Friday 13 May 2016

Tepuq Supang and I

How was Bario? How was Bario?

Even now that the project has ended I still find it difficult to gather my thoughts and express them in words because the only way to accurately convey my experience to others is for them to eat chunks of my brain which contain memories of Bario, like R did in Warm Bodies, and experience Bario themselves via my cells.

I’m kidding.

Bario was amazing (this is an understatement. No adjective can represent the WOOHOO-KABOOM-PLACK-WOOISH-WHEEEEEEAOOOIIIWW-ness of my experience thus far. But for the sake of convenience, amazing it is). Bario was, to me, an unexploited masterpiece. I love Bario for its serenity. I love Bario for its people, their warmth and friendliness towards everyone. Ultimately, I love Bario for teaching me what it’s like to love and be loved in a whole new place.

To be honest, I was slightly apprehensive with the idea of forging new relationships, especially with Tepuq Supang, because of the preconceived notion that I had about her before reaching Bario. Tepuq Supang was the lady I was assigned to, and I was informed that she had a shy demeanour and was not very talkative. On the other hand I can be extremely chatty and I was worried it might put her off.

Tepuq Supang taking a break from paddy work
However, when I met her in the cozy Arur Dalan longhouse for the first time, I knew everything would turn out fine. The first thing I noticed about Tepuq Supang was her face. Her face exuded warmth, and it eased my unnecessary worries immediately. Knowing that she was shy, I did not bombard her with questions, but rather I turned myself into an open book in an attempt to gain her trust. I shared my life stories with her, and I was glad she found them intriguing. At times she would even chuckle at my shenanigans. Eventually, she opened up and we got along very well for the whole duration of the project.

Tepuq Supang and I
I would say my relationship with Tepuq Supang was an unconventional one. We displayed our affection in subtle ways. For instance, she would ask if I wanted to leave the paddy field early if I seemed burned out, or she would feed me with lots of fried ubi (tapioca) because I once told her I absolutely loved it, or even ask me if I was doing well in school, whether I had friends who came to Bario with me. She wasn’t touchy-feely, and neither was I on most occasions. But I realized that if I took the first step she wouldn’t hesitate to follow suit. If I initiate a high-five, she would return the high-five. If I gave her a hug, she would hug me back, no doubt. Same goes with learning English and developing the highlights of her trail. All I had to do was get the ball rolling by asking her what an object was in English and if she knew, she’d answer immediately and in return she’d ask me what something else was. Otherwise, she’d tell me in earnest that she didn’t know the answer and I would teach her from there. My point is; Tepuq Supang was affectionate in her own ways and was always willing to learn, an attribute that I look up to.

Tepuq Supang, Shannon (my paddy buddy) and I
Writing all this down brings me back to one of the Training of Trainers sessions (pre-Bario). We were asked if we were more task-oriented or relationship-oriented. I said I was in the middle. In hindsight, I learned that I am more inclined towards maintaining and building a relationship rather than focusing solely on the task of teaching English and developing Tepuq’s trail. Personally, it was easy for me to say that I prioritize the task. But at that moment, when I stood in front of Tepuq Supang, a living breathing human with stories to share and whom I would get to form a bond with for the next three weeks, I realized that I do value the relationship as much as the task, and that I couldn’t wait to embark on the WHEE journey with her and my batch mates.

“So, how was Bario?”