LOGGIA SUNDAY ON CHRISTINE’S ISLAND

Just in case you were wondering… Kuching isn’t quite where I left it.

Perhaps a step or so backwards.Perhaps a few thousand more cars on the road. There really is only a few’roads’ that don’t go in delightfully asymmetric circles.

The high cost of parking has hit the campus and caused ripples of concern to crease the community brow – only briefly used to the divine right of cars to take over the world one hopes they may think a little more about public transport before they start building super highways or taking out the eccentrically attractive roundabouts.

It’s on the news! Modernity goes berserk. Swinburne skimming fee paying students. Electric boom gates and a salaried operator letting the cars in and the cars out at the speed of recently empowered unskilled worker may give rise to the first manifestations of road rage in this Paradise.

All for a price. Perhaps more bureaucracy. More government. More politics. I didn’t really notice before but it is now the muffled (occasionally strident) background to what happens here. If in fact it does happen. Maybe it was always there. My visa is still tourist soon to be a working permit soon to be a key to … perhaps not being deported? Using my return ticket in April? The colour printer still has no ink. The scanner is locked up.  Hardly a sheet of the A1 paper stock I left as a gift has been used.

I have a (desperately) borrowed mobile phone with two numbers recorded -a now sadly part time Azuar and an entirely suitable Arthur Reutens – Taxi driver. 4 RM Credit – I might use it today. Pipe tobacco is low and for a few ringit the luxury of moving through this small place and its serpentine ways without the snarls of  traffic going somewhere important is tempting but I may walk the kilometre to the 7/11 on Jalan Satok near the weekend market instead.

The weather is a hot wet grey not the hot wet blue of before – allowing for seasons it is still unusual – so says Arthur – and Jong his tag team partner from the bush with the loud voice and  knowledge about traffic,pepper,durian and many things who steps in when Arthur is busy having a traffic bad day somewhere else at my campus departure time. No more being picked up graciously outside the main entrance as before – I now meet my home ride around 6 outside the campus to avoid being trapped on campus as the gateman painstakingly counts the exiting population one by one – one by one –k’ching -one by bloody one …. k’ching…

A reshuffle of  higher echelon  Business and Design staff to a floor below Chancellery  – the Bridge from which a Ginger Rajah might benignly steer this now completely smoke free organization to its glorious socially engineered destination. Meanwhile still cheerful Design staff nest in tunnels of public service carrels – in grey undifferentiated offices – accessible to usually sweet and deferential students – at the end of interminable email networks to Our Greater Organization and the few unreliable bring-your-own paper ancient printers always on different floors .

There is a sharp increase in Design course passengers , classes to match , starting at 8.30 – Come one come all ! Join the luxury Design cruise of your lifetime! Entertainment and distractions for the children of the privileged. Pack your most beautiful clothes and hair styles .Your most delicate of manners. Leave behind any concerns that youth’s privilege doesn’t have its reward . That Tomorrow is anyone’s – let alone your – problem. Under graduate education is fun!

And then there’s Christine’s Island – 150 Larong Eastern 5 off Jalan Nanas Barat – tucked away a million miles from the campus – in an (extra)ordinary place amongst gardens of sounds and glimpses of ordinary people still living the way they lived here before the coming of More.  Now that its true lessee has gone to That Better Place Near Antarctica (Melbourne) it is mine to enjoy. It doesn’t offer the austere expensive concrete elegance of Jinhold Servis Apartments at Jalan Song. (After a week+ I am a little nostalgic for the comforts of aircon over fans . Maids over mop and bucket. Wrinkle free sheets. A mosquito free zone.Cable TV) But paying the rent (RM800 pm) . Sweeping the floors and washing the clothes is mine to do. Shopping for food(always mine). Still cooking. Finding a taxi. All mine. The collapsing bathroom and failing drains. The jungle garden with stone sculpture and durian. The belligerent washing machine that doesn’t tell you you’ve included your official signed for biro in with your work shirts.  The vined loggia and tenant frogs. The eclectic furniture and artefacts. The many light switches and few lights. The tiled floors walls and bench tops. The patterned and latticed colour pallet of greens, browns, purples, oranges, pinks, and occasional blues. The dark forest woods and quiet splendour of shadowed, rich earth glazes . The humid , fecund garden. The sound and sight of equally fecund neighbourhood cats and garden cockerels and hens – the intermittent guardian sounds of dogs – And mosquito coils. All Mine ! Until Christine returns in 12 weeks or whenever I find a place to call mine own .

I did walk to Satok – easilly enough – got tobacco and some of the coffee I like.Some goat curry. Took pictures as I went . The sun’s setting outside, bright through the overcast – cars (more motor bikes) in the distance.

That’s the best part of the week done – tomorrow classes 8.30 to 12.30. That’s the other bit that makes being here possible. Oh! I do like the smell of mosquito coils in the evening.

AFW (D+D)

CHRISTINE’S ISLAND

K’ching -K’ching k’ching a teksi / Sounds progress towards More / K’k’k’k- kaaa K-k’k’k’- kaaa koooo / Another cock clock tick tock-ing / Kr Kr-kr-kr-kr-kr- kr – kr – kr / Rain on the roof’s leaves making / Wet water sounds wetter than water / Still life’s better living in Kuching.

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