Thursday, January 01, 2009


Jayl Langub, a friend of Dr. Schatz, is very kind, and for the past three days he's been generous with his time, showing me around Kuching and driving me where I need to go. He is a former Sarawak Administrative Officer and currently a researcher of Borneo indigenous groups. His office, fortunately for me, is in the old campus very close to where my classes will be. Dr. Schatz was his older brother's secondary school teacher in the late '60s.
My luggage temporarily missing, Jayl took me to a mall on Monday where I bought a change of clothes. I really wanted shorts (it's 85 and humid out there!) so I bought a pair for $1.50. Also got a prepaid cell phone, a nice map of Kuching and Sarawak, a Malay-English dictionary, and cash from an ATM.
My bags arrived in Kuching completely unharmed, and only one day late. It was no problem since I had all the important things in my backpack. Can you believe that, unbeknownst to everyone I'd been contacting at the airlines, they had actually arrived in Kuching thirty minutes before we showed up at the airport Monday morning to file a report saying that they were stuck in Kuala Lumpur? We found out Monday evening that they'd been ready to pick up since morning. No big deal, although I wish I could have that $10.50 back that I spent on a call to the KL airport. Leaving the airport, we inched out of a parking lot jammed partly with Muslims returning from their pilgrimages to Mecca.

After my "Fur Elise" wake-up call I ate a wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel both Monday and Tuesday. Monday night a wedding was taking place on the second floor, and each time I passed in the elevator the band's drummer gave me a quick but forceful taste of my own medicine. It was loud, and it may have also been music. One peculiarity of my hotel room was the blue sticker on the ceiling in the corner. Kiblat essentially means "this direction to Mecca" and is an indicator reportedly required in all rooms of major hotels in Sarawak to assist Muslims with their daily prayers.
The Sarawak River runs east to west through the northern extent of Kuching. I strolled around the waterfront, snapped some photos, and sampled Milo, a vitamin-enriched chocolate malt drink (which some Aussies were shocked I had never heard of). It's sold in twenty countries but most popularly in Malaysia. As I chatted with the Australians the wind picked up very suddenly and the rain followed moments later, and we ran our separate ways for cover.

Above: a view from the Kuching waterfront. Little boats like that yellow one ferry people across the river. In the background is the roof of the new state assembly building under construction. Below: looking through an alley to the state assembly building. Can you tell that the city planners want it to be impressive?