"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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Our silent heroes of Lusong Laku

Here's a continuation of the post I was writing about Lusong Laku.

Ya... this is the place I got trapped in not too long ago when the roads gave way and a bridge got swept away by the torrential rain but that will be fodder for my later post.

Back to this place. Lusong Laku is basically a Penan resettlement area. There are a few scattered villages in the area but the biggest has to be Uma Penan or Penan House which is just a stone's throw away from the clinic. In fact, there is a rickety boardwalk connecting it to the clinic.

Uma Penan Lusong Laku

This is what they call home!

Yes, even the Penans have moved on with the times.
They wear Western style clothing, no longer 'cawats'!

Aside from the clinic and school, there is nothing else! There is a 'canteen' or what we West Malaysians know as a kedai runcit but the last time I was there, the only thing on the shelves were cheap beers - think Tsingtao, Zorok or Orangeboom (brands I have never heard of before coming to Sarawak!), ciggies, lighters, hair pomade and 3 miserable cans of sardines and corn beef! There isn't even a 'tamu' or local market here. From what I heard, the Penans survive on foraging and a RM100 government subsidy. They don't even bother planting vegetables here even though the land is so fertile. They are just so laid back. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be! They live from hand to mouth literally! If they get a wild boar, everyone celebrates and feasts on it that very day. No, no one ever thinks of preserving it into 'pekasam babi' so they can have some source of protein for the rest of the week. That would be sacrilegious! Way too much effort! The Agriculture Office once started a vegetable growing project with them but after the veggies were harvested, no one bothered to replant them so the veggie plots went to ruins in the end! I guess its just in their nature or their hunter-gatherer genes never evolved over time....

Watching the world go by...

The staff of the clinic are not even locals 'cept for our PRA or general worker. Although all of them are Sarawakian, none of them have ever worked in a place so rural. From what I heard, the primary school nearby has 6 West Malaysian teachers who are here for their very first posting after their training. Imagine what a culture shock this would be! City slickers in the heart of Borneo! Everything requires effort here. There isn't even postal services to the area so there is no way for your internet purchases to arrive (found this to be the best way to get the things I want to Song, although it will take some time to reach). Even the clinic's consumables are brought in by chopper during the monthly cargo run. To get fresh food for your meals, you either have to plant your own veggies, rear your own chickens or go fish! Even if you have truckloads of $$$, there aren't avenues to spend it in Lusong! I feel the RM1500 they get as hardship allowance is pittance as renting a 4WD to get out to the nearest town - Bintulu, costs RM700 each way. Each time they travel the logging tracks out, they also put their lives at risk. I doubt any sane individual would want to volunteer to serve in this place.

Let me give you a tour of our clinic in Lusong Laku. Let me warn you first... it's a very basic clinic. No continuous electricity as we depend on a generator. Hence, vaccines need to be kept in a fridge run by cooking gas! When the diesel runs out or comes late, the staff have no choice but to bring out the candles and torch lights. Suction has to be done manually. The water is dependent on rain collection so don't be surprised if the taps go dry halfway during your bath!

The last time I saw benches like this was in my
primary school canteen!

Very, very basic Observation Ward!

No doubt many Penan babies have been delivered here!

Everything needed for a delivery

However, don't let the looks of this simple clinic deceive you. This is a fully functioning clinic. Breech deliveries have been safely conducted here. Children get their immunisation so they don't succumb to common childhood illnesses. Upper gastrointestinal bleeds have been kept alive overnight as they await medevac the next day. Folks with hypertension and diabetes get their meds to keep their disease under control. All this thanks to our silent heroes - the staff of Lusong Laku who persevere on despite the isolation, basic living conditions, hardship and challenges faced everyday. Not everyone can do this or persevere this long. Folks might not recognise the sacrifices you have made. You might not even get considered for the APC (Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang). But to me... you are all HEROES so KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! 

A salute to all our silent heroes of Lusong Laku!

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