Nicole’s Secret Garden

That morning, we were divided into 2 groups, to either clean up the longhouse common area (Sekan, Aping, Kijan, Sigang, Mujan, Mariam, Ganet) or set off to Aunty Nicole’s house to clean up her garden (Agan, Rina, Dayang, Supang Kecil, Lian, and myself). My team and I were all so excited about having to start off work, that we’ve even equipped ourselves with hats, bottles of water (full), sunblock, mosquito repellent, hand-gloves. All the necessary measure for avoiding being bitten by unknown insects that we don’t see in cities or in our normal Year 4 science textbooks. Oh boy, I must say I was quite amazed at the extent of the preparations by my friends were on that day. Though I normally see my mom and dad just placing a bottle of water right beside them and gardening tools in their hands when they do gardening.
When we got there, what we saw was a small wooden house with a large front yard. It was almost the same image I had while reading childhood fairy tales, where pictures show a wooden house with front yard and not fenced.
Ah, nature, how nice would it be if I could live in places like this where there is no need to worry about dangers and safety.
After we were briefed by Agan (Project Coordinator), we started off by weeding the front yard, all of us were so energetic that after seconds, we had gardening tools on our hands slaughtering weeds away from the rooted ground.
Me grabbing a chunk of weeds off the ground. (Not prepared as Sekan took this picture)
During the whole venture, all of us started off by squatting down to do work, but after a while, we finally gave in and sat down wherever we were while weeding the front yard of the house. As we took 5 minutes of break here and there after 15 minutes of weeding, Supang Kecil and I were impressed at Lian’s skill in handling a parang, weeding off grass so easily. Obviously, we envied the Budak Seremban and said nothing but stared at each other, sighing.
Lian with his pro weed-slaughter skills.


We weeded with all our efforts, and then finally realized that 2 hours passed. It was hot, real hot that afternoon, where we could feel the burning heat sizzling on our sweaty hands directly.
After lunch, Agan decided that we should start our “Clean Drain” operation, so we continued weeding along the sideways of the drain. It was a hilarious sight when I saw chickens running around the drain which was covered by long and thick weed to hunt for their food. Then, Aping and Singgang came by and joined us with cleaning the drain. Aping saw some familiar plants and told us that those were yam, we were surprised. So we got Aunty Nicole to clarify the plant and we were asked to save those wild yams for Tepuq Sina Rang’s pigs.
Aping cleaning up drain.


It was a challenging task, having to weed and preserve those wild yams at the same time. As the work got more and more intense, we even came up with a joke:
“It’s Yam-Cha, not Yum-Cha”
*Yum-Cha means getting a drink
Rinai taking a breather, Agan and Supang Kecil weeding.


Finally, all of us agreed to be not bothered about the yams but to continue our work with weeding. So we chopped off every plants that are in the drain and even dugged chunks of weeds that were blocking the flow of the water. While doing the heavy physical work, I began admiring those who do these kind of work for their living; handling heavy tools and mustering their strength to clean up the mess in drains, public toilets, public places. Around 5.30 pm, we finally finished cleaning, so we headed back to the Homestay to wash up.
Although it was exhausting, I find it very healthy and productive because I got to build some muscles and also managed to clean up in the drain. After experiencing what those who do such work for a living, I was inspired to preserve and be conscious of what I do that will affect the environment. Thinking of the burden that we have made, creating pollution everywhere is easy, but when we get ourselves to clean up the mess, it becomes a challenge because it takes a lot of initiative and courage to do so.
Let’s preserve and maintain cleanliness in our environment, even if it is little, it makes a difference.
Ji Bee
How Strong Is Your Cultural Identity?

How Strong Is Your Cultural Identity?

The Kelabits

The Kelabits are one of the tribes in Sarawak and many of them live near Bario Asal, Bario. They live near the Penans which is another tribe in Sarawak. There are only a few thousands of Kelabits left. Bario consists of mostly women because most men migrate to Miri and other places to work. Paddy plantation, craftworks and eco-tourism are among the common ways the Kelabits generate an income. They are also very hospitable people.

The Kelabit women in their traditional costume.

The longhouse is the traditional house of the Kelabits but there are not many longhouses seen in Bario nowadays. Each longhouse can accommodate about twenty-over families, depending on the length of the longhouse. I must say that each family in the longhouse is proud of their family members. For example, there are a lot of photos in the longhouse showing  their family members graduating, getting married, getting a good job and some of their great ancestors.
The inner view of a longhouse.
If there is something that Bario is famous for, it would be their Bario rice. This rice is planted and harvested using traditional methods, and that is why the taste of the rice is pure and organic. Among the many staple foods of the people in Bario are wild boar, jungle vegetables such as midin, paku-pakis and bamboo shoot, and not to mention their famous Bario rice. Other famous food in Bario are their pineapples, salt, chilli tumbuk and wood worms.
The famous Bario rice. Finer and tastier too compared to normal rice.


Some of the famous dances of the Kelabits are the hornbill dance and tarian pocok-pocok. Usually women who perform this dance will wear black cloth that are tight, decorated with a selendang made of beads and a beaded head gear. Sometimes synthetic hornbill feathers are used for their dance instead of the real one as there is only one hornbill remaining in Bario that goes by the name of Turu, which means ‘he who comes’.
A Kelabit woman gracefully demonstrating one of the Kelabit traditional dance.  
A photo of me feeding Turu, the only hornbill in Bario Asal.
The Kelabits are famous for their bead works and rattan sewing. Among the many things they can make out of beads are head gears, selendangs, necklaces and bracelets. The beads have a great variety of colours. For example there are more that five shades of red and I had a hard time differentiating those colours. If you are given a necklace, it represents that you are a part of their family. They also make wonderful crafts out of rattan such as rattan baskets, hats, bracelets and even rings.
My first necklace that was give to me by aunty Dayang. The huge red lump of ball in
  the middle of the necklace called ‘Kabuq’, symbolises that you are a part of their family.
Tattoos are used by the Kelabit women to show that they are eligible for marriage. Their tattoos are made up of soot obtained from the burning of kettles and sewn into the skin using big needles. The tattoos cover a big part of the women’s hands and legs. For religious reasons, this practice is not carried on in present day.
One of the few Kelabit women that still has tattoos around her hands and legs.
 Some thoughts
It is nice to see how the Kelabits have a strong cultural identity. I felt that I do not know how strong my cultural identity was until I saw their culture. I realised that each one of us actually have our own cultural identity but we are just not aware of it. I am really glad that I had a chance to experience their culture.
The Kelabits also place importance on their food. They have a wide variety of food during meals and they eat on time. They also eat as a family or group. Often in the city, I will not take my meals on time, have an unbalanced diet and will not eat together with my family members. They showed me some simple yet meaningful food ethics that I should practice in the city. I also learned not to waste food and I will eat every grain of rice because I saw how hard the people worked when they were planting and harvesting their paddy plant.
All this while I used to take handicrafts for granted until I saw how much effort the locals put to make those handicrafts. They were so patient and precise while weaving the beads. I found it difficult to separate the different shades of colours of the bead and yet these people are so good at it. After seeing the process of making handicrafts I began to respect and place a high value on handicrafts.
Thank you WHEE!

Thank you WHEE!

From the first day being in Bario, I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind. 
Can I adapt in Bario?
Will I be able to bond well with others there?
Etc. Etc.

After being with my friends for the entire stretch of 16 days, I find myself closer to my course mates. Being with them through these 16 days, for debriefing sessions, community service, living together, I am truly thankful that all of us are more understanding of each other. More selfless to help each other and more caring and considerate of one another. Also, I feel that I am able to express myself to others better compared to the last time and because of that, I am able to be more open minded of the things around me. 

Last but not least, I am also truly sorry for those who I’ve hurt or offended. Not only that, may bygones, be gone, I will cherish all the happy time that I have spent with all of you and also may all those times be my lessons in life.
May there be a way to all success in your lives. 
Gracias & Adious.
Ji Bee
Last night in Bario

Last night in Bario

Pulled an all nighter to prevent myself from sleeping was a REALLY hard to do task. Sleeping was one hard inevitable thing and I really struggled to keep my eyes from shutting. I knew that if I were to  fall asleep, my last day in Bario would end very soon… 
The last day in Bario was quite an emotional day. Some of us like myself and Aping were not prepared to leave our dear Sina so soon. It was a hard task to do. We tried to hold back our tears and smile like everything’s going to be alright.
As soon as our lady arrived, we rushed to hug her tight and welcomed her to the common area in the longhouse where we always had dinner. But then she stopped us and then handed us Kelabit necklaces that were done all by herself. I felt so honoured when she helped us to wear them as gratitude for being so close to her. 
From Aunty Dayang

But then when we almost started to shed tears, I quickly shifted my attention and asked for my friend’s camera and took pictures of the Aping and our dear Sina.
Myself, Aunty Dayang and Lian

Around 8.30 p.m., the event started its grande. I was working as one of the photographers. The event was started off by Agan, one of the project coordinators, giving his thank you speech on behalf of us and also as the coordinator of the programme. 

Then, Tepuq Sina Rang had her speech of how she felt having us on board and also presented all of us Kelabit necklaces and those who worked hard while in Bario. She hugged all of us after presenting those precious necklaces. Touched by the scene while taking pictures, I got teary.
Some of us like Ashley, Keller, Gloria and Kimberly performed “poco-poco”, one of the Bario pop dances. It was fun and exciting. 
After that all of us sang the song “Bario Heart” written by us and also Cup song by Anna Kedrick.

Bario Song
Credits to Jeremy Chin for recording 🙂

The Cup Song
Credits to Jeremy Chin for recording 🙂

It was a very unforgettable night, I am truly thankful to have met all these people in Bario. I am thankful for that and I cherish them.
Ji Bee
My Sinas & Tepuqs

My Sinas & Tepuqs

Bario, the wind village, is a wonderful place indeed. Most of the people there really treat us well. Whenever we are walking by the road or going home from work, they will kindly offer us a ride, which makes it more amazing because we also get to sit at the back of the four-wheel drive and savour the cool air in Bario.
What amazed me more about the place, are my sinas and tepuqs. They are all amazing women. They are all so kind to us during our stay in Bario. They are so caring that they even treated us like real grandchildren.
Everytime when we dropped by at each Sina or Tepuq’s house, they will feed us and treat us with great hospitality. They treat us so well that most of the time when we are exchanging conversations, they will listen to us attentively and even asked us of how do we think of Bario. 
To start off my journey, I was told by my Project Coordinator that Aunty Nicole (one of the Bario Project Coordinators) will have me under her care. Next morning after the first day reaching Bario, Aunty Nicole and I headed off to the kindergarten where she is working. The kindergarten was near the main church in Bario as well as the primary and secondary school of Bario. Along the way there, she told me about the places in Bario, her work, her family and her life. She is a very perseverant woman.. She is a mother of 3 and lives with her parents.  
Sina Christina & Cherisha

After 2 days later, Sekan, the head Project WHEE! coordinator, had decided to have my friend Jonathan and I to follow another Kelabit woman, Sina Christina. She is a mother of five and a housewife. We were stationed at Aunty Dayang’s house (another Bario Project Coordinator), in Arur Dalan every morning. Sina Christina is a fast learner. During the first day we met her, we taught her some words and she was quick in grasping them. Sina Christina’s one year old daughter, Cherisha, is a very bubbly girl, she picks the people that she wants to be with. Agan (Daniel, the Project WHEE! coordinator) was assigned to take care of that little girl whenever Jon and I are teaching or cooking with Sina Christina. The two of them slowly became close friends and they were seen walking together and feeding the chickens behind Aunty Dayang’s house. It was just adorable to see how close they became. 
Unfortunately, due to some circumstances, Sina Christina had to leave for Miri four days after. Lian (Jonathan) and I were quite sad about it. She was a funny mother and loving person. We really hope that she is doing fine and happy with her family. 
The adorable pair 🙂

Lian teaching Sina how to fold a flower using tissue paper

Aunty Dayang of Arur Dalan

During my first meeting with Sina’ Christina, Lian and I slowly grew closer to Aunty Dayang in the process as well. After having a conversation with her for the first time, I find her very admirable and also respectful. She sews, cook, does bead-work, farming, and is currently working on her new Homestay that is just steps away opposite from her house. Her life stories were another eye-opener lessons for me. “Being tough and not giving in easily when you still can go on.” really motivated me to be determined in what I do and what I want to achieve. Not only that, she is also a loving and considerate person. 
After Sina’ Christina left, Lian and I were assigned to follow Aunty Dayang for a while. However, during an afternoon when we were with her, Lian suddenly became very sick. She asked Lian to rest and took care of him. When Lian’s condition became a bit stable at the time, Jeremy and Agan (Supervisor & Coordinator of Project WHEE!) thought of sending him back to the Homestay that we were staying. Aunty Dayang volunteered to give us a ride back to Bario Asal so that Agan and Jeremy could stay back to supervise our other friends who were stationed in Arur Dalan. We were touched by her affection, seeing how she had taken good care of sick Lian. It was really nice of her.
Aping admiring Aunty Dayang as she cuts pineapples. XD

Cultural Night with Aunty Dayang in her traditional clothes together with Lian

Me, Mariam, Aping (with a Parang) and Aunty Dayang at her pineapple farm

Enthusiastic Aping learning how to cut pineapple
Tepuq Sina Rang
Being sick and throwing up was not fun at all. Tepuq and Rinai had taken good care of me for the entire time, checking on me if I ever ended up sleeping on the floor or table when I’m worned out from my fever. Being observant all the time, Tepuq notices things very quickly and therefore will also ask whether we are feeling alright. As sick buddies, Lian and I were really thankful of Tepuq’s caring and observant personality. She would also watch what we ate and made sure that the food were not oily or unsuitable for our condition.
She was an enthusiastic teacher when I helped her out with bead-work or made bracelets for my family as souvenirs. Tepuq even taught me how to make necklaces whenever I finished making a bracelet and that was really kind of her. She would also give some useful feedback on how I could improve in my beading.
Beadwork is fun and healthy! It also enhances creativity!

After spending some time with them, as mothers, all they want from us is to spend time, to communicate more, and care more for them. If we can do that to the things we have (example: technology devices) just because they are expensive, why not value more on the things that are irreplaceable (love & attention), precious (time & age), and will just be given once in our lifetime (parents & names)?
Being given a Kelabit name that is very meaningful to me, I’ll cherish it, love it, and be thankful for it because of these people I’ve met in Bario.
Ji Bee
Three Things of Bario Trip!

Three Things of Bario Trip!


Before to Miri..ambik selfie dulu!
I had my greatest time
understanding and getting to know my beloved DipEd people. I truly appreciate
all the moments i had with them and it really lies deep in my heart where i
feel so thankful and grateful to God that these people exist in my life and they are going to follow me until the end.

My lovely Best Friend 


The people of Bario are so friendly and helpful. They gave us a positive
vibe and made us feel accepted as their family members! They are so trustworthy and the whole population of Bario bonds with each and everyone like one huge
family. Almost everyone in Bario are relatives and it’s really amusing when I
listened to some of their family histories from Tepuq Bulan, Aunty
Janet, Tepuq Sina Baya and Tepuq Sigang. Those stories showed that you don’t have to be related to someone by blood to consider them as your relative but simple trust and a respectful relationship with everyone shows that you acknowledge them and
consider them as your own relative.
Jess with Tepu Ulo


I would love to come back to Bario with my friends after we complete our
Diploma in Education programme. And this time, I would spend some quality time
with Ms.Nicole and gain back what I missed out during my previous stay there.
Not only that, I am determined to climb the Prayer Mountain and stay overnight
with my friends. I would also go back to Bario just to work at the paddy
field, catch chickens and also learn how to cook Bario food from my beloved Tepuq Bulan!


 Three things of Bario Trip.

Divya Sigang Paramasewa

For Ms.Nicole

For Ms.Nicole


Firstly, I would like to say sorry
to Ms.Nicole for losing the small black beaded anklet she gave it to me at the Bario Airport. I lost the anklet
together with my iPad Mini at the Famous Amos Kiosk in Miri Airport due to my
carelessness. I thought that the safest place to keep the anklet was in the
back pocket of my iPad Mini cover. It was just a matter of five minutes and I
lost the most precious gift I had received. Honestly, I was crushed at that
moment and it was the first time my course mates and best friends saw me in tears.
Everyone thought that I cried because of my iPad but I cried because I lost the

Why was that anklet so important to
me that I was not completely sad on losing my iPad but only the small black
beaded anklet mattered?
During my two weeks of stay in Bario, I am pretty sure that the conversations I had with Ms.Nicole did not exceed more than  five minutes.
Honestly, I just had a simple bond with her because I did not make the
effort to get to know her since I only met her during the debriefing session we
had every night and some “Hey, I bumped into Ms. Nicole today” moments.
It was a rainy day and all of my
friends including Aunty Janet, Ms. Nicole’s mother and Tepu Uloh were chilling at
the fireplace and talking all sorts of stories. Ms. Nicole sat beside me and I noticed
that she was wearing a pretty and small black beaded anklet with some other colorful
beads attached to it. I asked Ms.Nicole from where did she buy the anklet
and she replied that the anklet was made on her own. She started explaining to
me how she beaded the anklet and it was interesting to listen to because I could
see the excitement in her eyes. I kept praising her creativity and her
talent. I guess that was the longest conversation I had with her.
At the airport, Ms.Nicole called me
aside and told me, ‘Divya, I want you to have this anklet and I am gifting it
to you”. At that time, I felt so guilty and angry with myself for my reluctance
had made me sort of “lose” a special bonding that I could have formed with
Ms. Nicole and it mattered a lot to me. I felt like an ungrateful person and I kept saying sorry to her. I did not know how to thank her so I just engulfed her in a bone-crushing hug. Although she said it’s okay when I apologized to her for my behavior, I felt really bad and I could not process the series of
events that happened next at the airport with Ms. Nicole. I took a picture with Ms. Nicole
and it was the first one during my entire stay in Bario.

I truly, deeply, and honestly thank
Ms.Nicole for the anklet that she gave because it showed me that wherever you
are, always try to acknowledge and create a small bond with  the people surrounding you. You might meet and
be with them just for an hour or two but the bond, which you create with
them, is special and you must always cherish, as it will be in your
heart always. It is also a sense of respect in the form of love. Love is not
only showed by being caring and affectionate to someone but also in the form of
respect because you need to respect the person before you show your love to them.

I missed that opportunity and I would like to fix it.

Teaching to learn

Teaching to learn

Surprisingly, I learned a lot of Kelabit words on my first day. I must admit that it was difficult to learn those words. I was thinking that if it was difficult for me to learn Kelabit words, it would also be difficult for the Bario women to learn English. Hence, I thought that I would need to be more patient and find strategies to teach English to the Bario women. Most of the content in this post will consist of the Kelabit words that I had learned in Bario.
Below are a few words that I have learned in Kelabit on my first day:
Jonathan Ngadan Uih – My name is Jonathan.
Kuman – Eat
Mirup – Drink
Petabi De Dhtum – Good night
Petabi Rhedum – Good night 
Petabi Le ke thang – Good morning 
Numbers from 0-10 – Na’am, edtah, dua’, teluh, epat, lima’, enam, tuduh, waluh, iwah, puluh.
Uih – I 
Iko – You
Kayu – Tree

Some jungle vegetables and fruit vocabulary that I picked up over time:
Midin. Slightly smaller and finer compared to paku-pakis.
Buah kabar
Daun sup

Daun Isip. Widely used to wrap Nuba’ Laya’ (soft rice)
I was assigned to Christina. Christina is a mother of four and is 28 years old. She looks really young. At first, she was shy to learn English so I built a strong relationship with her and eventually it was easier to teach her English. Hence, I realised the importance of relationship building before teaching an older person.
I must admit that I learned more Kelabit words from her as she already has quite a wide English vocabulary but just lacks the confidence to communicate in English. I learned Bahasa Kelabit from her and she learned the English from me. Both of us used Bahasa Malaysia as a medium of communication.
As we grew closer, she had to leave to Miri for some reasons. I thought Christina would forget about me when she left to Miri but I was so happy when she texted me! After she left, I was paired up with Violacea to teach Tepuq Ribet English. I rested for a few days before joining forces with Vio as I was ill. I came to a conclusion that unexpected things will happen when you are teaching and we must always be prepared to face these changes. 
Christina and her one year old daughter, Cherisha. I truly miss them a lot despite meeting them for only 3 days.
Below are the few words that Christina and I learned using the translation method:
Thank you – Terima kasih
You are welcome – Pa’ad
Sorry – Mutuhdoo
It is okay – Doo enah
Yes – Mo
No – Na’am
Water – Pa’
Food – Nukenen
Rice – Nuba’
Wind – Bario
Mountain – Pu’un
Up – Dita
Down – Benah
Right – Seno’ah
Left – Ka’bing
Cat – U’sing
Dog – Oko
Chicken – La’al
Fish – Luang
Wild boar – Baka
We – Tauh
They – Ideh
He/she – Ieh
Only after learning and practicing the Kelabit language hard, I found this…
I should have found this book earlier though…
I will wrap up this post with some Bahasa Kelabit fun facts:

  • Did you know that the apostrophe sign is pronounced as ‘k’ if is it written at the end of a Kelabit word?
  • Bahasa Kelabit does borrow some words from Bahasa Malaysia.
  • There is no ‘he’ or ‘she’ in Bahasa Kelabit and both are referred to as ‘ieh’.
The Day Before We Left

The Day Before We Left

First of all, I would like to thank eHomemakers and Project WHEE for giving diploma students from School of Education a golden opportunity to participate in this project in Batch 1. It has been such good 16 days spent in Bario. Knowing that I am going home in another 24 hours made me realize that how fast time flies. There are so much to be thankful for and so many great memories of all the great times all of us have shared.
Here comes to our last dinner in Tepu’ Sinah Rang’s homestay before we leave the town. Words can’t describe how delicious the food is in Bario. I could not imagine my life without crispy fried chicken wings and their amazingly sweet pineapples. 

Cultural night was the main highlight of the day! Our tepu-tepu’ looked incredibly stunning in their Kelabit traditional wear and some of them even made an effort to put on make-up at that night! The longhouse was filled with joy, laughter and happiness as the students from Curtin University joined us as well. I had so much fun dancing poco-poco with the others. I am totally in love with the wonderful people of Bario especially my tepu-tepu’, their grandchildren and so many more. (P/s: also my massage customers!)
Tears streamed down my face the moment I lay down on my bed hoping to stay for another night, cause I knew it will be some time till I meet them again. I really cherish every moment I had in Bario and also with the other 10 participants. Can’t wait to hear from batch 2 and batch 3 after this! 🙂  
Xara (Ganit)
Personal development- (How much has Bario changed the way I think?)

Personal development- (How much has Bario changed the way I think?)

I was a teenage girl that never had the chance to escape from a materialistic world. Those with the coolest cars, gadgets, houses, bags and etc are those I lived and get along with. Once I told one of my course mates, “I think my life is kinda miserable. Every single day I asked myself, why am I here? What am I doing? Am I doing things for a reason or a purpose? Or am I doing things because I love what I am doing?”

I asked her and at the same time I am asking myself the same thing all over and over again. Surprisingly, her reply to my question was priceless, and when I say priceless it means 10 times richer than the knowledge I have gained from schools. Oh man, she is one year younger than me and she knew so much about life. Haha you are too mature for that age, my friend.
That happened approximately one week before we flew off to Bario. I had just more than enough time to prepare myself mentally for the two week volunteer trip.
Bario Airport

we are here!

cute little girl

lotus flowers

One of those days when I was walking around the town and enjoying the view in Bario, I stared at those beautiful kids playing in groups at the backyard and I realized that, ‘Oh my god hey, i think this is what i am looking for!’ – I learnt that one does not need to put effort to feel stress-free, it comes freely and naturally. But sometimes, circumstances do not allow me to do what I really want. Besides that, there is always plenty of time and limited space for me to have fun in the city. What are g-shock, charles and keith, nike and etc meant to me now? Well, guessed they are no longer my priorities anymore. The people of Bario, Bario’s beautiful scenery, their strong belief in God, their cultures, literally everything about Bario, I am just too in love with all of it. In fact, money does not buy and provide lasting happiness.

pray before we had our delicious meal! yum.
All in all, I just love how amazing, influencing and meaningful is the town, to me. Instead of saying we are there to help them by improving their English; I would say they were there to teach me about life. I am no longer feeling threatened and insecure with today’s society, I live to impress myself; not others 🙂