What years were you in Borneo?
What areas of Borneo were you in?
Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
What brought you to Borneo?
I have spent a great deal of time in the Western Hemisphere tropical forests but not in the Southeast Asian tropical forests. The forests in Southeast Asia are the oldest tropical forests in the world, going back to 30 million years ago, so it was time to make a comparison between the New World tropical forests and the Old World tropical forests.
If you had 3 minutes on a loud speaker that would be heard by the whole world (or all Americans) what would you tell them about Borneo?
People asked me if they had hotels there. I told them that Kota Kinabalu almost looked like an American city and I told them the big difference about Borneo is that you protected yourself from leeches, while in the Amazon you protected yourself from chiggers. The tropical forests of Southeast Asia also have more and bigger quadrupedal mammals, like elephants, rhinos, and banteng, and a diversity of pitcher plants. I also told them about the leaf monkeys, who always had orange babies, and the unique proboscis monkey with its distinctive large nose.
When you talk about Borneo and your trip there what is the thing you always are sure to say?
The tropical forest is beautiful and unique, not dangerous and threatening at all. If you want to find any type of snake you are going to have to go out and find it. It will not come to you.
How have your experiences in Borneo impacted your life outside of Borneo?
It gave me hands-on experience on dealing with Southeast Asian tropical forests. I did a home stay with a Muslim family there and the man knew fluent Arabic, and the meals were halal. They were surprised that I knew Bahasa and about Islam.
What do you think people in the US who have never been to Borneo should know about it?
Go there. It will be a fascinating experience for you, both naturally and culturally.
It would be clear during the day, then the clouds would come in over the mountains and dump heavy rain. In the evening, you always wanted to be close to shelter.
Who was the most memorable person you met in Borneo, why?
A 10 year old boy, who helped me practice my Bahasa. If I said a word right, he would shake his head; if I said it wrong, he would make faces at me.
Do you have a story or experience you would like to share with us?
I saw so much wildlife taking a boat out on the Kinabatangan River. I saw proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys with their orange babies, a Brahminy eagle, with its beautiful white head and breast. I got up early one morning and could see and hear the agile gibbons and see a wild female orangutan feeding on leaves. I walked out into the forest and found out about an invasive species from Australia that shed its leaves, but they did not decompose, like the leaves of the indigenous trees. How easily the tropical forests of Southeast Asia can be disturbed.
Anything else you would like to share?
I spent a night out in the forest with DUSUN tribesmen. Tribesmen is misleading because they knew English, had cellular phones and satellite disks next to their homes. We dined on wild boar, drank rice beer and learned about the traps they made for capturing game, such as pangolin and civets.