Boarding Twin Otter plane (15 seater)
The vast land of Borneo under our feet :)
There were some experiences that had made my stay special and I would like to mention some.
Hanging out with Malaysians, having a life time of fun
There are no borders in friendships and it is simple: have fun and enjoy the ride together. The laughters that filled the long house, the occasions when we braved through the storm especially during our first day when we trekked the Tree of Life trail and enjoying our little break times at the café for some brain freeze. They were indeed special moments which forged a special bond and friendship throughout the trip and beyond. Although we may differ in background and ethnicity, everyone was genuine and supportive of one another. This made me ponder on the kind of society I hope to live in, one that enriches, invokes passion, supports, and embraces differences. I hope that this would steer towards elevating the community to be a better kind and a safe place to dream.
Frisbee session in the sawah, rice paddy field, thoroughly refreshing!
ABC (Bario Ice Kacang)
Time with Kelabit culture and attachment with Tepuq
I was assigned to Tepuq Bulan and Daud during my working days. My first encounter with them was filled with worry, that my little knowledge of Bahasa Melayu would restrict my communication. However, the worry dispelled after knowing that the language barrier wasn’t an issue and we broke into long conversations through the first night. They are great people and hearing their story on why they chose to retire in Bario because of their love for the land, amazed me. Furthermore, many other strong and resilient locals whom I met throughout the project, have special experiences with the land and still play active roles in caring and growing Bario.
On our final day, we celebrated the occasion with Cultural Night where the villagers were invited to a meal and while enjoying performances. As we did the Kelabit dance, we spurred one another with words of encouragement. The tepuqs' hands were always warm for an embrace and showered us with their love and care. Their warm receival of us, even though we are not related by any ties or relation, was precious. My heart felt so full that day I could hardly contain it all. It brings me back to a lesson from nature, that the land has always provided us with natural resources, yet it seems to be still in abundance afterwards. I was raised in a society which taught me to defend and accumulate things for a certain future. In that context, it is hard to see giving as a demonstration of strength. The amount of appreciation and effort that comes with giving become so apparent that they would last for eternity with a smile each day. This is a great empowerment for us and the community.
Wefie with Tepuq Bulan in the paddy field!
Cultural night in the long house
In closure, I would say that my WHEE experience ignited within me a new hope, that there is something to love and strive for. A better community through warm embrace and sincerity. Also, the preservation of cultural heritage (in this context, Kelabit) is important for us to remember valuable lessons from the past, to be wiser in our choices for the present and the future. Thank you Project WHEE for such a extra-ordinary experience in Malaysia, a country with vibrant diversity of many ethnics.