Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Ice Cream Bean Tree, Of Native Culture & Cats, Open Day Closes the Blog

A mural of the Orang Ulu Tree of Life -- note the hornbill at the top & the vegetation in overlapping curlicues representing the natural life force.

In Sarawak one day, as if just-like-that, it struck us that our departure date for the US on the calendar was merely a stone's throw away. This sort of jolt to perception melts days rapidly & awakens the realization that pretty soon, the friendly faces of people you've grown to be so fond of seeing amost every week, will be halfway around the world. Secret plans to enter every lottery seem like a good idea. If only you could win the lottery, you'll bring everyone at Sarawak Biodiversity Centre to the States, hoping you could return the warmth & hospitality that they have so graciously shown you! 

Some of the wonderful SBG folks (left to right); Masmah -- treated us to delicious home-made  meals; Christina Wong -- Powerhouse and Natural force of positive energy & lots of laughter: D. Damrel (not wonderful but in the photo!): & Annie -- always, always had a delightful, mysterious Mona Lisa smile
There still were a few things waiting at SBC -- a little more of the herbarium to arrange, the Open Day (a yearly Open House celebration of Science and Culture) was approaching & still other mysterious discoveries on the grounds awaited us!  


One day we went to the SBC cabins for visiting scholars on our lunch break &"just noticed" that a tree we'd seen almost daily for several months now had huge four foot pods hanging down! 

4 Ft long pod -- when did this happen??? !!!

Ice Cream Bean pod, a walking stick? 

 After some conferring with Linda Liman, Angelina Nguan & finally Tu Chu Lee, we figured out the tree was Ice Cream Bean (Inga edulis).   It is actually native to the Amazon & used by indigenous people there! Introduced into Borneo, more than 20 years ago, it is now used by indigenous communities in Sarawak. When the pod is split open the "beans" are surrounded by a juicy, white sweet pulp that tastes like vanilla -- as the common name suggests.

Fluffy, white, vanilla-flavored pulp surrounds beans, inside pods of Inga edulis.

A GREAT DAY TRIP of Native Culture & Cats

Pillars of Orang Ulu House
Our friends (Linda Liman & Nizle Jnp) took us on an incredible day trip to the Sarawak Cultural Village, tucked away in the foothills of Mount Santubong. Sarawak Cultural Village is a living museum that showcases the diverse heritage of the major ethnic groups of Sarawak & portrays their respective lifestyles amid 14 acres of tropical vegetation. Linda & Nizle, who both are from different indigenous Borneo communities -- Iban & Bidayuh, respectively -- made this visit especially fun & interesting. 

Winding trails meander to the different houses & structures of each unique community -- & seeing the architecture & exploring approaches to living spaces of each represented group was fascinating! 

A Melanau tall house
Melanau Healing Room
Bidayuh Head House
Iban Longhouse

Nizle Jnp & Linda Liman chill on the coolest bamboo bridge I've ever seen!

The Cultural Village also had a show with indigenous music & dancing.  Below is a merely a blink of what we saw with our friends.

Dancing ladies of the Orang Ulu with "hornbill feather" fans

 Gentlemen of the BIdayuh with 'hooped"flowing kilts


Kuching Cat Museum
 (the Kuching City Symbol - 
2 cats flanking a hornbill)

As a grand finale, Linda & Nizle took us to a  must-see famous Kuching landmark -- the Cat Museum!  As you may recall, when we started the first blog in Borneo, Kuching is the City of Cats, and within this museum is every representation of a cat imaginable. 

Also, it held a photo opportunity for those who would like to experience "cathood" for about 30 seconds!

3 Friends in a Altered Reality


Students visit the booths on Open Day
At last, Open Day at SBC was underway!  On this weekend, SBC invites the general public to examine the on-going scientific projects, participate in all sorts of fun  biological, ecological & environmental interactive booths & to celebrate the region's rich cultural heritage. It is a two day celebration, but the work & planning begin months before the actual date.  Different departments at SBC brainstorm ideas for their booths & submit them for approval, design the booths, make the displays, collect & assemble all the materials to be used in the public hands-on participation.  At my Traditional Knowledge department, the booth was under the direction of the awesome team of Angelina Nguan & Fazariah Kapali (two extremely creative & artistic wonder-workers). These two waved their wands to create beautiful jewelry from beads, seeds, fern stipes & native freshwater pearls. Team members (including Arlene Richard) collected native vegetation to be used as stencil/stamps to create customized carrying bags & mixed rich-colored dyes & honed tie-dying skills-- these to be imparted to participants eager to create their own dyed cosmic-looking handkerchief. 

Click on this image for a close up of the stunning creations of Angelina Nguan & Fazariah Kapali for the Traditional Knowledge Booth at Open Day.

Not only are Angelina and Fazariah wonderful artists and great team-mates, they were also patient friends who taught me boodles about arts, crafts, food, customs and life in Sarawak. They helped make the experience complete!

with Angelina Nguan

At one point or another I saw Fazariah and Angelina repairing specimens, stitching plants to specimen sheets, shaving soap, weaving ferns into bracelets, databasing, filing, preparing hundreds of gifts for visiting school-children, maintaining the herbarium, and countless other tasks, doing it all with contagious cheer! They brought me a laugh every day!

with Fazariah Kapali

Arlene Richard demonstrates technique
for making some way-out handkerchiefs
There were all sorts of other innovative and fun booths from the other departments as well as indigenous foods & articles you could try, buy or merely ask about.  Booths included making potpourri (from spicy tropical ingredients), "Fear factor" (which featured a first encounter with a friendly tarantula), chromotography using skittles, art projects out of recycled materials,

Representatives of different indigenous communities display handmade plant-based tools & baskets and offer them for sale. The woven baskets of mesmerizing indigenous patterns are exquisite!

These 2 lovebirds pose with a secret, indigenous cooking ingredient - fermented frogs.

Guest lecturers included Begonia specialist Ruth Kiew.  

One of our favorite parts of Open Day was the segment for Traditional Dance.  The music itself is very beautiful, but also the traditional clothes for the dance are bold with the curlicues, stripes and feathers. Men often wear a vest made out of the beaten bark of Atrocarpus tree.   The ladies who danced used the herbarium to get ready and obliged us by posing near the cabinets.  With the reflection of the light they look like two beautiful spirits!

Two beautiful apparitions
appear in the herbarium!

SBC Director Dr. Charlie Yeo introduces the Traditional dancers to the crowd. 

So, with the celebration of Open Day, we finally close our Malaysian Blog. Thanks to all the great people we met on our trip and thank you all for reading the Glory Hog Blog! 
Hope you enjoyed the ride, and, if you get the chance, go out there and see it for yourselves! 

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