Tuesday, 13 January 2015

From the jungles of Borneo

Almost a month since my last entry. Meanwhile, Christmas has been and gone, another year has arrived, no snow has fallen in Amsterdam (though enough for a snowball or two in The Hague), and we have packed our cases and flown to Brunei. So here I sit and write, in a totally different world from that of northwestern Europe. I am trying to acclimatize.
Yes, climate: we are in the rainy season and every day and often every night, torrential downpours beat upon the roofs and cause rivers to flow down the hillsides. Every day it clears up, the sun comes out, a gentle breeze blows, it is positively delightful, the temperature around 30 degrees Celsius.
But it remains muggy or should I say, sultry? Much changing of clothes required and more than one shower a day is most acceptable. We won't get this, since part of our planned itinerary is the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak, and there it seems that some of what we consider modern necessities remain sparse...
Retracking a little...
David and I spent Christmas in The Hague with Daniel and many family members; it was all most delightfully harmonious. Our little granddaughter Ise unfortunately was ill some of the time, but with a one-year-old's remarkable ability to chirp even with a fever, she remained with the family company much of the time. Yara, her big sister, danced and sang and was a great delight. Some of her cousins also came (that was during the snowy days) and grandpas and grannies abounded. Daniel took some atmospheric pix: I especially recall one of Ahed (Nadia's dad) in the living room late at night, beside the glowing embers of the fire. Great quietness...
David and I were back in our house for New Year's Eve, after a visit the day before to beautiful Friesland. David rented a car and we drove across the Afsluidijk together with Martin and Mary (friends through more than 50 years) north into the wide flat watery lands, where the occasional windmill stands and the Frisian cows stand immobile against the huge sky. We went to Hindeloopen, the home of Stroemhella, our aluminum yacht, and stood on the dyke that borders the IJsselmeer, and gulped the cool wind. Then via Leeuwarden (full of traffic!) to the dreamy town of Harlingen. Something like a film set, narrow canals lined with small old houses, and in one of them lives our friend Anja. I would like to spend at least a month staying in her house ... it has a huge sense of space and light, and her bookshelves are lined with many volumes I would love to read. She made a delicious meal for us and we chatted (about boats and sailing and the difference between the Med and the North Sea, and she passed on some of her store of marine knowledge) and then we drove back along the darkened Afsluidijk and found all the correct signposts along the way, and reached home before midnight.
I pass over the absurdity of the New Year's Eve banging in Amsterdam (throughout the Netherlands there is an inexplicable explosion on 31 December, as if there were something to celebrate) while in many countries refugees are streaming across borders, exhausted, famished, grasping at hope ... (to be continued).

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