. It had then roamed the boat for the rest of the night, and someone had probably driven back to return it as I’d noticed it was gone the next morning.
Thea didn’t like cats, and when this one tried to sit near the battered tree stump to watch her dig, she tried to chase it away. However, the cat persevered, and she eventually let it be.
The hole began to get bigger. The cat by now was watching Thea dig with an intense stare, and I knew what was going to happen next. We called for Thea to stop digging lest she hurt the cat, which then jumped into the hole. Laughing, we tried to get it out of the way. Eventually a bunch of other girls in our year came and gave it endless attention, following the orange cat was it stalked away, probably fed up.
After a while, Gerald was safely planted. We left him there and went back to gather near the bamboo ‘stage’, and were told what to do next. We were to play with some of the children. This proved to be an interesting task - we kept asking our guide how to say certain words so that we could actually communicate, and ended up just playing catch.
As we left the village, we called back to Gerald: “Good luck!” “Grow up big and strong, like your ancestors!” (the bare stumps of wood sticking out of the lake) “Byeee!”, etc. We wondered if he was actually going to grow up like the other trees, or if our expectations were too high. Nevertheless, we knew we would probably never find out.