Tuesday 10 February 2015

Everything Else Can Wait

When we are not working in the paddy field or farms, Tepuq Doh Ayu and I would usually chill at home. I love how life in Bario is rather slow-paced and laid-back. There is no need to be guilty for not being 'productive' enough if you decide to spend your day sitting by the fireplace and chill together. There is so much that we could do together in Bario.

Fireplace is like the backbone of a longhouse where most of the family activities take place here. The warmth radiated from the burning firewood is the best companion amidst the chilly weather in Bario. We would eat, drink, relax and talk around the fireplace.

It is no surprise that a friendly and warm lady like my Tepu, her fireplace has became a popular hangout spot among the neighbours and relatives. 

We would sit down and have some nice conversation over cups of tea and bites of biscuits. The ambience is very lovely and relaxing. They often include me in their conversations and make me feel accepted as a part of the family. The conversation topics usually range from family, weather to work. Sometimes, I would ask Tepuq Doh Ayu about her Kelabit culture and lifestyles. She would then happily take up the role of a teacher and show me the traditional Kelabit beads and musical instrument.

Traditional Kelabit musical instrument is a tube zither made entirely of a poring bamboo. Tepu Doh Ayu slides her fingers across the bamboo strings gracefully and a beautiful melody is heard across the longhouse. She does it so effortlessly and elegantly which in fact I spend so much time attempting to master it :P

Tepu Doh Ayu demonstrating Kelabit beads work.

Despite the fact that I couldn't get a grasp of their Kelabit conversation fully, I enjoy observing how the whole conversation takes place so naturally. They would pay full attention to the others when they are talking and would in turn to take on the responsibility of keeping the conversation rolling. Even when there's silent moment when the conversations pause occasionally, it is perfectly comfortable and pleasant as the they would retrieve the momentum of resuming the conversation very quickly.

We're On Each Other's Team

13 people. 13 different personalities. 13 sets of weird habits and quirks.
Living in the same space. For 16 days. In unfamiliar conditions. Under occasionally extremely physical, emotional and mentally stressful situations.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, no?

Well, no. It actually wasn't.

Living in the same space for 16 days...and there wasn't always a lot of it.
Photo credit: The Project WHEE! team
Because somehow, the team was flawless. You couldn't name a single positive attribute or virtue that someone on the team didn't have. And any of our not-so-nice traits were balanced out, and more than made up for by the others. While I hate to sound disgustingly cheesy: while alone, we were flawed, but all together we were pretty much the perfect team. We were a lean, mean, fighting teaching, community-serving machine.

Thanks to the Training of Trainers sessions prior to leaving, we had all sort of met each other and gotten to know each other a little. We all found some common ground, acknowledged a shared goal, formed the start of beautiful friendships and, with that, our teamwork’s foundation started out strong.

And while everyone was friendly and great and all, the cynic in me could not help but imagine in vivid detail the many possible scenarios friction could occur... Like when a bunch of physically tired teenagers having to wake up early in the morning à la bears coming out from hibernation. When everyone is sweaty and smelly and feeling gross and wants to shower first. When everyone’s fighting over the last cookie from the last pack of Chipsmore in the entire longhouse. Somehow it just didn't seem possible that we would come out without strife. But that is exactly what we did. Sure, not everything flowed the way we wanted it to all the time, but we faced everything together and in true Bario style, we winged it.

#batch3isthebest #wheearefamily 

With all that in mind, I’d like to explain - and thank each of my team mates for- what I feel each person lent to the group as a whole...

Karthik, our Gandalf (coined due to the “staff” he used when his foot was hurting), lent the group a calm and quiet feeling of implicit safety. And when Tharu came along 10 days later, she filled in the spots we didn’t even know were missing in the team effortlessly.

There is no way there would have been as much laughter if Jinny hadn’t joined the team at the last minute; she brought her blur-ness and her amazing ability to be completely inappropriate in a somewhat appropriate way. YC was our Little Miss Sunshine, even when the sun wasn't shining. She was the extremely eager and eternal optimist that always kept us looking on the bright side which contrasted yet complimented Charu’s ever present wit and snark kept us all both on our toes and doubled over in laughter and her mantra of “Today was a very good day...” fast became a group chant during debriefs.

In a way, Kit May became our second mummy, as she looked after our needs and even learnt to cook for us. The utter sincerity that she radiated was always appreciated, a trait she shared with Jayne, who probably had the most good-natured and harmonious personality of us all. The awkward confidence that Luki exudes is both charming and amusing all at once. Deadpan, determined and an all round lovable dork, it was both easy and hard to believe that he was the baby of the group.

Our resident diplomat and master of banter, Dom, kept the group’s communication wide, (occasionally inappropriate) and open, helping everyone see each other’s point of view. Yee Wan’s ability to instantly form connections with people was invaluable both within the team, and when meeting new people in Bario.

And spearheading the team were Rhon and Dan, for without whom we would have been irrecoverably lost. Our Mama managed to strike the perfect balance between fun and productivity, humour and staying on task. All while getting some serious respect and loyalty for the amount of heart and care she carries around in working towards the betterment of everyone involved. Daddy Dan the amazingly sporting, Bollywood-dancing Rhon’s Rhock could be extraordinarily perceptive and intuitive when needed and an all out retard when things needed to lighten up.

For this team I am infinitely grateful, for they helped make Project WHEE! one of the best experiences of my life. There are  no words.

With much, much, much love,