Kuching, Brooke Sarawak. 1848
Pak Khalid made another row on the sampan.
It was always been thus for the Malay fisherman and trader, rowing his old wooden sampan to and fro across the rivers and swamps, netting fish and critters from the murky waters and selling them fresh at the market. Every day without fail, he would wake up at dawn, eat his meal, and set out to cast his work on the grounds out in the forests and coasts.
And speaking of which...
With one more row, the boat turned according with the river bend, and as the moments pass by the village of Kuching came into view.
It still looked the same to the fisherman; the houses stood alongside the river mud, the boats and sampans plying the waters or at rest against the shore, the same menagerie of peoples walking in and out of the streets and forests; Malays, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, and a few others whose names Khalid does not know but are familiar with.
But there were changes too, and noticeable ones in fact. On one side of the river some land has been cleared out from amongst the surrounding trees, and on a bluff stood a strange building overlooking both the river and the town.
Ahh, how much has changed. At least now we don't have to obey to those men.
As he rowed his sampan to the riverbank of the town, a strange solitary figure by the riverbank caught his eye.
The man was flanked by several warriors, but there was no mistaking the pale skin, the distinctive stature, the style of his hair, and the strange cut of his clothes compared to what Khalid and his townsmen usually wore for the day.
As Khalid rowed his boat for one last time, he wondered whether or not the times could get anymore stranger. He hoped that it wouldn't.
But something inside of him told the man: it will.