A Short Getaway

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 1 reason you’re procrastinating *raises my hand quietly*. I am guilty as charged!
Before we
departed for Bario, we were already told that we would have no access to 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 knowledge and teamwork to figure things out on our own. 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 (by technology), we got to talk and interact more with the people we built relationships with, took strolls and admired the beautiful scenery during our free time, breathed in the fresh Bario air, and took 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 enjoy 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 no grocery stores. I remembered when
Wai Leong and K Rou were looking for tomatoes and we had to search the village to
find out who planted them. If we wanted vegetables we had to pick them from the
jungle. 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 BIT 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!
As
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-
Authentic Hospitality

Authentic Hospitality

I was facing trouble narrowing down my university choices recently and though I had already made my decision before going to Bario, my mind still wandered back to the time when someone asked me “What are you looking for in a university experience?”
My answer came without hesitation–like instinct–and I felt more sure about it than any decisions I had made regarding university in the past couple of months; “A sense of community.”
Now I’m wishing for a university in Bario.
View of Bario from atop Arur Dalan’s Prayer Mountain.
Everyone in Bario felt like family. Everyone knew everyone and even if they didn’t know someone, they knew someone who knew that someone. In the long house and on the streets, people waved and smiled at each other. There is just no walking past anyone without some kind of acknowledgment from either party. My three weeks in Bario, I found myself waving and smiling at people I didn’t know and feeling the warmth in their reciprocating smiles.

The sense of community in Bario is so strong. During my time there, I saw the ladies preparing for functions and receiving important guests. I saw how everyone would pitch in cooking and even share their eating utensils from home for the guests to use!

Countless moments in Bario I felt the hospitality of the community and saw how generosity was so effortless and second nature to them.
One hot afternoon, my friends and I were roasting in the heat for some time before one of us (thank you Nithya!) was shameless enough to flag down a truck for a ride which they gladly gave.
Panoramic view during our hot afternoon walk.
On the right is tortoise Rui Ci walking towards us while we waited under trees with minimal shade.
There was also another time when my tepuq and I were walking from Bario Asal to Arur Dalan (kampung to kampung). A truck stopped next to us and the driver greeted us before offering us a ride without us even asking.
I once walked from Arur Dalan to Bario Asal alone and was offered a ride on a motorcycle by a guy who I had never met but had only waved to minutes before!
Rainbow shot while walking between Arur Dalan and Bario Asal.
I know that what I’ve listed are limited to free rides but their hospitality extends to so much more than that. Even Turo, Bario Asal’s resident hornbill is hospitable! It followed me and Nithya all the way from Bario Asal to Arur Dalan on the day before our flight! On many occasions we were offered drinks, fish, chicken, wild boar, BBQ etc… the list is unending!
Turu comes into the long house once in a while hunting for food.
I saw it eat a cotton bud once :O
I love the sincerity that comes with their generosity; that they are under no obligation and yet they expect nothing in return. In Bario, I felt accepted; I felt a sense of belonging.

It wasn’t until I got home that I TRULY appreciated how beautiful the people and the atmosphere was in Bario and what a stark contrast it is to the city environment. As I walked through KL Sentral, hauling my heavy bag exploding with the weight of Bario’s generosity, I caught myself smiling and waving to strangers who didn’t wave back.

Coming back from Bario after three weeks felt like returning to the cold unsmiling reality from a fantasy world far far away.

The locals there like to joke that Bario has it’s own air conditioning system without a switch because it gets really chilly at night. But walking through KL Sentral, the air inside Malaysia’s concrete jungle felt colder than the air of warmth and hospitality surrounding Bario; which now feels like it’s own idyllic country tucked away behind towering hills and the magnificent rain forests of Borneo.

Officially, my task in Bario was to teach the local Kelabit women English but really, in my short three weeks there, I have learnt so much more than any knowledge I could have imparted.

How to be…Happy :)

How to be…Happy :)

Bario is my happy place. There were genuinely so many things
to be glad about in Bario. It just made me think, who needs the latest iPhone
model anyway? Here’s a list of things that made me (and maybe my friends too)
happy.
Happy people 🙂 No, they’re not twins. 
1.      
When there’s Vico/Milo to drink in the morning.
(It’s a luxury)
2.      
When my friend Nithya rolled down the small hill
behind SMK. It was hilarious!
Nithya lying on the grass before rolling down the hill.
3.      
When it’s a sunny day and all our laundry were dry!
4.      
When we managed to hitchhike back to the Bario
Asal longhouse. (Thanks Nithya!)
My batchmates getting a ride at the back of Tepuq Sinah Rnag’s 4WD.
5.      
When Uncle Julian decided to give us a ride to
or from the hydro dam.
6.     When my tepuq boiled hot water for me to shower with.
It was the only time I conditioned my hair in Bario.
7.      
When we managed to pick a big bag of vegetables
from the jungle.
8.      
When we conquered Prayer Mountain!
On top of Prayer Mountain.
9.      
When it’s the weekends and we could sit
and do nothing for the whole day.
10.  
When the SK and SMK teaching sessions go well.
11.  
When it didn’t rain while we’re drying the
paddy.
12.  
When the tepuqs told us inappropriate jokes.
13.  
When I managed to catch 20 fish for the first
time, on my own (my tepuq had to leave me alone to do some chores).
14.  
When I could finally differentiate between
vegetable species after a while.
15.  
When we danced in the middle of the road before
going to the airport.
16.  
Watching Wai Leong (Apoi) do the traditional Kelabit
dance. He’s gifted!
Wai Leong (Apoi) rocking his Kelabit headgear. (Third from the left)
17.  
When my friend Hooi Ju had a chance to go into the paddy
field and got muddy for the first time. That smile on her face was so priceless
it made me really happy.  
Tepuq Ulo teaching Hooi Ju to fish after she went into the paddy field.
18.  
Having fried chicken wingsss!
19.  
When the marshmallows were roasted perfectly. And
dipped with chocolate. Mmmm.
20.  
When we surprised Nithya with a Bario birthday cake on her birthday!
Bario birthday cake.
21.  
When our tepuqs learned a new word!
22.  
When we were told that we have beautiful voices after singing in church haha.
23.  
Coming up with dance steps to Jai-Ho with my
batchmates!
24.  
Seeing a rainbow <3
Rainbow! 
25.  
PINEAPPLES.

Pineapple ceremony.
(From the left) Nithya, Tepuq Ulo, Tepuq Ribed, K Rou and me
The list goes on. In my opinion, the secret to happiness is to be appreciative
and thankful of the little things.

And that is the biggest lesson I brought back
from Bario.

Love,
Pei Chi

My Volunteering Journey

My Volunteering Journey

Me and my assigned lady – Tepuq Ribed
A
lot of people threw me a question when I was back from Bario: “How does
Project WHEE! work? I thought you guys were teaching English over there, but why does it seem like you are all working in the paddy field?”
I
like the question. Before I decided to join Project WHEE!, I myself took some
time to figure out how this program worked. The main objective of Project WHEE!
is to empower Bario’s mountainous community generate an income
through eco-tourism. As such, we as participants are there to
teach the women English, so they are able to communicate with tourists more
effectively as community guides or home-stay hosts in the future. Besides, we
are there to facilitate the women’s development of eco-tourism activities for the
local community, guiding them to execute these activities, and helping them in preparation
of other sustainable projects.
Everything
sounds cool. Still, we are there to
teach the ladies English, so why do we work in the paddy field?
The main
reason is because Project WHEE! emphasises on teaching English by shadowing the
women. These women are not ordinary primary or secondary schools’ students.
They have their own schedule every day. It is hard for them to sit down for 6 –
7 hours in a classroom to learn English. For this reason, our classroom could be anywhere. In the morning, we would kick start our class in the lady’s house
over coffee and cookies. After that, we would have our lesson knee-deep in mud,
in the middle of the lady’s paddy field in the afternoon. It is quite exciting
and exhilarating when you think about it. Everywhere could be a live classroom
for them.
I
guess now most of you have a basic idea of how this program works and why most
of us are helping the ladies in the paddy field or in the farm. The idea of teaching
the women English by shadowing them sounds great. Nonetheless, everything has
pros and cons. There is a grey area of this project. A lot of people who don’t
have a basic idea how this project works tend to be bias. They perceived us,
the participants, are the budak bandar
(city kids) who travel there solely
to experience the lifestyle of the Kelabit’s people. I couldn’t say they were
wrong. We are there to teach the women English but the truth is we are there to
explore the way of life of the Kelabit too. This is when the participants play an
important role. As a participant, we have to prove to the locals we are not only
there to experience the lifestyle but we are there to teach as well. Besides
teaching English, we have to become the ambassadors of Project WHEE!, telling the
local folks and the tourists why we are there.
Anyway,
being a participant requires a lot of discipline and persistence, especially when we teach the
women English by shadowing them. We have
to keep reminding ourselves the reason we are there. I, myself faced a lot of
challenges when I was teaching English. The lady I was paired with is Tepuq Ribed. I was lucky, both of us clicked instantly when
we met. There weren’t a lot of awkward silences between us. She is very
passionate in learning. However, as she is illiterate, it took time for me to
build her confidence to open up and converse with others in English,
especially to the foreigners.
Other than that, she often couldn’t remember the things that she
had learnt. A lot of times, when I asked her: “What is this, tepuq?” She told me
she has forgotten the name of the item. I had to keep practising with her. It requires a lot of patience.  It was not as easy as I thought. There were plenty of times I felt my efforts put in seemed pointless. She just
couldn’t get it.
Whenever
I felt like giving up, I always reminded myself, do the best and God will do the
rest. Rui Ci and Jed, our coordinators always reminded us not to demand the
outcome and to not be discouraged if we are not able to see the outcome
instantly. I fully agree with them in this case. 3 weeks is just too short to
get everything done. It requires long-term efforts from a lot of parties to
achieve the goal of the project. I am glad she could finally remember some simple words that I taught her when I gave her a call after returning from Bario. 😀 😀
Anyway, it was an amazing 3 weeks journey in Bario. The experiences I have undergone
are among those I would treasure for the rest of my life.
I hope this post gives you a basic idea of ProjectWHEE! and perhaps inspire you as well. 

Cheers!

😀
Become a farmer? Yes? No?

Become a farmer? Yes? No?

What is your dream?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
To become a doctor?
A lawyer?
A teacher?
An engineer?
… …
How about a farmer?
“Farmers farm for the love of farming. They
love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the
presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe
even when it is making them miserable.” –
Wendell Berry.
The joy of a farmer – hard work paid off! 🙂
Tepuq Ribed with her harvested crops (tapioca)
Based on Wendell Berry’s quote, it might sound interesting to be a farmer but the reality might
disappoint you. Farmers do a lot of physical
labour every day.
In
Bario, many of the farmers are
elderly women. Throughout my three weeks’ stay in Bario, I barely saw any youngsters
helping these old ladies in the paddy field or in the farm.
I am
Gen-Y and I somehow understand why young people nowadays don’t like to work in the
paddy field. It is neither an easy job nor an effortless money-making venture.
It is tough and it involves a lot of accountability. To be a farmer, you have
to be exposed under the sun most of the time, you would have to handle materials and tools that could easily get you dirty or injure your fingers, or wounds in the blink of an eye.
It
is not as interesting as it sounds. And it doesn’t sound ‘cool’ when you
tell people you want to become a farmer when all your friends are very “ambitious”; that they want to become a doctor, an astronaut or an engineer. Can you imagine what would happen when none of the young generation wants to become farmers? What
if the existing farmers – the old ladies – pass away in the future??
Who
is going to take up the role/responsibility to grow paddy or be an ecotourism community guide, as we are now training them to be?
Buy imported rice?
Hire cheap foreign labour to solve the problem?
Can these foreign workers fully replace the locals?
I
guess all of us would have an answer deep down in our hearts.
I realised there’s something severely flawed in our society – in terms of ambitions and aspirations. Most of us are being told that we should become doctors, lawyers, and scientists instead of farmers or fishermen when we were kids. But…hey guys!! Each
and every job is equal. All jobs
deserve a decent pay and respect from people. There is no such thing that a
job is more superior to another job. Do you think the world is complete if everyone wants to become an engineer? Where should we get our food then? 
All of us are different. Diversity is what makes our world as interesting as it is today. How boring if everyone has the same ambition? If you want to become a farmer, there is nothing to be
ashamed of. Just aim to be the best farmer in the world! 
Remember, nothing in this world is easy. Likewise, nothing is hard. As long as you have the passion, farming could be interesting even if most people think it is tough. Just keep the passion going ! ^o^/~
Tepuq Ribed (the happy farmer) and me. 😀
When Silence Becomes A Language

When Silence Becomes A Language

This was inspired by the quietness of Bario
where the whisper of the breeze and the clucks of chickens are more audible
compared to the incessant beeping of phones and the chatter of humans. Also, I was really impressed by the work of the quiet but creative kids at the local primary and secondary school. They had
a different way of learning and expressing their creativity. Their virtual
worlds were filled with ideas about A.I. robots, mind-controlling gaming
devices, living on a rainbow and many more mind blowing things. I would like to
express my feelings of experiencing those quiet moments using the least words
possible. (after all it is about silence)


  When silence is no longer awkward,
  It becomes a moment to listen deeply to
another person’s heartbeat,

  A device to look close into another
soul’s perception,

  An instrument to harmonize with nature.


  When silence doesn’t drive you crazy
anymore,

  It becomes a tool to delve into your
imagination,

  A mirror to reflect your being,
  A way to reconsider the way you live.


 When silence becomes a language, that’s
where the beauty of life unfolds.




On top of Prayer Mountain 

Srinithya aka Uding Aran-

Jungle Expedition

Jungle Expedition

One of the ladies I was assigned to for the second half of my time in Bario was Tepuq Sina Do Ayu, a caring lady who made sure I was always full and fed me relentlessly. Most of my days were spent weeding her garden and pineapple farm or helping her with cooking and beading. Other than that, I relaxed and chatted with her family quite a bit.
Tepuq’s daughter, Sina Katherine was back from Miri and on her last day in Bario, she wanted to pick jungle vegetables.
That was the beginning of one of my most memorable moments in Bario.
The four of us (Tepuq Sina Do Ayu, Tepuq Do Ayo (her husband), Sina Katherine and myself) left for Arur Laab jungle before 10am. Everyone was in long pants and long sleeves. My tepuq had graciously borrowed me boots while everyone else was in shoes or slippers.
View along the way to the Arur Laab jungle.
And so we began our little expedition towards the jungle walking up and down hill, crossing Tepuq Supang’s paddy fields and finally reaching a hut where water from the dam passed through. After that, it was the overgrown rain forests of Sarawak.
The paths were narrow and we bent and climbed over tree barks. At one point, the road gave way to only tree roots where we stepped and walked on with nothing but a steep slope beneath us if we were to fall. We saw porcupine quills along the route and since it had only rained the day before, there were plenty of leeches! It wasn’t my first time seeing a leech (it was my second!) but it was my first time seeing live leeches unattached to a body.
Wriggling little creatures of hell.
Leech chilling on a leaf, waiting for the next unsuspecting victim.
By that time, some leeches had already clung onto my tepuq but she just pulled them off and chopped them up with her parang (machete) like it was nothing. I had leeches clinging on to my pants and boots but none on my skin. My tepuq even had one on her neck! I just stood there wide eyed while she nonchalantly chopped up the leech and smiled at me.
Yes, it is as badass as it sounds.
After that, I got a little paranoid and began to pat on my neck and shoulders periodically.
On our way through the forests, we had to walk across a small waterfall. It was not a problem for me as I had the boots on and could walk across with my pants still dry. However, both my tepuqs and sina insisted I step carefully on the rocks to keep even my boots dry while they treaded the water, holding my hand and got their pants wet up to their shins.
I was really moved that they cared so much for me and truly felt like I was a part of the family; like I was their precious cucu (grandchild).

Our hike into the forest continued where we kept our eyes open for dure, a type of jungle vegetable.
Dure looks like a green leaf.

That was an unhelpful but very accurate description. I was given my own little plastic bag where I could fill it with any kind of leaf that I THOUGHT was a jungle vegetable. I knew my leaves were going to be evaluated later lest I picked some poisonous or inedible leaf. :X


Our hike continued into a field of renuyun where most of the contents of my little bag came from.
A field of renuyun. The only place I could confidently pick jungle veggies!
My tepuq holding up renuyun leaves.
While plucking the leaves, I kept asking Tepuq Sina Do Ayu where were we and what we were doing in English. I was drilling the phrases “We are in the jungle” and “We are picking jungle vegetables” over and over again. She couldn’t answer me when I asked her the same questions 5 minutes later so she got Sina Katherine to help her answer instead.

After filling one basket (we had two) with renuyun and dure, we continued uphill where we saw the dam that was the source of water for Arur Dalan village.

We later went on a route that led to something like a banana garden in the middle of the jungle where the two tepuqs quickly got to work. They collected the banana flowers and the “ubud” which are smooth white piths located deep in the middle of the bark of the banana trees.

There was a Pineapple Ceremony at 2pm later that afternoon in the Bario Asal longhouse and so the older people of the group (Tepuq Sina Do Ayu and Tepuq Do Ayo, the pros) began chopping up the banana trees like crazy while the younger ones (Sina Katherine and myself, the inexperienced kids) stood watching by the side without parangs (they didn’t trust me with a knife! >=[).

They worked fast and hard so Tepuq Sina Do Ayu and I could make it back in time for the Pineapple Ceremony. Watching them work struck me again how impressive these tepuqs are. Age is not a factor. You can decide whether or not to be physically fit into your sixties or seventies. Age is just a number.
Badass tepuqs “skinning” the banana barks.
After filling our second basket, we rushed home to attend the ceremony. Unfortunately, my tepuq and I still ended up late for the Pineapple Ceremony.
Nevertheless, it was a great day. It was my first time going so deep into the jungle and also my first time picking jungle veggies! What an adventure! Throughout the escapade, I was really moved by how everyone constantly worried and reminded me to be careful. They were very patient with me taking small steps along the steep parts as I am clumsy on my feet. The tepuqs also insisted on carrying the heavy baskets all the way back home but I carried one of them anyway. 🙂
All in all, it was a wonderful day. I probably say this since I was the only one with boots (THANK YOU SO MUCH TEPUQ!) and also the only one who walked out of the jungle without any leech bites!
(From left: Sina Katherine, Tepuq Do Ayo, Tepuq Sina Do Ayu)
Tepuq and family! Peace out!
Burn, baby, burn!

Burn, baby, burn!

There is a
certain something about writing this,
while watching as the entire area surrounding me burns.
My view from the charred log that I’m sitting on while scribbling this into my notebook.
Right now,
in the days following Sina Mayda about her daily life, I am doing something I
never thought I’d ever do. Ever.
Setting off forest fires. The environmentalist in me is absolutely disgusted
with myself while my inner pyromaniac is basically rubbing her hands with glee,
chanting “burn, baby, burn!”
There’s a rather strange beauty to it. 
Malaysians
have a tendency to roll their eyes and go: “Gah, the Indonesians are burning
again, that’s why the stupid haze lah!” Because obviously everybody knows that
the entire country participates in an annual open burning fiesta for the sheer
heck of it.
Now I am
imagining hundreds of Indonesian families who burn their land so that they can plant crops again. So they can feed themselves, and their families. Sure, it’s
by far one of the least environmentally friendly ways of rehabilitating the
land, but I think I sort of get it now. It is the fastest, cheapest and easiest
way of getting a very necessary job done.

“When used properly, slash and burn agriculture
provides communities with a source of food and income. Slash and burn allows
for people to farm in places where it usually is not possible because of dense
vegetation, soil infertility, low soil nutrient content, uncontrollable pests,
or other reasons.”

Source: geography.about.com

I am still having
extremely bipolar feelings about this, but all I can do is to not condone, nor to
condemn. This is their way of life. All I can do is tell my sina how bad this is for the air as I continue
helping her with my trusty purple lighter…
The heat is
intense and I’m choking every time I inhale a lungful of ash. Every time it
looks like it is about to die out, a gust of wind blows and it flares up again.
Every time a section of the hill is deemed not black enough, more paddy husks
is piled on and set fire to again.
*hides from the environmentalists’ rage*
We’re being
very careful with it and are staying around until it completely burns out to
make sure it doesn’t spread beyond the actual intended area. The area that will
become my sina’s kebun (farm) on one
of the hills that surrounds the valley her paddy field is at. The same hill that
they one day hope to build a guesthouse on.
A few days
later we go back and drop around six different types of seeds directly into
the ash…
A few days
before I leave, we visit the hill again… And there are tiny leaves sprouting
from the ground.
This is
life.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of the tiny leaves growing from the ashes,
but this is the closest to the memory of them that I can find on the net.
Source: shanassecretgarden.com

 ~alicia nicholle aka Ruran Ricky

P.S. The
irony that Ai Jin who was following Aunty Dayang was helping to put out forest fires that day while I was off somewhere else starting them is
not lost on any of us.

Start Blank, Then Stop, Look and Listen

Ever imagined stepping into a foreign environment and meeting new people? We have been there before, meeting great people and not-so-great people. Once in a while before experiencing another culture, we are briefed on that culture, its dos and don’ts. However, we get so immersed in the happenings and events that we forget about the rules and norms. Sometimes, our beliefs about something is inaccurate or worse, offensive towards others. Maybe it is time to just stop for a while……
Let’s start with the biggest group of outsiders in Bario at that time: us. Most of the team have been through ToT (Training of Trainers) workshops, learning about what we are going into, and knowing where is safe to tread around. Those countless hours of culture sensitivity and stuff were not all a waste, in fact it did prepare some to a certain extent. Nevertheless, there were always some incidents that occurred because people momentarily forgot about which buttons to not push, incidents that can be avoided if we just stop and look. I admit, all of us had some hard time trying to tread around the norms and common rules of others there. We are human, who commits mistakes, but don’t you think some common mistakes can be easily avoided? There were numerous cases where misunderstanding could be avoided if people took more time to understand the situation better.

Batch 3 Group Selfie (Credits to Alicia)
We had our misunderstandings within the team and as a team with others, sometimes due to miscommunication, others rash actions. In the end, we have this big argument and discord among others which takes days to be settled. In most cases, all the intentions were good, it just was conveyed in a not-so-perfect manner. My Aunty Tagung, the lady I was assigned to, told me once that she was uncomfortable with people because they just talk too much, and not giving her enough privacy at times. I assume that those people have good intentions and just wanted a friendly chat, but maybe there is a limit to everything. There were times where people did not understand the situation clearly and jump into rash conclusions, making the situation worse than ever. If only all of us did take our time and analyse it more, many incidents can be avoided.
During my time with Project WHEE! in Bario, we came across foreign tourists staying at the area. 
Most were actually very heart-warming people, people who wished you could have known them better. There were also people who already had their stereotyped mind-set on others, enforcing their own ideology to make conclusions of some things. When we step into a totally new environment, we have to enter it with a clean, blank mind, without any assumptions or preconceptions of the place. It makes a lot of difference not to assume things, and acting safe with others. The assumption of wrong ideas may cause some discomfort towards others, because the mind-set we have on them would subconsciously be translated into our actions, tone and words. We may not notice those changes, but many on the receiving end do detect them. Those heart-warming tourists were very courteous in nature and were very thoughtful in their actions and speech, I am glad to have met those rare sincere kindness of people. If only more people were like that, if only we could learn to be as such, the world would have been a much quiet, and kind place.

No doubt all of us will be experiencing a new culture or living in a new place soon, at the same time meeting new people too. Just bear in mind, before anything, if we just stop, look around and analyse the situation we are in, and listen to what the other person has to say before making any action, less conflicts will happen. Many misunderstandings can be easily avoided, if we all start on a blank page of mind, and just stop, look and listen.
Lesson Learnt

Lesson Learnt

Aunty Jenette and I 
Throughout my time in Bario,
I was assigned to Aunty Jenette. She is the mother to Aunty Nicole, the Bario
Asal coordinator. I first met Aunty Jenette on the day we landed in Bario as we were journeying to Tepuq Sinah Rang’s homestay.
Aunty Jenette has numerous jobs. From owning a bead shop, planting paddy in the fields and to running a homestay, I was immediately impressed because doing these three different things require many different skills and also hard work. 
When we first spoke, I noticed that Aunty Jenette speaks very fluent English. During the meet and greet session with all the other Tepuq, I remember talking to Aunty Jenette and getting to know her. From the start, she was very lively and open to talk though she barely knew me. She shared with me the jobs that she does, about her family especially her children and even explained to me The Bario Revival in 1973 when I asked of the significance of the cross on Prayer Mountain. She spoke most of the time while I listened. 

I was really glad that I got paired with Aunty Jenette. Throughout the next two weeks, I also realised that Aunty Jenette is also a very good cook and without a doubt she is a very knowledgeable woman who knows Bario like the back of her hand. Whenever I asked her about bits and pieces of this place she grew up in, she happily tells me its history such as the various places in Bario that were once an airstrip and how the longhouses in Bario got their names. 

Through her telling me these stories, I realised that I myself do not quite know the history of the city that I live in. If someone were to ask me about it, I would most likely stammer and be tongue-tied while struggling to recall some details of it. To be frank, I have been ignorant about it and did not think it is important because I thought that no one would ask me of it so there is no need to know such information. Now, as I think about it, I realise that it is not about just knowing such information but it is about appreciating how the place where I lived came about and the challenges overcame to become what it is today. 

This, is one of the lessons learnt while spending time with Aunty Jenette.