Tuesday 14 July 2015

A Short Getaway

We live in a time where technology plays a big role in our lives, and I am not afraid to admit I often find myself wasting my time, unconsciously peeking at other people’s life on social media instead of managing my own. Hands up if you agree social media is the number one reason you're procrastinating *raises my hand quietly*. I am guilty as charged!

Before we departed for Bario, we were told that we would have no access to the Internet. And just like that, we were completely cut off from the outside world for three weeks (we still got to call our family and friends, don't worry). My friend even joked that if Peninsular Malaysia disappeared overnight, we wouldn’t even know because there are no newspapers! Sure, three weeks without Internet connection was a pain when we needed to Google something. But come to think of it, we might have been too dependent on the Internet all this while, because we did survive using only our existing knowledge and teamwork to figure things out on. And for the first time in ages, I felt like I was actually living.

Tepuq Ulo's paddy field.
It felt like we had more time in Bario, because we woke up early and used our time wisely. With little distractions (from technology), we got to talk to and interact more with the people we built relationships with, take strolls and admire the beautiful scenery during our free time, breathe in the fresh Bario air, and take proper breaks when we were tired. I even learned how to fish! 

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to experience a farmer's life. Being city kids, most of us are not physically strong enough for hours of hard labour. But did we enjoy the process? Definitely!  

After working in the paddy field. Muddy but happy.
Working in the muddy paddy field was tough, but it made us stronger.  I enjoyed drying the paddy the most because, who doesn’t like chasing chickens away? But when the paddy was almost done drying (it usually takes four hours) and it started to rain, I could feel my heart breaking because Tepuq Ulo's hard work had gone down the drain. 

Drying the paddy. Photo taken shortly before it started raining. 
One time, K Rou and I followed our tepuqs to remove the weeds underneath the pastor’s house. We had to squat beneath the house and pull out the weeds, and we couldn’t stand as the space was too small. Seeing how tired out we were, our tepuqs made us weed in the open space. Tepuq Ulo and Tepuq Ribed would say: ‘Kasihan cucu-cucu kita, perlu ikut kita kerana kita kuat kerja.’ (Our poor grandchildren, pity them as they have to follow us to do our hard work.) We didn’t even do much compared to them!

Food doesn’t come around easy in Bario. There are grocery stores around, but they are not as well-stocked as the ones we have in the city. I remembered when Wai Leong and K Rou were looking for tomatoes and they had to search the village to find out who planted them. If we wanted vegetables we had to pick them from the jungle. When picking jungle vegetables with my tepuq, all sorts of insects managed to crawl inside my pants, from leeches to big red ants. I might have screamed a few times. But now the city kid can finally say that she has seen it all (not really)! Yes, I brought back legs full of insect-bite scars but EVERY BITE WAS WORTH IT.

K Rou (left) and I all dressed up by our tepuqs to pick jungle vegetables.
Take note ladies, it's the latest kampung fashion!
For participants, it’s not fun and games all the time. We came to Bario carrying responsibilities and a mission. There will definitely be challenges, but once you manage to overcome it, I assure that you will grow and come back with a completely different mindset. If you’re reading this, and thinking about joining Project WHEE!, I encourage you to take this big step. You won't regret it!

-Pei Chi-

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