I was so excited when I started Grade 4 in September 1956. That was the grade in which students were introduced to a geography book titled Visits to Other Lands, but more specifically, to a pygmy character of Malaysia named Bunga.
I was so excited when I started Grade 4 in September 1956. That was the grade in which students were introduced to a geography book titled Visits to Other Lands, but more specifically, to a pygmy character of Malaysia named Bunga. There were other personalities featured in the book too, like Erik and Inger of Norway and Netsook and Klaya of the Far North, but Bunga was the most memorable.
I didnt so much admire the physical characteristics of Bungas people, the tallest of which stood about four feet high with kinky, black curly hair. What I loved to read about was their lifestyle. Where I lived in a small fishing community on the Atlantic Ocean, life in the jungle of Asia seemed quite exotic. I can still see the illustrations of Bunga and his friends, scantily dressed and barefooted sitting in tall trees with monkeys and colorful birds for companions. One picture showed a bamboo hut with a mother preparing yams for the family meal, while another displayed a group of pygmy hunters using blow guns.
It was the blow guns that did it! The garden of the vacant house next to ours was full of bamboos. Well, not bamboos really. They were actually an overgrowth of weedy plants called September bloom. To the owners today they are a nuisance, but to my friends and I back then, they were a godsend. We could copy Bunga right there in Branch.
So over the fence we went, gathering armfuls of bamboos and, persuading my cousin Frankie to hollow them out for us, we swiped a handful or two of uncooked beans from the kitchen. Presto! We had it! The nearest you could get to a made in Malaysia, pygmy-style, honest to goodness blow gun.
During the month of September, or for as long as the September bloom lasted, we had a ball. Cats and dogs and hens were our main targets. To be sure, water dogs, setters and sassy roosters were a far cry from the prey hunted on the other side of the world. But that didnt stop us! We had met our little Malaysian friend and we wanted to be like him.
Now my hair was black with millions of tangled, hard to handle curls. Around this time, my mother asked a friend of hers to cut it short, real short. Soon after, some kids derided me with the nicknames pygmy and Bunga. That made me put away the Asian weapon almost immediately. As young as I was, I knew enough not to give them additional fuel for the fire.
However, my hair grew out and my class moved on to the next chapter in the geography book which I think may have taken us to Norway. That, of course, meant that we had to find a way to emulate a couple of Scandinavian children. So, for a while the Wester Cove was turned into a fiord surrounded by mountains. Childhood imagination is indeed a wonderful thing.