Thursday, 12 March 2015

Journal Quilt: Homeward Bound

Leaving New Zealand and heading north to Bali felt like we were heading home on our year of travel. Still six weeks of adventures, but Cal’s “how many kilometres from Grimshaw” is definitely smaller. There will still be a couple of squares to create once home as well as some embellishing of squares partly completed, but these are the last on the road squares.

Bali and Lombok

At our evening introduction to our Intrepid tour of Lombok, our guide gave us each a lovely carry bag created of scraps of batik with the request to try and decrease the number of plastic bags we accepted from local merchants.  Of course, I created a square from the scraps!!  What is interesting is how different these batiks are from what we see in North America that are branded “Bali Batiks”.  Later on our tour, Maman our guide, explained that he had suggested these bags to the Intrepid head office, complete with costs and source.  So, now Intrepid Indonesia proudly displays its traditional batik motifs while other offices in South East Asia give their clients simple neutral coloured bags!!  The embellishment includes a woven bamboo ring that the shopkeeper quickly made while we were watching his wife create hand woven boxes.  The coin, 100 Rupiahs, is worth about 1 cent Canadian and came from some expert market shopping at our last stop, Senggigi.  Shopkeepers will have a few coins but generally round up to the nearest paper bill, 1000 Rupiahs, unless you are a crazy tourist and ask for coins.

Kuching (Chinese New Year)

We arrived in Kuching on the first day of the Chinese New Year.  It’s a very big deal in Kuching because the dominant ethnic group is Chinese who came centuries ago as traders.  Everywhere we went, there were fireworks (with an emphasis on noise rather than fancy lights), lion dances to bless the new year, and most of the shops and museums were closed for three or four days while everybody went home to celebrate with family.  Interestingly, in Malaysia, this is the year of the ram or the sheep while in China it is the year of the goat – apparently because China doesn’t have sheep.  This quilt block is another one of those collages of found items.  We got fortune cookies at our hotel while having a welcome drink and my fortune promised an exciting adventure.  The good luck banners were in the market – decorating for New Year is very much like decorating for Christmas.  If you look carefully you can also see fireworks.

Mulu National Park (checking out the jungle)

Although I found fabric stores at the local market, they were very much like the stores in Gangtok – basically ladies clothing stores where there were packages of fabric for pants, blouse and head scarf (Chinese may be the major population in Kuching but there is also a strong Malay Islamic focus) which was polyester and likely made in China.  The packages of “Malaysian batik” in the tourist shops were uninspiring and likely made elsewhere.  So, for this square some creativity was in order.  We spent our time in Sarawak exploring the various jungle parks where the rivers are brown and winding through the thick many shaded colours of green.  We are a little late for flowers so there were few bright colours to interrupt the green.  The winding river is a bit of silk I dyed with Malaysian coffee over on the Perhentian Islands in early October.  I then used every colour of green thread I had to create a forest like texture to the square. And I added in a 5 cent piece which I got in change while picking up the decorations for the previous square (Chinese New Year).

Sabah (Bob and his monkey)

I think the story for this square might take the prize for most creative.  I happened to have the quilt out one night and Lucia commented that the square needed a monkey (we’ve seen so many different monkeys in Malaysia that it is almost too much of a good thing) – would I be interested in her finding a pattern and crocheting one?  One thing led to another and the pattern was downloaded  at a local restaurant in Poring Hot Springs.  Even more important was that the pattern included a banana – so the story of Bob the Banana could be commemorated as well.

I first met Bob at the hostel at Mt. Kinabalu.  He was one of the tiny bananas that grow in everybody’s front yard and I think he was given to Lucia and Janine at their homestay.  By the time I met him, he had a great face and a silly grin. Bob climbed Mt. Kinabalu and was photographed taking part in all sorts of adventures, including a chance meeting with Darth Vader.  I believe that he helped choose the postcard that the group bought at base camp and took to the summit before bringing it to me at the bottom (thanks guys again).  Sadly, Bob didn’t make it back to the bottom – rather, he chose to sail into the abyss at sunrise.

The background is a woven bamboo square that displays a nongkuyuh (crab footprint) design.  The little crabs on the beaches have been great fun to watch.  Thanks to Edwin our guide for pointing us toward the only shop in Kota Kinabalu that has genuinely hand crafted and local items. (Yes, some serious retail therapy happened)

Bob sailing off the summit into the great unknown.

Bob and his monkey taking a walk on the beach.
And having a drink  on his last unattached night.

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