Copying Bunga

Marina
Marina Gambin
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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.

Organizations: Grade 4

Geographic location: Bunga, Malaysia, Norway Atlantic Ocean Asia

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Recent comments

  • Bob Stewart
    April 07, 2014 - 17:54

    Bunga also made a deep impression on me. I have had a geological career that has allowed me to travel and see the places first introduced in Grade 4 geography. My love of travel and different peoples certainly was seeded back then in 1962. Hope others share their experience of a character from a different world in both space and time.

  • Sue Phillips
    August 03, 2013 - 16:34

    My brother and I were sitting here talking about grade 4 geography and for fun I googled Bunga......and found your wonderful article. Thank so much.....wonderful memories!

  • Bronwyn
    June 02, 2012 - 15:11

    I loved Bunga! Thanks for your vivid recollection. I have never forgotten Bunga and his blowgun. You've prompted my own memories of my elementary school in Cheswick PA. Our teacher Mrs. Detwiler looked exactly like the Peale repro George Washington portrait that hung in every classroom, except that she had two gigantic rouge spots on her cheeks and her hair, which looked just like the President's, was red.