"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rejang Epicurean Epic Part I

Many of you have been asking me about the food here in this part of the world. So far, I've been slurping up all the local dishes, especially the home cooked ones. Dayak/ Iban food uses lotsa fresh ingredients and herbs. What I like about their style of cooking is their emphasis on freshness and that none of their veggies end up like a brown or yellow sodden mess.

Here are some of the delicacies... Enjoy the visual feast and if you're dying for some, make your way up the Batang Rejang!

Bario brown rice - a healthier alternative to carbs

Ulam raja - has a weird bitter after taste which I can't really describe.
You have to try it for yourself

Pansoh manuk - chicken cooked in bamboo with tapioca & wild ginger
Chicken literary cooks in its juices, infused with herbs.
A favourite of mine!

Jani tunuk - succulent layered pork with the right ammount of fat & meat.
Could have seconds!

Pusu empikau - anchovies & tempoyak
I'm not a big fan of durian but this combination seriously rocks!
Good enough to eat alone with rice.

Tuak ice cream - vanilla ice cream drizzled with tuak
A mean kick to a child's staple.

All the above dishes were sampled at the Dyak Restaurant in Kuching. Pay them a visit if you're game to try some local cuisine.

Next place is also in Kuching. Actually, a Kuching classic. The folks come here every time they're in Kuching.

Some people think this place is overated but the food is still good, me thinks!

Can't say much about the special teh 'c'.
So watered down compared to my first glass here a couple of years  ago.

Kolok mee - light & springy

The  pièce de résistance - Sarawak Laksa!

Then its over to Sibu for some of its famous Kampuah noodles.

Kampuah - looks similar to kolok mee but don't be fooled.
It's mushy & tasteless. 1st and last time you'll catch me eating it!

Food in Kapit is pretty much the standard affair. Something I found different and guilt inducing was the...

Roti canai goreng - warm & fluffy.
1 is never enough!

Just looking at the above is amylase inducing, especially since I now have to survive on my home cooked meals [bleh ; ( ]. Think this will keep you guys satiated in the mean time.

I have more pics & dishes to share, especially home prepared staples of the Song & Katibas areas. Stay tuned for the 2nd installment!

Life after five...

Clinic work hours are from 8am till 5pm. After that, its up to you how you wanna wile your time away. Here, time feels like its in surplus. Instead of God-given 24hrs, I feels more like a lengthy 28hrs. Sometimes, in fact alot of times, it feels as though my clock has gone on benzos and is therefore sluggishly ticking away. In KL, I was struggling to catch up with time. Struggling to find more time to complete my tasks. Wondering how I was going to redeem those precious seconds lost stuck in massive traffic jams. Here, those are things of the past...

It gets dark early here. By 6.30pm the cicadas & geckos have started their overture to the night symphony. Give or take an hour or so, the owls & frogs come in. So while its still light, this is what everyone is up to...

Song volleyball team

Must say, I suck at volleyball. I think I have bad eye-hand coordination. What more, I am totally paranoid of being smashed in the face by the ball so most of the time I duck whenever the ball comes my way!

Aside from that, there's also futsal. Popular enough in this place, they have an annual futsal tourney among the different govn bodies & rumah panjangs. However, don't think futsal's in my league either.

Don't let the empty court deceive you... there's actually 2 courts here!

So decided to start running again. Thank God I brought along my old trainers with me. The last time I ran was almost 2 yrs ago while I was still in Penang. I remember doing a couple of runs such as the Penang Bridge, Merdeka Run, Peace Run, etc... Stopped while I was in KL cause it was just so troublesome getting  to where the run was held, not to mention looking for the elusive parking spot! In a way, running has allowed me to explore whatever Song has to offer. Usually do 2-3kms every time. If I'm short for time, its 2 rounds around the dilapidated stadium. I still can't run the whole 2-3kms without stopping/ slowing down or walking but in due time, I believe I'll be able to do so. Because I'm now a regular feature on the couple of roads dotting Song, people take the time to wave and say Hi! You don't see this kind of friendliness in urban neighbourhoods.

A view of the clinic from the highest point in Song (nothing more than a hill!)

I have plans to start teaching aerobics again. Something I once did in KK Slim River, Perak. I have to start compiling suitable music to do so. Can't remember what happened to all my old CDs. Must have been lost in translation. Hopefully, in a month or so there will be people jumping around & flailing their arms about in the foyer of KK Song!

There's not much in terms of food choices here at night. Only 2 Chinese restaurants which do a limited 'tai chou' or Malay goreng-goreng and a BBQ place that belongs to my driver, Ishaak.

Chicken wings, anyone?

I tried the chicken wings. Not too bad... a tad raw though. Meat was just about done near the bone but bone was still bloody. The small slivers of satay was tasty even without the sauce. Peanut sauce was dissapointing - too oily & watery. Well, beggars can't be choosers, right? Besides at RM1 for 3 sticks, it was a steal, considering everything in this place is expensive!

So the next best thing was to start cooking. Can't say much about my culinary skill though. My makan skills are definitely better honed compared to my not existent cooking skills. So far, its been veggie stir fries, 1 pot soups & the ubiquitous instant noodles! Yes... even I'm guilty!

Kitchen - not too much action here!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Klinik Kesihatan Song

I came here to Song with minimal expectations. I did not want to be dissapointed. Instead I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Klinik Kesihatan Song is a comprehensive medical complex located about 1.2kms away from the jetty. If you are coming by foot, it only takes 15-20mins. Many of the patients have no choice but to walk here. After spending a small sum on the perahu tambang down the Katibas or Ijau to get to Song town, it leaves them little to pay for the fare here by van sapu. Due to the timing of the perahu tambangs, patients are already camped outside the clinic doors before it opens at 0800. By 1200, the patients have already dwindled to a handful as this is when the perahu tambangs make the journey back up river. Those who come in the evening are mainly local town folk or those with their own outboat motors. 

Calm before the storm

The clinic is akin to the one I used to work at in Slim River, Perak. For a small town, it has all the trappings. There's the x-ray department which is much needed when you have a 24hr A&E. As it happens to be, KK Song is the only medical facility between Kanowit and Kapit. High time some enterprising GP comes over to open a practice in the middle of the jungle!

A&E-with an ambulance borrowed from KK Niah, Sarawak!

Most of the emergency cases are sent either to Hospital Kapit or Hospital Sibu pending on the speciality involved. Sorry, no roads to both these places so the only way is by boat. During office hours, we pop the patient on the next available ferry. After office hours, deploying the speedboat to Kapit depends to 3 factors - 1.Weather 2.Drivers confidence to get there & back in 1 piece 3.Fuel ration left. Of all, I think factor 3 is the determining one cause it costs RM500 for a return journey to Kapit and that's not even inclusive of the overtime paid to the driver and accompanying staff! Most of the time we keep the patients overnight in the 8 bed ward and send them off on the earliest possible ferry the next morning.

Aside from wards, there's also an ABC (Alternative Birthing Centre) which handles low risk deliveries. So far, I've yet had to deliver as we pack and send those in early labour. We have a partially equipped rehab room, mainly focusing on CP cases. Once a month, the pediatrician from Kapit Hospital pays us a visit. A really proud fact for KK Song is that we're the only clinic that does TB C&S in the whole country! Amazing right, for such an ulu little town?

By the way, did you know KK Song also has the tallest buildings in Song? Yes, its the medical quarters at the back there. Hahaha... lotsa Song boleh! records for the clinic! (have to keep myself entertained ; P )

And the moment you've all been waiting for...

Yes... that's my house & ride!

Sharing a humongous 4 bedroom bungalow with the clinic's MO. The living area is so huge, you could throw a kenduri in it! Came partially furnished so all I had to do was move in and make myself at home. At the moment, only 2 of the rooms are occupied so if you're keen for some R&R or just to experience life away from the city... you know where to come to!

Beats having to cycle around!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Song walkabout

A pic filled post of ammenities around Song. Mainly for the benefit of my folks who will feature in this blog later.

Coming off the ferry, this is what greets you.

Song Riverfront - pretty but underutilised

Floating Petronas

About 0.5km away...

Community Hall
Where all the government functions & big weddings are held

Local Post Office - care packages welcomed!
There's also a PID
(Pusat Internet Desa, not Prolapsed Intervetebral Disc in the compound)

Song, what Song?

Batang Rejang at dusk from Kg Gelam, Song

Definitely not Oppa Gangnam style!

When I first got the posting letter, my heart did a deep dive... downwards. Song was not some place new for me. In fact, Pits and I made a pit stop there in 1999 on our way to Kapit. All I remember was a simple wharf with a row of shop houses flanking it.
Fast forward 13 years later, nothing has changed much. Its still a sleepy hollow. Where in the world is this little town where time has forgotten?

Song is located 85kms from Sibu. The only way to get here is by boat or the express ferries that frequently ply the Batang Rejang. Access by land only goes as far as Kanowit. The Song District is 3,935.2 square kilometers (thanks Wikepedia) and by the latest head count in 2010, has a population of around 20,046 (thanks once again Wikepedia). The Iban form the majority in Song, followed by the Orang Ulu, Chinese, Malay, Melanau and Bidayuh. Song is an important stopover for river traffic going up the Rajang River and if you're bound for Kapit, your ferry might just linger for a while at the Song wharf.

Ferries plying the Batang Rejang

To get an idea of how tiny Song is, a walk from end to end of town will take less than 5 minutes. If you take a leisurely stroll, 8 minutes tops.

Sleepy Song town. Mainly pre-war shophouses

If you need to fuel up your vehicle, there's even a Shell station. Beware though, the price of petrol here is expensive. RM 2.85/ liter thanks to the transport cost involved! The price of everything is over inflated here, including groceries. An egg costs RM0.50. My Nescafe Gold 3 in 1 is RM22! How to tahan? Worst of all, we don't even get COLA cause this place is considered rural, but not rural enough for hardship allowance!

Mr Chan, Soon or Hoe is making a killing here!

Life in Song basically centers around the market, especially in the morning when villagers from the different long houses make their way down the Rejang tributaries to trade or catch up on the latest gossip/ scandal! By noon, calm descends once more to Song as the villagers catch the perahu tambang back.

Song Market

The only sign of the times here in Song is the BSN ATM which apparently see a que of 50 metres or so on pay day as it is the only source for cash and the availability of STREAMYX. Thank God for the internet! 

Next post will be on the clinic. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A new beginning...

I really struggled with the latest move. Many of you who know me who think "Eh, she's such an adventurous, gungho, go-getter. Song would be no problem for her". In reality, I really did. I might look all cheery & smiley externally, but deep down, it was angst & uncertainty

Why you might ask?

  • Firstly, this is gonna be my 6th relocation in my 9 years of service. I'm getting tired of moving. The packing, unpacking, saying good bye to old friends and starting all over making new ones. Basically, the process of starting all over from scratch again. I think it's time for some permanence. Time to grow some roots. Time to have somewhere I can finally call MY HOME.  As much as I enjoy the nomadic lifestyle, I want to be grounded somewhere where I can grow and blossom.
  • Secondly, I did not struggle through my 4 years doing my Masters and spent $$$$$ (yes, it was 5 figures!) on the FRACGP exams only to find that my career path has sorta regressed. I pursued my Masters in search of personal significance and recognition in the medical field. I did it to prove to myself that I could do something, be someone! Now, for all I know, I might just be bypassed due to the ruralness of my current location.
  • Those of you who have been praying for me and praying with me regarding my post-Masters posting choices know that I listed Keningau, Sabah as my location of choice. I was offered 3 options, namely Kapit, Lawas & Keningau as there was much need for a family physician (FP) in these places. After much prayer and seeking Him, I had peace that Keningau was the place. This was supported and encouraged by other loved ones who got down on their knees to pray for His direction & wisdom as I planned my next career move. Unfortunately, He works in mysterious ways and I can only surrender to Him as He unfolds His purposes for me here.
  • Lastly, as cliche as it might sound to you, I hate being a government pawn! I asked the officer in charge of postings at the MOH why I was assigned this place and all she could tell me was "Takkan kita nak hantar doktor yang dah kahwin dan ada family"! Why should I be victimised for being single???!!!. I informed her that even though I was single, it was my duty as the eldest child to care for my folks and therefore needed a location where I had access to specialised health care for them. She retorted "Ibu bapa tidak dikira, hanya suami dan anak". Does this mean I'm to leave them in the old folks or retirement home as I traipse around the Batang Rejang area? 

So then began the tedious task of appealing. I've tried all methods. From personal sob stories on why I should not be posted here to sitting outside so-and-so's cushy office in Putrajaya so I can make a personal, face-to-face appeal. Heck I've even gone to the state health director of the place I wanted to be posted (they had vacancies and urgently needed FPs there) and wrangled a support letter from him. I even when as far as approaching a certain political group to get the Minister's help. Alas, all this proved futile and I only ended up being more angry and disillusioned.

In the end, all I could do was