From Borneo and Around

This blog is all about Borneo (and sometimes elswere) as I experience it. It's about places, people, fauna, food ... and anything I find pleasantly worth sharing in words and pictures.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Back in June this year, I visited the plentiful market of Serian town, about one hour drive from Kuching . Serian is a regular stop-over for tourists on their way to visiting the longhouses of Skran, Lemanak or Batang Ai.                                                                                                                                      While I was there to shoot the Durian monument with my camera (check out my previous post: Green Monuments), I spotted a little old lady, seated on a woven mat, timidly laid out on the ground, yet standing out quite obviously with her baskets of many color,  in a corner of the otherwise mostly green vegetable section of the market. As I looked closer, I noticed that the baskets were entirely made of interwoven plastic strips and although I am usually no fan of plastic ware, except for cold storage purposes, I couldn’t help feeling excited and I felt rather frustrated that I just did not have enough time to spend to select a couple, at least, of those beautiful baskets.                                 
Back in Kuching, I mentioned the basket lady to a few of my friends, making a promise to myself to go back there and purchase one of two as soon as I would return from a trip to Perth WA. While I was enjoying browsing in a quaint little shop in Cottlesloe, near Perth, I found myself looking at the same type of colorful baskets! Yet of course with an Australian price, which helped convince me even further that I should indeed go back to the little old lady, back in Serian, Borneo; and so I did, last Sunday morning. I did not find any trace of my little old lady. Instead and to my great surprise, I found the whole center of the vegetable market occupied with rows of baskets, from small to very large, square and round, all with beautifully sharp colors.                              

While scouting for two different sizes and colors, I started chatting with the women who were busy weaving; they told me that they were self taught and worked at the market every day of the week and Sundays; they got their supply of plastic straps from the hardware shop. 

A pinkish basket for my lap-top

Shopping was good; I went back home with a shocking pink and white basket to carry my lap-top and another large one and more purple to store magazines, unaware that my friend Alicia had transformed one of her own into a still life, right inside her living-room, bringing me to think that there seems to be no limit to uses of those beautiful baskets of many colors.

Alicia's basket: what a splendid idea!



No matter how well organised or prepared I pretend to be, life in the country is simply unpredictable.                                                                                                                                                                   
I make a lunch appointment in town, thinking that getting up earlier and doing most of my morning chores the night before will be an assurance that I will show up on time, and clouds of tiny insects choose to descend on us during the night, to drop dead by the thousands all over the terrace floor, the garage and the whole perimeter of the house. The best thing to do in such a case is to grab the water hose, open full pressure and spray, spray everywhere there are insects, on the floor, on the walls, along the roof cornice.... Iko, the Labrador, is having a field day, catching the spray, sliding the whole width of the garage, falling off the terrace deck, and honestly, so am I having a wonderful time being wet, wet, wet. Meanwhile, the old Dutch clock in the living-room remains indifferent to my having fun; it keeps a stern track of time while I totally lose it. I’ll call to say that I’ll be late for lunch.                                                                                                                                                                                  
I promise myself an afternoon treat at the book store; an indefinite power cut strikes the area and I am left to choose between manually opening the front gate which weighs more than a ton (literally) or spend the day staring at my own sweat oozing out of my pores. I choose to open the gate, and while I can’t help a quick mental calculation of my surely will-be sinsei (traditional Chinese chiropractor) bill, once the job done I find myself standing both arms stretched up towards heaven, proud to claim “Yes! I did it!”  “I am woman!”

And just this morning I wanted to stay at home and concentrate on writing something I’ve had in mind for a while.  I had barely opened my computer when suddenly the whole study-room sounded like the busiest dog pound on its worse day. I looked out the window to find four of my dogs furiously barking towards the corner of the wall. One glimpse and I jumped to my desk, grabbed my camera, ran out and took my best shots at a tiny baby monitor lizard fencing with three Maltese and big Uncle Sherlock, the Belgian shepherd. And so it is with unpredictability, which by nature always catches me unaware and more than often, turns my day into experiences I would not have missed, not even for a lunch appointment with a friend.                                                            

I pull my tongue at predictability!