International Writers Magazine: Childhood Memories
Jo Green in Malaysia
took us about an hour travelling down this long, winding river
heading into a far-off forest. We were in a thin wooden boat floating
through miles of tall, green scenery. The splashing water around
me was a murky brown colour and the rain that hammered down on
top of me obscured my vision.
Mummy sat behind
me while Tamsyn perched on the bench seat in front of me. I held on
tight to my scruffy teddy bear, Alfie, and watched as Daddy paddled
against the current along with two other men who were leaning out at
The rain was getting harder and harder so the men decided we should
all stop for a bit of lunch. I didnt want to sit down though,
the ground was all wet and sandy. I really didnt want my skirt
to get dirty, the pink and white flowers already had water marks on
We set off again up the stream, this time I sat near the front. The
rain had weakened and I could see the grey clouds slowly disappearing
behind us. I started to hear more than just the mad crashing of water
against the side of the boat. Parrots were squawking in the forests
around us and every so often we would catch a glimpse of one flying
across the river above us. Little birds were busy collecting food and
returning it safely to their nests. A couple of times I caught sight
of a fish, jumping and twirling in the air, its small fins glistening
in the sunlight that was gradually appearing.
Suddenly there it was, the longhouse. It stood above us with all its
tall, brown stilts and rows of rooms that stretched along the bank.
As we walked up the stairs I noticed the older men returning with dead
animals. A fat pig, which I was told was a wild boar, was hanging on
a stick between two mens shoulders. I was afraid that this was
going to be supper that night. I decided I would have to sit next to
Mummy or Daddy, just in case I needed to secretly put my food on their
I do not remember eating it now; suddenly all I can think is that we
were heading to our rooms.
We were the only children going to bed. All the others were still dancing
and singing around the fire. Daddy had done a funny dance in the middle
of the veranda, just like all the others. He had tried to make Tamsyn
and I stand up as well but I was so tired. Tamsyn was so funny though,
she stood up, she spun around, she was full of energy. She hated going
to bed, I knew she would have carried on dancing all night if she could.
All I felt was my eyelids dropping, I was completely exhausted.
An old woman led all four of us into this small bedroom at the end of
the longhouse. I felt scared; it was not like home at all. I grabbed
hold of my brothers hand; I needed protecting from these strangers.
As we entered the room another lady joined us. She usually sat outside
the room sewing. She helped us all find the toilet and get our pyjamas.
They did not leave though. They stayed. They just sat there and watched
We nestled down under the thin, square patterned blanket, like packed
sausages. The two women sat opposite us, observing every move, waiting
for us to fall asleep. Tamsyns eyes were full of panic as she
lay next to me, our noses almost touching. She looked frightened; it
made me even more so. I smiled at her. I then closed my eyes and opened
them again, looking straight at her. I instantly closed them again.
She saw what I was doing, could see it was a game. We lay there, asleep,
and gradually drifted off.
Green April 2006
Jo is a Creative Writing student at the University of Portsmouth
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