by Neena Yao (10)

On the 14th of December 1999 at 11.30am disaster struck. My mum, my brother,
Akaash, and I were in a frantic struggle to collect any last minute things
such as the three Harry Potter books, all the pork sausages we got for my
Uncle and the shampoo (which Akaash did not tell us he'd packed) while my
dad was in the process of calling a Taxi. Why was all this happening? We
were heading off to Malaysia.

After the long drive to the airport we rushed inside, checked in and went
and sat at the gate. While Akaash read my mum and I browsed through the duty
free. After we repeated this process three times, eventually we got bored and sat down. Ten minutes later we boarded the plane! Our seats were 42 D,E and F. After we put all our luggage in our overhead lockers, settled down and fast our seat belts, I started to look out the window. I was just wondering what it would be like to work at the airport when I realised we had taken off. I watched the air hostesses do the safety demonstration then relaxed while listening to the radio. About half way through the flight after dinner had been served my brain developed a pleasure overload. I was thinking of a hundred people, places and things at the same time. My uncle, my grandparents, my cousins, my best friends Crystal and Tasha, eating good Indian food again, the sea, my grandparent's cable TV and watching it 24 hours a day and most of all, shopping in KL (Kuala Lumpur). Then the time finally came. WE ARRIVED!

Although we spent a long time in Malaysia, I have decided to tell you about
one event that happened…

One day, while we were in Port Dickson (the town where my grandparents live
and where we were staying) a flood of phone calls went down the receiver and
up again, for Crystal, Tasha, Akaash and I were organising the who, where,
what, when and how of going to KKB (Kuala Kubu Baru). KKB is a small town
located near a huge rainforest.  We go there nearly everytime we come to
Malaysia to see my mums good friend Mary who lives there. This trip began a
huge packing frenzy. "I don’t think I should pack more then I need." "We will be swimming a lot, pack spare changes of clothes." "What?" "Who?" "Why???"  And you get my point.

The trip to KKB was supposed to be four hours but ended up being six because
we hit rush hour in KL. Near where we were staying in KKB is the huge Selangor River but we all call it magic river (its a long story). It is sooooo fun because there are all these rocks and mini rapids you can slide down. Its really cool. You can spend from 1.30pm to 5.45pm in Magic River and it will seem like half an hour. So we spent a majority of our time in the water.

On our second day there we all woke up at 8am and got into our swimmers and
headed for the river. We lost track of time and got out at 10.30am not
realising we had to go on a bushwalk in the rain forest at 11, which made
more choas, from stealing food from the kitchen to finding socks. Eventually
after a lot of hurry up honks from the car we were all outside, asking a lot
of questions to Alan (Crystal and Tasha’s dad) we all bundled in and were on our way. 20 minutes later we arrived at an Orang Asli (aboriginal people of Malaysia) village. Mary has many close friends in the village and we were invited there because today was a special day. After we met their very cute pet wild boar and Crystal and I gave it one of the apples we stole from the kitchen and watched it demolish it in 30 seconds, it was time to head off.

We were going on the walk because Mak Minah, an Orang Asli lady much loved
by many people, had died one hundred days ago, and now her spirit was ready
to leave and go to what they call the Land of Fruits where you can finds huge delicious fruits on the trees, once you eat them and put the skin at the foot of the tree it will be back on the branch the next day. Mak Minah was buried high up in the rain forest and we were going up there to see her spirit off. The walk was VERY hard but I made it. At one point there was lots of quick mud and we had to balance on bamboo poles and get across quickly because the poles would sink. Mary nearly lost her slipper, (don't ask me why she was wearing slippers on a seriously difficult and nearly vertical bushwalk!) I nearly lost my shoe and Tasha nearly lost her self!!!

When we got up there what I saw was a kind of body shaped pile covered in
cement and a small hut of offerings in front of it. First they made a fire
and put bamboo on it because bamboo explodes when put on fire. They did this
to call her spirit.  Next they wove a new palm leaf roof for the small
offerings hut and made a ladder so her spirit could climb up and get to the
offerings. They were several cups of water and tea, noodles, congee and all her make up. They dusted her make up, changed all the water, tea, congee and noodles cos these things had all been up there for one hundred days. Her sisters said goodbye to her then suddenly her brother stood up and said "Her spirit has left. I can't feel her here any more." So we all headed down which was just as tiring as going up.

When we got down to their village there was a big feast of chicken curry,
fried veggies, sambal, fresh salads and lemang. Lemang is rice and coconut
cooked inside hollow bamboo poles until very glutinous. Sambal is a thick, hot chillie sauce with dried fish.

One thing I would like to write simply because I want people to know about
it is the Selangor River (magic river) dam. To build this dam the Malaysian
government will need to destroy hundreds of acres of rain forest. It would flood the whole river and we will not be able to swim in it any more. More importantly it will destroy the whole of the orang asli's village and they
will have to move away from where they have lived for hundreds of years.
Alan, Mary and many other people have been trying to prevent this dam from
being built by making videos, posters, stickers and t-shirts in the hope it will get the message across. The symbol on all of these things is a bright green triangle with NO DAM written on it and at the bottom S.O.S SELANGOR.
Many people in the village say Mak Minah died of a broken heart when she
heard about the dam.

©Neena Yao

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