Kuching for me is….
Kuching for me is God sent. It started off as a place of refuge but gratefully has become my home. Within a month of my arrival, by merit of my academic qualifications, vocational training and experience I became an expatriate in an International School. This was in the late 70’s when Kuching was a quaint little town with many fascinations. Subsequently, I got married and become a mother to three. Participation in this contest, ‘Kuching for me is…’, gives me a retrospective opportunity to reminisce in words the better half of my lifetime residing in Kuching. Contact with colleagues, students and their parents at school, mingling with shoppers and stallholders at the wet market and shops soon made me feel at ease and relaxed. The population of Kuching is ethnologically diverse; everyone in general, is friendly, polite and helpful. Thus, we are able to be tolerant and live harmoniously at peace with each other. We live in the same housing estate, have stalls in the same premise and our children attend the same schools. It is thus, no small wonder that Kuching has lately been bestowed with being the ‘City of Unity’ in the whole of Malaysia. At this juncture, Kuchingites and her political leaders must by all means strive to honour this recognition by making Kuching a cleaner, safer, better educated, civic conscious, happy and prosperous city.
Coming from a concrete jungle, closeness to God’s creation makes Kuching attractive. In a way, Kuching has tamed my roving being. During my early working years, I would pack up and travel the world whenever holidays came by. To do this in the 60’s and 70’s was not a norm, but since I came to Kuching, I am content to rest my ‘travel bug’. There is so much charm and beauty in Mother Nature to explore. Even now, instead of heading to the airport runway, my family would rather go for leisurely drives to be close to nature and I am glad this form of relaxation and appreciation has rubbed off on my sons.
Kuching is also a food galore! Festivals are celebrated by one and all with ‘open house’, merrymaking, food and drinks. I must confess I was caught unprepared during my 1st Chinese New Year in Kuching, as for me, Chinese New Year was never celebrated with such pomp. Luckily, my ‘open house’ was on the 3rd day of the celebration. All I had ready was a tray with 7 compartments of New Year goodies! From the stock in my freezer (for there were no 24 hour supermarkets for last minute shopping), I was able to put together dishes like Mee Siam, curries and desserts. My family and I adore Dayak food as well as local Malay cuisine. More often we would eat out at the many food centres. However, to try out authentic recipes, we have picked up tips from friends and colleagues. The ingredients are easily available and preparation rather simple. There is also the ever popular Kuching Kolo Mee and Laksa which Kuchingites eat throughout the day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. As time moves on, many franchise food chains have become very popular with our youths who also enjoy the cool air-conditioned and self-serve environment.
Living more than 30 years in Kuching, I am privileged to see the transformation of Kuching Town into Kuching City. My former colleagues who were the first to visit me in 1979, described our then Kuching business district as a street with 2 rows of shops on either side and a river beyond! Buildings to house markets cum food centres, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and offices, sprawling police stations and fire stations have mushroomed rapidly. Construction of flyovers and new roads, widening of existing roads and diverting waterways, though contributory to traffic jams and a test of patience, are part and parcel of progress. Town planners, however, must bear in mind that it is essential to keep a balance of old and new to preserve the heritage of the diverse population of Kuching, namely, the ethnic temples, colonial architecture and Dayak structures, lest demolition permanently destroys, be it to modernize or ‘line pockets’.
Kuching is a show piece for her rich culture, art and lifestyle. This is what draws our tourists here. To sustain interest and satisfaction, we must continue to showcase our legacy. In the past, our Sarawak Museum was famed for being the best museum in South East Asia. What has become of it now? Sadly, many of the exhibits are in cold storage. With some consolation though, tourists can visit the Chinese Museum, Islamic Museum, Police Museum, and the Cat Museum! The Tourist Promotion Board, however, deserves a pat on the back for promoting native craft and wildlife. I am glad to have viewed exhibitions and practical sessions in craft, ie. beadwork, weaving, batik painting, wood carving and pottery. Thanks too for promoting hobbies and contests such as bird-watching, kite flying, photography, cycling, drawing and colouring. They appeal and promote healthy interaction and lifestyles to all.
Kuching and me. It is indeed a win-win journey especially for my contribution towards tourism and education. My immediate family members, relatives and friends worldwide, through me, have come to know that Kuching exists! They have all these years chosen Kuching as their holiday destination. Kuching has been fondly and aptly been coined, ‘Cat Town’ and ‘Cat City’, my namesake! They love Kuching and everything ‘Kuching’. Many have not only made multiple visits but have also made Kuching their gateway for holidays afield, ie. Mulu, Kota Kinabalu and Pontianak. I have also contributed in coaching and producing successful students and excellent scholars throughout my many years here. If it has not been idyllic Kuching that I chose, would I have reconciled with my family and welcomed back to the fold?
I came alone and am blessed with a successful family.
I now enjoy the respect and privileges of a Senior Kuchingite.
What more can I ask of Kuching?