Too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of the future and all the uncertainty that comes with it. My friends used to tell me that I’m a worrier and worrying was exactly what I did on the morning we had to leave KL for this mysterious place I had never heard of up till this project– Bario.
My mind was on a mad chase. I was worrying about all the things I was leaving behind (shampoo, assignments, debate, etc.) and the things I was about to face. (possible relationship breakdowns, arguments, failures etc.) I was clearly a lot more troubled by the coming adversities than I was of the past. There’s something quite terrifying and vaguely disconcerting about the unknown but in retrospect, that day I left was brimming with possibilities, not worries.
|Forgive our city selfies and Starbucks cups, we’re new here!
Maybe I should have remembered what I read a long time ago from Oliver Burkeman that uncertainty is where things happen. “It’s where the opportunities–for success, for happiness, for really living–are waiting”. From the moment we took off, we had the luck of being thrown from one great opportunity into another without ever really knowing what to expect. Uncertainty became a sort of driving force as we hurtled through the days.
It’s strange how we became so set in that time paradox of Bario. So many unexpected things could happen in a day despite it being as routine as the humungous wooden bell that wakes everyone in the longhouse up at 5 am sharp. The days always seemed so long and yet ended so fast. I would be hammering stones and chatting away with Tepu’ Uloh for hours on end and suddenly, the six o’clock sky would turn to dark night.
I can easily pick out an example that happened to me less than 24 hours into being in Bario. We all joked around saying that I had managed to “scare off” my Tepu all the way to Miri but it was a situation that left me a little depressed at first.
The night I met her, Tepu Uloh and I managed to hit it off relatively well. She’s a wonderful woman and we chatted so much, she was holding my hand by the end of the night. We talked about our families and life in the kampung compared to KL. She even showed me pictures of her and her grandchildren.
Now, imagine me cheerfully walking up to her the next day to ask for a broom and she, with equal cheer, tells me “Okay. Just make sure it’s there when I get back from Miri next week.”
All of a sudden, I was left with completely no idea what to do but watch her walk off. She walks pretty fast for an old lady so when I came to my senses, I had to run barefoot to catch her. It was a scene worthy of a Bollywood drama. I said my goodbyes and gave her the present I had bought her from KL. She immediately pulled me in for a long hug and said goodbye. I swear, it was completely unscripted.
Slightly disheartened but ready to suck it up, I had to follow Xara with her assigned lady, Sina Tagung, the next day. It felt a bit like I was intruding and it never felt right, but I tried my best. At one point, we managed to lose Sina Tagung while we were busy washing dishes and had to walk around the longhouse calling out for her. Xara turned to me and says “Nobody likes you, ar? They all run away from you.”
It was an unexpected turn of events, but that was when I started to realize that life in Bario was so laid back, these kinds of things are pretty trivial. Take things as best as you can and eventually, it’ll turn out fine.
Call it a gift from the universe or an answer to a prayer but Tepu’ Uloh came back from Miri several days early. Why? Apparently, it was because she knew there was someone back home waiting for her. Pretty cool, huh?
Speaking of surprise gifts from the universe though, I realize there were plenty of them. It was always the slight (and sometimes, drastic) deviations from our plans that turned out to be the best of times. I remember Rhon spontaneously bringing me out of the longhouse to look at the stars and her saying “Now you know why I love Bario”. I remember jokingly saying to Tepu Uloh that the only word you need to know in any language is ‘discount’ and how that ended up being her favourite word. I remember Tepu’ Sinah Rang teaching us how to dance poco-poco after our Beauty Session. All these little things that were never planned out gave me a higher appreciation towards life in Bario. That it’s all okay. Do’ Ina. Tak apa.
|Uncertainty seems pretty insignificant when you’ve got mountains backing you up
Honestly, it was brilliant living in that time paradox where I was comfortable not knowing how things would be in the next minute. I started out constantly checking how high up the sun was but the the light in Bario lies. Time hardly mattered anymore. The mountains may have been crumbling but it was taking such a long time to us. Sometimes, we would sit quietly on Tepu Sina Rang’s veranda, eating kuachi and drinking tea. I just think that to those mountains that surrounded us, our days must seem like milliseconds. The same how, upon returning, we’ve changed a thousand times over but to KL and all the people in it, it was just another two weeks.
I guess time is just so relative and there are just too many ways to look at life. I’ve been so torn between mourning the past and worrying about the future, I let that uncertainty take over. In light of all that’s happened in Bario, I think I’m ready to take on whatever uncertainty lies ahead. I may be back in this strange place called KL, but I’ve got these Kelabit beads all the people I love have given me and that kind of anchors me. It reminds me that things always works out, somehow. That I’ve got a place I can call home somewhere out there. That I’ve got mountains behind me and the winds of destiny pushing me forward on my way.