Before Pulau Bidong

May 23, 2007

Before Pulau Bidong, I was a happy child. My childhood spent in church yards flying kite, traveling in packs on bikes, or walking to a book store and be mercerized as the book racks spin, a kaleidoscope of color-full comic covers blur together. Sometimes, we loose ourselves in a game of Chinese Chess. We gather around a small square of the board game thinking, scheming, and smelling the herbs of the ancient medicine of our forebears, sitting on the selves, soaking up the sun. Sometimes, my days would be filled with sand; sand bags, pits and caves. Fortified with buckets of water, the loose granules become fortresses. We launch anything, including ourselves, on the see-saw.

Then there was the bamboo season. When, I swear to you, everything and anything can be made out of bamboo: lanterns, chicken cage, toy guns. We fashion together a series of bamboo rifles using bamboo, empty tin can, bottle cap and most importantly, rubber band. You first fatten out the bottle can and put two nail holes onto the bottle cap. Then you string the strands of rubber band through the holes and fasten them to the holders onto the can. Basically, it’s just two small stick strapped with rubber band against the sides of the circular tin can drum. You twist the rubber bands with the bottle cap, restoring it’s potential energy with each revolution, increasing the rubber band’s torque in an algorithmic laws of the elastic limits. So when the trigger is tripped, the bottle caps rattled against the drum surface of the empty tin can. The noise of the vibration would send your enemies falling to their knees. This was before I saw the legendary bamboo traps of the jungles and the instruments of torture, in the movies.

Before take off. There are certain imagines that still linger on my mind. We left in the early morning light. Mother called for the Cyclo. She insists that the Cyclo be shrouded. When ask, we were to say that we are going to Soc Trang to visit relatives. Between us, my sister and I had one small bag. The bag must have contained some dry provisions, clothes, and sea faring drugs. We sit in semi darkness. I hear the bicycle bells ringing and the chain of the sprockets pulling the inertia that would change our lives.

We had a few days in Soc Trang to prepare the boat for launch. The details of which escapes me. All I can remember is walking the thin wooden planks to the boat. This was before I heard of Noah Ark. Looking back there maybe some similarities.

There was always the ever presence of the thin horizon in which the reality of my mind and the thing that’s outside of it seems to have shifted. Days of nothing but water and sky and waiting to see land or another boat. Days of drifting my addled mind drugged up to prevent sea sick, claustrophobia, and paranoia. There were days of infinite hope and unfathomable uncertainty.

I Lived onPulau Bidong

la-toan-vinhs-sketches-of-bidong

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2 Responses to “Before Pulau Bidong”

  1. La Toan Vinh Says:

    I also lived in Bidong 1980

  2. ducly Says:

    Dear La Toan Vinh,
    Thank you for the link to your work at Bidong. The drawings are delicate and captures the feel of it nicely. I would like to see more of your work.
    -Duc


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