The young Borneo man applying pressure to the reflexology points on my right foot looked mildly disappointed as I grunted with pain. His fingers slackened off a little, but he maintained a relentless pressure that told me the next thirty minutes of my foot massage could be a challenge. Local men were supposed to welcome firm, masculine treatment. This Western I’ve-lived-in-shoes-all-my-life guy wincing was clearly curious – and unusual – to him. To distract myself, and to save a little pride, I began asking questions. Was he born here, in Malaysian Sabah?
He shook his head. “No, I not Malaysian. I am Dusun“, he said, referring to the local North Borneo tribe that makes up a third of the native population, the rest being ethnic Kadazan people.
There was something about the way he said it, and the way the Astral world suddenly shimmered around his auric field as he spoke, that deepened my attention. I asked about his family, and where in the world he would like to visit if he left Sabah. “I like see native tribes in America, in England. You have native people in England?”
Malay is a direct language that, when transferred to English, strips much of the flourishes we expect from a conversation. I do like the way it sounds, but I have to practice speaking in simple terms, in order to be clear. It’s not condescending; it’s joining the locals in their utilitarian use of language.
“No, native people no longer there… no tribal people left in England”.
He looked momentarily surprised at this information. Transferring his fingers from my toes to the arch of my foot I silently breathed out in relief. But more importantly I was increasingly intrigued by our conversation, and this rare chance to find out about Dusun people and their lives. I pressed him further about his culture, his traditions. “Young people not interested in Dusun traditions”, he said, as he prepared to move on to my other foot. “Only want TV and mobile phone”. He sounded troubled.
How many Dusun in Sabah? About three million, he replied. I found myself curious about his world, and wanting to know more about the Dusun. What about dialects? “Have many”, he said. “But understand each other”.
He told me about how he learned to hunt in the forest, with his father. “But not with…” he mimicked the action of using a blowgun. “With rifle. Not old way. My grandfather still hunt old way.”
The mystery of the Astral forces around him suddenly became clear. This twenty-something year-old man, working in a mall reflexology clinic, was one of the gatekeepers of his culture. He cared deeply about his traditions. They were in – and around – his auric field. For crying out loud, his grandfather still hunted in the forests with a blowgun! I felt a momentary pang of regret at the lack of such a vital cultural connection in my own life. And sadness, at not being able to have spent time with my grandfather before he passed away.
The session came to an end, and the young man finished by drying my feet with a towel. I gingerly moved to standing, grateful that I had survived the treatment. There was an important Harvest Festival coming up in May, dancing and music, he told me, as I reached for my wallet to pay him. The festival took place over the entire month. Wow. That’s my kind of party.
“We have strong drink”, he smiled, watching me squeeze my feet into shoes that were now uncomfortably tight. “Local alcohol drink, very sweet. You try it”.
Yes, I replied. I will.
More photos of the Kadazan-Dusun can be found here in my FaceBook photo album.
© 2013 by Dean Ramsden. All rights reserved.