The Sea Gypsies of Ngoguyon
They exited the terminal through the front exit doors. A row of taxis waited for passengers. They walked to the last taxi. Jonathon and Kiribourey loaded the luggage into the trunk of the taxi. They climbed in. The adults sat in the front seat. Kiribourey sat on the left. Sopheary sat in the middle. Jonathon sat on the right. The children sat in the back seat.
Kiribourey put his card into the dashboard slot. He said, “Launfrabeng International Seaport, Dock Three Twenty Seven.”
“Seaport,” Jonathon asked, bewildered.
Kiribourey said, “Yes. We are taking a boat home. It will take some hours to get there.”
“Would a plane be faster,” Jonathon asked.
Kiribourey answered, “Maybe; but, we would need a boat anyway. This way, you get a chance to see some sights and time to learn some of our language. The children can learn some English as well.”
They arrived at the dock. Everybody bailed out. Kiribourey got his card. Jonathon and Quenan unloaded the luggage. They walked on board the boat. Kiribourey said, “This is the only way to the house. You will see why when we get there.”
Kiribourey took Jonathon below deck. He showed him to a spare cabin. He said, “When we travel on this boat, this will be your cabin.”
He walked up. He walked to the dock office. He informed them that he was ready to leave. He exited the office. Two men joined and followed him.
Kiribourey walked onto the boat. The two men removed the gangplank. Kiribourey closed the gate. He walked onto the bridge.
Quenan was on the bow, headset on his head. Boupha-Kannitha was on the stern. Jonathon joined Quenan. The dockworkers untied the painters. They threw them to the children. Jonathon watched Quenan catch his painter. Quenan pulled it in. He coiled it on the deck.
Joanthon walked onto the bridge. Kiribourey had his headset on. He noticed Jonathon and nodded. He got a third headset out. He handed it to Jonathon. He said, “Jon, put this on so you can hear the radio even if you don’t understand what id being said. You will get a taste of our language.”
Jonathon put the headset on. He watched Kiribourey throw the switches to turn on the panels. Quenan walked astern to look for traffic. Kiribourey alerted harbor control. They cleared him for departure. He sat in the chair and grabbed the helm. He threw the four motor switches back. He flipped the motor power switch back. He grabbed the lever and pushed it forward a little. The boat slowly backed out of the slip. Quenan informed him all was clear. When the boat was clear of the docks, Kiribourey cranked the helm left. The boat turned to port. The bow faced downriver.
He straightened the helm. He pulled the lever back. He flipped the motor switches forward. He pushed the lever forward about a quarter of the way. The boat moved downriver to the mouth. Quenan appeared on the bridge. Jonathon said, “How old is Quenan?”
Kiribourey said, “He is ten years old. Why?”
Jonathon said, “I noticed what he does, so far. He wears the same headset as you.”
Kiribourey replied, “Each of the children carries some duties and responsibilities as befitting their age. Que carries the most since he is the oldest. One of his duties is to help me run the boat.”
“How old are the other two,” Jonathon asked.
“Boupha is eight and An is six years old,” Kiribourey answered.
Jonathon looked out over the bow. Water was all he could see. Small swells were in it. Kiribourey cranked the helm to the right. The boat turned to starboard. He straightened the boat. He turned to the map panel. He touched it and spoke Sarginese, “Amboalla.”
He confirmed the choice and touched it again. He spoke Sarginese, “Que, it is time for your first lesson in speaking English.”
The three of them walked off the bridge. They walked astern. A white metal round table stood port of the cabin door. Five white, brown cushioned metal chairs were arranged around the table. They sat in three of the chairs. The other two children exited the door. Kiribourey spoke Sarginese, “Analin, kombat sibana tudempo. I am starting your first lesson in speaking English. With Jon here, you need to know English. This, also, will help you in the future.”
The children nodded and sat in the remaining chairs. Kiribourey continued in Sarginese, “The first thing you need to be able to say is our guest’s name. Kedang ‘Jon’.”
“Jon,” Quenan finally said first. Boupha-Kannitha said it next followed by An-Toan Kim. They were getting comfortable having Jonathon around.
“Bajiceng,” Kiribourey praised them.
“What was that word you just said? Bajiceng? I hope I pronounced it right,” Jonathon said.
“You pronounced it right. ‘Bajiceng’ is Sarginese for the English word ‘good’. ‘Ana’ is child, ‘Analin’ is children. ‘Kombat’ is come, ‘sibana is and, and ‘tudempo’ is sit,” Kiribourey explained.
“Analin,” Jonathon repeated. The three children looked at him. He repeated the other words. The children took turns saying the English words. They spent hours learning basic words in both languages.
Sopheary came out with drinks and snacks. She walked back in. She came back out with a book. She poured herself a glass. She walked to a lounge chair starboard of the door. She set the glass in the cup holder in the right chair arm. She sat and read her book.
Later, the alarm startled Jonathon. He said, “What’s that!?”
“That’s the alarm signaling us that we are approaching the house. Come with me. You’ll find out why the boat is the only way to get there. This concludes the lesson,” Kiribourey said as he got up. He repeated the last sentence in Sarginese. The lesson came to an end. Jonathon, Quenan and Boupha-Kannitha got up as well.
Boupha-Kannitha walked to her station at the stern. Kiribourey, Quenan and Jonathon walked toward the bow. Quenan continued to his station at the bow. Kiribourey and Jonathon walked onto the bridge. Kiribourey sat in the chair. He touched the map screen, disengaging the autopilot. He grabbed the helm.
Sopheary and An-Toan Kim got up. An-Toan Kim picked up the tray . Sopheary laid her glass on the tray. She opened and held the door for him. They walked through the doorway. They walked below deck. They put the snacks away. They put the dishes in the dishwasher. Sopheary put her book away. They walked back on deck.