14 August 2010

Tribute to (Cast Away) Teachers: My Journey to The Middle of Nowhere

[I was actually planning to spare this entry for next year’s Teacher’s Day but since that seems to be so far and away from now, I decided to put it on earlier. After all, sacrifices made by teachers should be appreciated all the time and not only on a single day (although they get paid quite handsomely:-P)]

So, this short documentary by the Education Ministry of Malaysia has captured the hearts of so many people including myself who see the honorability in the sacrifices made by some of our teachers as something to be deeply appreciated. This documentary, according to some of my teacher friends, has been played in front of newly-graduated teachers at teaching colleges and universities all over Malaysia before they get posted to their respective schools. Needless to say, what was intended to give them some kind of self-motivation actually scare most of them to death. Hehe. Ohh, and YOU GOTTA WATCH IT..
I WAS VERY LUCKY when my job required me to go to THAT VERY SCHOOL in THAT VERY DOCUMENTARY recently – a school called SK Abuan which is located in one of the innermost parts of Sabah.
We set off the adventure by undergoing a free massage for about an hour – except that this kind of massage would be very likely to break your bones if you haven’t drank enough of the calcium-enriching Anlene.
For one thing, the road is not really a road. In fact, it is a road roughly built to accommodate the needs of logging activities that had been going on very intensively in this area for so many years now.
Our boat ride started off at this bridge here which looked more like a makeshift to me.
Again, don’t get fooled, it wasn’t built for the rakyat but more for the logging needs. Whatever mean of infrastructure here wasn’t actually built for the rakyat but more for the money they siphoned in at the cost of our natural wildlife habitat and precious rainforest.
By going on a boat ride along the turbulent and sometimes ferocious Sugut River, we actually put our lives in the hands of this father and son here. Errrrr, literally.
Oh and to all the contractors, if you happen to have one of those unfortunate asses to get a project in any of the kampongs only accessible by river, it is advisable to bring your own supply of petrol. Believe me, it would save a lot on your money and use it to buy something else, say, beer. Hehe.
The boat ride started off quite well in the beginning that I actually found myself camwhoring every now and then.
Everybody was having the biggest smile. We felt more like being in yet another advertisement for Cuti Cuti ...... Australia!LOL!
Even this 'Aussie' boatman looked so relaxed and tension-free. He seemed to be enjoying the smooth ride as much as we all were.
We were visually fed with the beautiful greenery on the river bank of the Sugut River and I was somehow reminded of the fun that I had had when I went for the river cruise in Sukau last year.
I was especially attracted by long rows of trees with their eye-catching red leaves that seem to dominate the riverside panoramic view along the Sugut River.
They seemed to add on some extra color to the already beautiful lush greenery which reminded me of the paintings I used to paint-brush when I wowed my Art teachers SO MANY TIMES back at school. :-P
But of course, our smiles died down almost immediately when the first sight of rock clusters loomed up right in our direction.
WE all knew there was no way of avoiding them. We had to 'glide' over them. The goyang kaki time for a Cuti Cuti Australia advert was over. It was time to get a good grip of the boat and waited for the real adventure to begin. *gasping
To tell the truth, with quite a number of us on the tiny boat and mostly errrr, with respect, overweight, I wasn’t confident that the boat WAS NOT going to lose its balance and flip over if a strong current struck over it.
As the boat nearing the cluster of rocks, I found myself counting 3….2…..1….. and suddenly got panic.
In the middle of my panicky state, the boat handler stuck one of his legs out onto a stone to keep the boat from spinning around. You see, the boat should never be allowed to spin around and let the strong current strike over the side. It would definitely flip over.
We are talking about the power of water and you know how damn powerful it is. In this case, experiences are what matters most. The boat handler seemed to know what to do.
We managed to get through it. Wave of relief washed over us. The smiles returned... :-) 
More and more of human settlements were seen along the riverbank. FYI, most of the people that stay in this isolated part of the state came from the native tribe of Orang Sungai which is by translation – the river people.
They were said to be a sub-ethnic to the bigger group of Dusun – something that most of them have been vehemently opposing over the years. They’d rather declare themselves independantly an ethnic group and not a sub (whatever you people...)
Sugut River is actually full of big rocks so ready to rip your boat apart if you happen to be unlucky enough to bump into them.
Believe me, it isn’t a game that you wanna play play with.
After the first challenge, I couldn’t give my thumps-up to the boatman YET knowing that they’d be more challenges waiting for us ahead. And sure enough.
Counting again (1…2…3….) and panic again.
This time, the boat handler had to work his ass off harder than the first one.
There were quite a number of panic moments that we went through but of course I couldn’t capture all of them. I was too busy trying all I could not to get thrown out of the boat.
With so many stuffs that I had stupidly brought with me, I wasn’t yet ready to say good bye to my IC, credit and ATM cards, driving license, Prudential Insurance card (ehem!) ahd my hard-earned 50 bucks that I had had in my wallet. Soooooooooo many of them LAH!
After a long series of ebbs and tides and near heart-attacks, the intended destination finally came into sight. 
Ladies and gentlemen.... we have reached the famous SK Abuan!
We were there just when the children were about to leave school.
And believe me; nothing could prepare you with the sight of children very much in the middle of nowhere carrying so much hope in their faces and still uncertainties abound.
But then, I might have said it in the past, and I am gonna say it again. EDUCATION IS HOPE. Somehow I felt relieved that they DO go to school. AT least the future holds SOMETHING for them. Imagine those stateless kids that roam the streets of Kota Kinabalu.:-(
So, stepping out from the boat and on to the ground, I suddenly had the visual of myself being Cikgu Azli in the documentary – and I was there to report for work on the very first day. o.O
Whoever gets posted to teach here for sure would bear the biggest challenges on their backs. I FELT for Cikgu Azli.
Many of my teacher friends that got posted to the inner parts of Sabah confessed how BOREDOM is their biggest challenge. Some of them enjoyed the solitude after quite awhile but the loneliness could be a constant ache to them.

The geographical factor only allows them to go out to the world of civilization once in a month if not months. There really is nothing much to do to kill time – every day of the week – every week of the month – every month of the year – and if they are ‘luckier’, every year of the years!
No KFCs, no McDs, no Giants, no Servays, no kopitiams, no movies, no karaoke, no beer, no girls, no errrrrr, sex may be? I don't know. That's what they told me. Hehe. It's like being sent to the land of nothingness.  
Being in the middle of nowhere with nothing much to do to pass by time, most of them would opt to succumb to farming.
Growing up in a farming family (yes!), I personally think farming is quiet therapeutic though. If I were them, I would do the same.
I mean, how many teachers that you know that can grow maize plants as successfully as they do here? Ohh, I know quite a lot of them actually. They grow just about everything. Errrrrr, at least in the facebook's Farmville. :-P
As being somebody who loves to meet people very much, I can’t imagine myself having to stay there for even a week. I’ve really got nothing but respect for teachers LIKE Cikgu Azli. What they do is such a heroic act.
Saying good bye to SK Abuan later, it was time to get back to the nightmare boat ride again.
OH well, my logical thinking had expected that it would be a much more easier a ride on the returning trip considering how we’ll go with the flow of the river this time.
I was wrong. In fact, the strong flow would be more than happy to accelerate the boat forward and shove it right into any of the rocks.
Hence, there was a need to be more careful.
You can actually give a little bit of contribution by doing something like this.
We were spared from the water in the outbound journey but not quite so in the inbound.
We HAD to jump out of the boat because the boat was flipping over.
Not really, in fact it was dead stuck. Hehe.
It would be too cruel to stay in the boat when the boatmen had to try very very hard to get it moving.   
After quite awhile, I actually found all the adrenaline rush to be quite exciting and I kinda enjoyed it. I knew I was not really so bad a swimmer so getting thrown out of the boat wouldn’t really kill me. What killed me was the idea of ‘losing’ my baby. My baby LX3! After all it wasn’t waterproof. :-P
Which was why – seeing the bridge again finally was such a great relief.
I was back on the soil and everything of me was safe.
And of course, another moment picture of us – the people who survived the ferocious Sugut River. :-P
SO, that was how our little adventure had turned out to be. For your information, the documentary was taken many years ago when the idea of constructing a road across the district of Paitan was still far from reality.
Thanks to the Government’s commitment in providing a better access to the logging areas in the district and in expanding the Palm Oil plantation for the ‘western’ companies to siphon in more money from the land of Sabah – the Paitan road has made reaching the villages such as Abuan much easier now. In fact, we managed to return to the main road just before 4pm.
Ohh……… and to all the teachers who are to be posted next week (hello friends! Welcome to Sandakan! Welcome to the real world! :-P), if you happen to get posted to SK. Abuan (heard there are 4 vacancies to be urgently filled there), do not die of a heart attack yet. SK ABUAN is now much more reachable than it used to be. With a full RM1500 of allowance coming into your pocket every month, believe me, it’s not gonna be the end of the world for you. Good luck! He he he. *evil grin 


Kelvin said...

I will think u are in amazon forest from those river pics if this is a wordless post.

JIPP said...

haha. Yeahh. Ppl wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Reminded me of the movie Anaconda. Hehe.

aud said...

What a valuable experience you had going into the interior of the Interior. I respect the teachers who accept their posting in such places; in Sarawak the same story in the really ulu places (and I use ulu here in the most nicest possible meaning)

Best thing is after school hours you can do some planting, go fishing etc. And itu RM1,500 can be left untouched :):):)

JIPP said...

yeah, 'ULU' is the right word to describe it. hehe. It's getting paid extra for the boredom. I'd rather call it 'boredom allowance'. Hehe. But that RM1500 is a big money mannn... :-D

thomas said...

Nice your journey into the wilderness of Sabah.

JIPP said...

Thanks Thomas. Yeahh, lucky to have joined it. Seeing the less-explored side of Sabah.

Olive Resorts said...

Wow nice.....you also get the various fun places in pench.Pench is a beautiful resort.It is famous for its tracking.For more details visit resorts in pench national park


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