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                SMALL VILLAGE, BIG HEART

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With greenery galore, vast spacious land and beautiful unpolluted skies stretching as far as the human eye can see, Kampung Buso is an intricately beautiful little village worth the visit despite the hindrances of narrow unpaved roads that posed questionable safety issues even for the most experienced drivers.

Kampung Buso is a small kampung located roughly 6 kilometres from Bau town and 30 kilometres off Kuching city, the scenic drive requires fairly good navigational skills and a sharp eye to spot the little signboards by the sides of the roads. It is like a treasure hidden in a field, a couple of left and right turns in the supposedly mini-forest would lead you straight into the heart of this very much undiscovered gem.

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Kampung Buso came into existence during the Japanese military occupation in the 1940s when a large number of villagers moved to the kampung for safety. They then stayed on through the British colonial period, with the two main races consisting of the Chinese and the Malay. With a push towards advancement in the agriculture and farming sector, opportunities were then created for the Bidayuhs to also become part of the kampung. A large number of occupants currently are government servants, with quite a number of them working in Kuching, Kuala Lumpur and even as far as Singapore.

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Bearing certain similarities to the traditional Malay kampungs, Kampung Buso is composed of collections of little houses that have distinct mixtures of both old and new elements; wooden stilts that resemble the traditional longhouses and bases of bricks that bear more similarities to modern day housing. The majority of the houses are concentrated closely together, seemingly comfortable with the lack of privacy.

This really reflected how the relationships within a smaller community like Kampung Buso vary from most city folks where no one really knows their neighbours anymore. We live a footstep away from total strangers while a community like Kampung Buso has such tight knit relationships, everybody knows everybody.

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                                          So we started asking around.This led to our first story.

Mr. Sulaiman Bin Haji Selli is the generous minder of a diverse fruit plantation and also a fireman working at the Malaysia Airports. With five children all furthering their education, he returns to Kampung Buso in his free time to mind his fruit farm together with his cousin. The most noticeable fruit would be the luscious pineapples that stood aplenty at the entrance of the fruit field.  Mr Sulaiman harvests most of his fruits the traditional way – by hand.  In some cases he even climbs the trees! However, this feat is tough to execute especially if lacking in expertise because the mature trees are very high. Mr.Sulaiman also proceeded to share stories of Kampung Buso with surprising accuracy, a result of his study in the kampung’s local school. He mentioned that the villagers of Kampung Buso take great pride in their harmonious relationships between the Chinese and Malays.
“We never fight!”

As he bid us goodbye, he invited us to return in September and feast on the fruits in season, “PERCUMA!”.
Free of charge.
The second story begins by the river.
Mr. Sulaiman had referred us to the Ketua Kampung (head of the village), Encik Sakawi bin Bujang and along the journey there, we were led to the river that separated the kampung into two sides. The side Mr. Sulaiman is on is known as Kampung Seberang Buso and the side where the village head resides is on the opposite side of the river is simply known as Kampung Buso.

 
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Ketua Kampung Encik Sakawi bin Bujang,his wife, and his mother Puan Sengah Binti Anis

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               Puan Soyong, one of the elders

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The children of the kampung take a little sampan across the river to and fro from school each day, bearing complete disregard of the rumoured crocodiles that are believed to be located further upstream. The villagers are confident that the river is safe and often frequent the river along with their many children to have a dip, probably to cool off from the heat. Above the river is a tiny ‘pondok’ (wooden shelter) seated comfortably on a hilltop, a meeting place for the villagers to enjoy each other’s company and for their daily dose of vitamin D.

A lady by the name of Soyong, invited us to join her as she openly shared stories of her 15 children and proudly boasted of her impressive 40 grandchildren. 3 generations sat under the shelter of the ‘pondok’ as they awaited for their children to come home from school, leaping off the ‘sampan’ (boat) and running up the hill with quite a few of them barefoot. Some of the little ones who managed to come home earlier were running around the compound playing leapfrog and were soon after joined by their friends. It was a beautiful picture of childhood that in these modern times is so often lost behind an iPad screen.

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The third story is set in a comfortable and simply decorated house belonging to the ‘Ketua Kampung’ (head of the village) of Kampung Buso and his family. Though language barriers caused some information to be lost in translation, the unfamiliarity of the English language did not hinder the Malay family from being nothing less than welcoming. The shaded house was an immediate relief from the scorching afternoon heat and despite being in the midst of their fasting month, they served beverages and snacks without hesitation.

3 generations under 1 roof, each bearing a story of their own relevant to their generation and how they have over time formed their own attachment to Kampung Buso. The eldest in the household is the mother of the Ketua Kampung, Puan Sengah Binti Anis, born and raised in Kampung Buso since 1928. Encik Sakawi’s wife, Misah Binti Mahli was born in Lundu in 1955 and moved to Kampung Buso where they had three children. The “anak bongsu” (youngest child) Azan Bin Sakawi, born 1983, still resides with the family.

As Encik Sakawi recalled the history of the kampung with additions from his mother, Misha was busy reciting recipes by heart one after another, sharing all the traditional specialties that over time have become her own. Delicious spreads of local kuihs, “ayam pansuh”, asam fish, etc.

“Remember to come back for our open house during Raya!” she excitedly called before we exited.

Heading home from the colourful adventure, there is almost a sense of emptiness because we were made to feel so at home. There is so much more to this little kampung than the stories of floods and natural disaster that often grace newspaper articles. It’s the stories of relationships, history, harmony that ought to be celebrated.

Joyce Khoo is a full-time storyteller determined to craft stories with either pen or video camera. “The stories we are told shape us, the stories we tell shape others”.  www.soolproductions.com

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