Marty’s photo of the day #3564: This excerpt from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, tells the story:

Our adventure began on Friday, April 11, 2003, when we landed at Kuching Airport. Our guide, Bayang, picked us up with the Borneo Adventure van. He was a muscular, round-faced man in his early thirties. Although Bayang was a member of the Iban (pronounced ē-bon) tribe, he no longer lived with his people in the rainforest. Like many other English-speaking people we’d meet in Borneo, he spoke a dialect that sounded like a hybrid of English and Iban or Malay. Deb and I had a hard time understanding him but could usually recognize enough words to figure out what he was trying to say.

“How’s the war?” he asked.

The question, spoken in perfect English, caught me by surprise. I wasn’t sure how to answer it. Can war ever be good? Back home, when George W. Bush ordered the attack on Iraq, I was angry. Here, I felt something I never thought I’d feel about my country—I was ashamed. Attacking another nation without provocation just seemed un-American to me.

“We wish there wasn’t a war,” I said.

“Peace is always a better answer,” added Deb.

“Yes, peace is better,” agreed Bayang.

Since we wouldn’t depart for our backpacking trip until the following morning, Bayang dropped us off at the Kuching Hilton. After our long overseas flight (the airline’s route actually took us more than halfway around the world), we had to resist the temptation to indulge in a midday snooze. If we didn’t force ourselves to stay awake until evening, we’d be up again in the middle of the night and off schedule for days. We showered, dressed, and decided to go for a walk.

Hand in hand, we strolled across the street to the waterfront. Leafy trees, circular gardens, and manicured grass buffered us from city traffic, while schoolchildren scurried by on the brick walkway paralleling the Sarawak River. We intended to follow the walkway, but a surprise downpour forced us to find shelter under the eaves of a food stand.

As a steamy mist from ricocheting raindrops enveloped us, we watched small fishing boats putter up and down the quarter-mile-wide river and tried to wait out the storm. When the rain outlasted our patience, we dashed back to the hotel, laughing as our freshly changed clothes became shapeless pieces of waterlogged fabric.