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Almost an international incident

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Borneo is an island with three nationalities: the Sultanate of Brunei, The Malaysian State of Sabah, and Indonesia. Today we were in Sandakan, capital of the state of Sabah. Much of the middle class housing here is in stilt villages, built close together around common walkways, with televisions inside but no “plumbing,” a delicate way of saying that all the sinks and toilets empty in to the common sea.

Given its proximity to the water, you would think its markets would be filled with fish. Fish are indeed abundant here, but they are mostly dried, stacked, and very pungent. The huge wet market in Sandakan has stall after stall of dried fish bits, fish slices, fish fillets, bags of dried shrimp and anchovies. It also sells lovely vegetables and probably a hundred varieties of bananas and fruits we have never seen. Way in the back is the smaller fresh fish section – and it smells much better. Our guess is that Borneo may have lots of fish but it doesn’t have lots of refrigerators.

After visiting the market, we were off to St. Michael and All Angels, the Anglican church from which the Japanese started their prisoners of war on death marches (See this moving story in last Sunday’s sermon). The church is closed on Tuesdays. Too bad. Should churches be closed? But we saw the place decorated for both Chinese New Year’s and Christmas.

Next the modern (well, sort of modern) mall with kiosks selling contact lenses, where we decided to use the loos. We were in a mall, and there were male and female silhouettes on a sign– surely there were toilets ahead. We went down a long corridor that split left and right. Hope continued on to the female shape on the left, and Bill went to the right. No sign yet but surely this was the way to the men’s room. Then above an open door, he saw a pictogram with the shape of a man’s head adorned with a little Malaysian cap. Inside the door was a low trough with faucets arranged in a row above it. Surely this was a urinal. Bill looked around and checked out the next room. There were prayer rugs all over the floor. Surely this was a ---- mosque!!! And those spigots --- surely they were for foot washing. He left. International scandal narrowly averted.


Posted by HopeEakins 21:18 Archived in Malaysia

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Was Hope equally unsuccessful in finding a ladies loo?

by HARRIET D Odlum

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