Last month, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a few days in the beautiful, remote village of Buayan. I set off on the 2-hour road trip with Ching, an Arkitrek volunteer, both of us putting our trust in James, who skilfully manoeuvred his 4WD along the muddy, gravel road, and landed us safely in Buayan. With the back of the car packed with building supplies, we were greeted by Tom, who continued on in Buayan even after the departure of the rest of his team of Arkitrekkers to push for the completion of the community bio-cultural centre the team co-designed and built with the community.
I pitched in to help. It was my first experience in ‘construction’, and I have to say that I have a renewed appreciation and admiration for the Ulu Papar community and the group of Arkitrekkers who have worked so hard to get the Centre to where it is today. I was completely exhausted at the end of each day from the physical effort it took to paint timber frames and cut bamboo; I cannot even begin to imagine carrying 12-foot long bamboo the half-mile from the river!
While basic creature comforts are all available in Buayan (including satellite dishes marking the existence of cable TV in some of the houses), one quickly gets used to the Buayan way of life, a life independent of much of the modern technology we are all so accustomed to. It is a life that puts relationships with family and friends first and foremost; a life that depends on the rich resources of the area to stay vital.
Communication with the outside world is possible via mobile phones, but only if one stands at specific ‘spots’ and holds very still so that the connection does not get cut off. My addiction to being glued to a smartphone was replaced by total serenity during my time in Buayan.
The Buayan lifestyle, and that of those living in the other villages that make up Ulu Papar, is one that many will never experience, even those of us living within the boundaries of Borneo. As I listened to the passionate words of my host mother, Angela, describing her love for Buayan, I deeply understood the implacable objections that the Ulu Papar community have towards the planned development of the Kaiduan Dam. The proposed megadam would flood and displace most Ulu Papar residents, unmaking communities whose lifestyles and traditions are completely meshed with the place they have called home for so long.
Descriptions of photos
Treating bamboo: Treating the bamboo that was cut and carried from the riverside by the community. Tom and Ching fill the bamboo with Timbor to prevent the bamboo from rotting.
The roof goes up: Tom works with Alex, a skilled roofer from Buayan, to set the sustainable roofing materials (onduline) in place.
Traditional cooking hearth: Our host mother Angela’s kitchen; using firewood to boil water. (Photo by Ching)
Local vegetables: The vegetables prepared during our stay were either grown in the garden, or harvested from the forest nearby. (Photo by Ching)
The Crocker Range: The scenic view of the Crocker Range during our journey to Buayan. (Photo taken by Ching)
The roof goes up
Traditional cooking hearth
The Crocker Range