One of the things from Bario that I wish I could store in a glass jar to bring home would be the memories I had with Sinah Sarina (meaning Mother Sarina) and her family. The lessons I learnt from being with her are things that I would like to one day look back at in the future.
Firstly, allow me to introduce my assigned lady, Sinah Sarina. She works at SMK Bario as a janitor and I would normally spend the first half of the day cleaning and sweeping the school compound, then in the afternoon we would return to her house where she would prepare lunch and we would have it together with her family. It was through the time I spent at her house I got to meet four of her lovely children.
They never stopped blessing me with food and gifts that they could afford. During my stay in Bario, I was blessed with endless local Kelabit delicacies. Every time I went over to their house, Sinah Sarina or her mother would welcome me to dine with them at any time of the day. While I was approaching my last few days in Bario, Sinah Sarina and her mother gave me a few Kelabit necklaces that they put together themselves. A few months after I returned to Miri, she had a bag of Bario pineapples and nuba' laya' (cooked Bario rice wrapped in a leaf) delivered to Miri for me. I came to understand the spirit of giving comes very naturally to them. They never want anything in return but for us to accept their gifts.
I do not have to be an accountant to know that they are tirelessly trying to make ends meet. They are merely making enough money and planting enough Bario rice to feed their own family. So, when they pay for your meals, share their lunch, or do simple acts like giving you a bag of their best harvested rice; you should know that they are giving you a token of their appreciation for the little that we have done for them.
Wendell Berry says, “I believe that the world was created and approved by love, which it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.”
To come to experience unconditional love from people that you have only come to know in two weeks is something you get once in a while. I certainly did not feel that I deserved all that was given to me, I have always thought being independent and to go get what you want is most important, but for them, it is about service for others.
In love, there is no give and take. To love you know only to give unconditionally.