I remember writing in the blog, and I had prior to that kept telling Mama Sarah - our Eid would have been perfect - If only we could have gone to Sarawak to visit my family there.
It seems that my prayers were answered, I thought, the whole Friday day while waiting for 7 pm when I was due to meet up with my mother in KLIA. I really tried my best to reveal I was concerned about my unwell "Nenek", but I guess the random outbursts of "Yay!!! I'm going to Sarawak!!!" I keep delivering to Mama Sarah revealed the sum of the confusing algorithms of my emotions.
In flight towards Sarawak, trying my best to contain the excitement
Now, "Nenek" is quite ambigious and could mean either my grandfather or grandmother, and until I arrived in Sarawak I wasn't quite sure which one was unwell. The answer eluded me throughout the smooth journey from Shah Alam to KLIA to Sarawak.
It wasn't until my mother and I were in our Uncle's car on the way to my grandparents' house in Kuching did I realise the full extent and seriousness of the matter. I remember thinking "this is not funny, man" at the time and my full attention from that point onwards was on diagnoses & treatments.
The next day, I spent much of the morning clinically examining my grandparents (both were ill), looking at a chest x-ray, checking their medications and explaining my findings and what each medication --- prescribed by a GP prior to our visit --- was for.
Truthfully, I had always grumbled to myself how NOT FUN it seems doing my profession in Malaysia but, that weekend in Sarawak I fully realised how important it is for there to be a doctor in my family.
Unfortunately due to Patient-Doctor Confidentiality, and even though it would be fun to discuss the clinical scenarios I encountered in Sarawak, I am not allowed to share it here. Let's just say my role was to supervise the administration of the medication prescribed by the GP, and to educate my family members about their illness.
I even helped diagnose something (with some help from a doctor friend, thank you "doctor friend"!).
The illnesses aside, I was extremely happy to be able to visit my family in Sarawak again. The family is extremely close, and therefore upon hearing that my grandparents were ill - all their children from all over Malaysia came to Kuching to visit. So it was fortunate for me that I got to see many of the Sarawak side of my family.
I was extremely surprised to find they in my 11 years of absence, everyone in Sarawak have been keeping up-to-date with stories of how I was proceeding. They were asking me about Sarah, Amar and especially Mama Sarah and have been asking me to bring the whole family along in a next visit. Insya Allah I will! I was also surprised to find out that the whole Sarawakian family new about Azim's 3 children, Afar's transfer to Texas Instrument in Ampang (very soon, we hope), Adan's graduation from UITM, Adan's soon-to-be fiance and Nurul entering university in Shah Alam.
Excuse me to be "perasan" for a moment, but if I'm not mistaken I did detect various degrees of pride in my Sarawakian family's eyes seeing me, not only as their grandchild/niece but also, for the first time, as a doctor. Seeing the pride in their eyes made me finally happy to admit I'm glad to be a doctor.
Part of the gathered family
My cousin Razak, when I had last met him he was only as tall as my waist. Now he's as tall as me!
My cousin Adam, who I have never yet met before then
My family in Sarawak pulled no stops in making my mother and I feel as comfortable as possible, and served us with various Sarawakian delicacies. We were served with many dishes, some of which I couldn't even name and could only describe; gigantic prawns, mean looking transparent fishes with edible bones (called lume'), shellfishes, Sarawakian sambal, crab, barbequed lamb leg, a vegetable called "midin", salted Terubuk (a kind of fish, slightly hazardous due to the fine and numerous bones in its flesh), petai, rambutans picked from the tree outside the house, mee kolok and so so SO much more(!)
The food, left to right; giant prawns, sambal ikan bilis, shell fish, lume', midin, crabs, (burnt) lamb leg, urmmmmm, and petai.
The family gathering enjoying the feast
Rambutans from the tree outside. My Uncle Mat in the background.
The cool thing about having a Sarawakian mom, is that she is an excellent tour guide, with local information on the sites and culture. Apart from attending to our unwell family, my mother also sneaked some time off to drive me to various interesting places around Sarawak mainly the Satok Market, the market at Serikin (the Sarawakian-Indonesian border) and the Kuching Waterfront.
My "kampung" in Sarawak, and the car we drove around
My mom went to school here
The Kuching Waterfront
The hotels across the Waterfront
The Kuching Aquarium
Ironically, the above is called India Road
The pakcik above was saying, "derma, derma! (meaning, charity)" while handing me crisps - which I refused. I still wonder whether he meant he wanted to give the crisps to me as charity or he meant I should buy the crisps as charity. Either way, I said no and continued taking pictures.
The Sarawak Museum
Visiting the markets was a cultural experience in itself. My (huge) camera caused a furore at the market, especially since my mom told the locals (falsely) that I am taking pictures for a newspaper. Apart from a lady yelling at me to keep my camera (unless I wanted it snatched away by opportunists), the other locals were more than happy to pose as I took photos, sometimes holding up their, oftentimes interesting, produce. Said produce included giant fish, gigantic lobsters, peculiar-looking fish and once, even leeches.
Pasar Satok (the Satok Market):
Look at those fresh and huge prawns
This guy was more than happy to show me his huge catch of the day
Look at the size of those prawns!
Above is a makcik making a Sarawakian delicacy called Mee Kolok. Difficult for me to describe but it's noodles with a special kind of texture, served with a soy-sauce and herbs containing soup.
This witch-doctor was selling herbs and medications ... for diarrhoea and constipation (I kid you not)
These children were catching snails and tiny worms by a leaking water pipe.
Prawns like these were not uncommon in the Satok market. Infact, all manner of fresh seafood were found in abundance.
The lume'. They look like monstrous sea serpents, eh?
Serikin, the Sarawakian border:
In Serikin, all manner of rip-offs and relatively cheap products could be found (especially clothes and linens).
To bring down the price, one has to haggle. I tried my best not to open my mouth at all as once they could hear I'm not a local the prices would rise by 100-200% - no joke! I let my mom & grandfather do all the bargaining.
Indonesian crafts caught the attention of these little children
This guy was selling live LEECHES. Yuck. I laughed seeing this picture once I got back as the sign reads as "Lintah Tapa. Teguh, Tegang, Besar, Panjang" which translates as, "Tapa Leeches. Strong, Firm, Big, Long". I had been wondering what the "medicinal" leeches were used for ...
A customer strolling along the many stalls in Serikin
A local Serikin girl selling us drinks
I couldn't be happier about my visit to Sarawak. It was my first time seeing my family there as a doctor, and I'm glad to be able to educate and supervise them of their medical conditions. I am extremely happy to gain experience as a doctor encountering whatever secret condition that I helped diagnosed in Sarawak and apart from that, my mom was extremely kind enough to give me a tour of interesting areas around Kuching. Can't say I wasn't flattered about the Sarawakian girl asking me if I was married or not, either (complete with a girlish giggle at the end of said question! I was just about to mouth a "witty" reply when the whole family chimed in synchrony, "He's married, with two kids!!!". My family don't let me have any fun at all, hmmph!)