Monday, July 14, 2014

Catching stars and swimming in seas.

If I allow myself more imagination than usual, playing with fireflies was a little like chasing stars. You don't quite see them till your eyes adjust but when you do, even the most jaded can surely afford some wonder at these little flickers of light that fly up close and land nearby. If you're lucky, you get them on your palm, and for a fleeting moment, you have a star.

It wasn't just the magic of our last night on Kliau River with fireflies and proboscis monkeys that made my Sabah trip what it was - which was wonderful and memorable, but even in the plane as we approached Kota Kinabalu International Airport, I was already falling in love. The glittery ocean leaked into little rivers which we could see from above and every gap in the clouds revealed a beachside home or green mountain which seemed like paradise.

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I was in Sabah for a mission trip, the first (and hopefully not the last) one I've ever been on, thanks to Pantai Baptist Church (especially Sarah Tan and her dad, Mr Seng Kee!) and was tasked with teaching 18 classes about Creation and Sin over a period of three days. Prior to the trip, I had never stepped foot in East Malaysia but have always wanted to, and being able to head there with a group of fun God-loving people made it such a great experience.

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We were sent to Keningau for four days to host a bible school for stateless children who can't receive national education because they lack proper identification papers. There, they primarily speak Malay, meaning that the classes were to be conducted in Malay! D: Some were given other jobs like games, music, and craft. The kids ranged from the ages of three up till fifteen and probably the biggest challenge was adapting the material to sufficiently interest children of all ages.

With the kindergarten kids who were rough and rowdy (yet somehow still adorable with their hands around each other’s necks), the stories had to be peppered with games in between and dramatic expressions. As the kids got older and got ‘too cool for school’, copying off each other and looking bored in class, I had to ask them questions and get them to volunteer. After every class, I found myself growing more and more fond of the kids there, but also more and more tired. I now understand why it becomes so easy for teachers to decide not to care, especially if students aren’t interested.

It’s exhausting feigning enthusiasm when you’re tired, and even more so when the enthusiasm isn’t returned. And I don’t quite deserve to say it because the children I taught were wonderful and every class made me smile.. but if they weren’t, I don’t know how I would’ve stayed patient.

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My heart ached for the primary kids when it was time to leave, but it wasn’t just them that made it so amazing..

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This is tarap, a fruit that’s apparently only available at East Malaysia and it is sweet and addictive! I had never seen it before with its spindly durian-like shell, cempedak-like texture, and mangosteen-like colour but we fell in love with it and held mini tarap parties where we feasted on these fruits night after night.

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And had gigantic coconuts too!

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And red durian – which I didn’t try but was a marvel!

We headed there expecting to come home a few kilos lighter from the work.. but with the fruits and the good food, it definitely was not the case.

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Hello, cholesterol! Delicious, glorious, golden, egg yolk fried brinjal.

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And for once, vegetables that I actually enjoyed.

The best thing about it was that I got to go there with my mother who has always been a fantastic travel buddy, and now, co-teacher. Open-mouthed smile

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Although we were sent to be a blessing and to teach, I came back feeling blessed and taught. Watching the way Jesus has touched the lives of the teachers there who barely touch the age of 25 and how their faith has equipped them with the strength and capacity to set up a school for hundreds of students exist as testimony of Christ-like love.. and there really is no love greater than that.

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10450585_10152235052283170_2677339719101461802_n“Creak,” went the suspension bridge..

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When I left Keningau, I left with a heavy yet happy heart. Heavy, because despite the work that’s been done and being done, these kids who have bright smiles and sharp minds will never be able to leave East Malaysia. They will never be able to fly to foreign countries and as big as their ambitions are, their opportunities are limited.

As she watched some of them run in and out of school with minimal concern for their safety, Aunty Lillian said, “Kids in the city may have no freedom, but they have opportunities. Kids here have their freedom.. but they have no opportunity.”

But still.. it was a happy heart because rather than stay illiterate, these kids are still able to learn. People have set up schools for them and it isn’t just the church. Within the area itself, there are Indonesian schools and schools with books from the Philippines to help these kids get the education their lack of nationality has robbed them of.

Upon leaving, my mom and I extended our trip for a few extra days and explored Kota Kinabalu for one of my last bouts of relaxation before my schedule got busy with my internship and the Economic Forum that LSE SU MC will be hosting (more on that at the bottom!).

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On our second day, we boarded a boat to Pulau Sapi which was the most beautiful beach I’ve ever set my eyes on.

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Look how clear this water is..

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THE CLEAREST WATER EVERRR.

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But now that our holiday’s over and my internship has begun (today was my first day!), it’s time to get serious. LSE SU MC is hosting a forum that combines a case study competition alongside a speaker forum, boasting big names such as the CEO of Tune Talk, Jason Lo as well as Nizar Najib.


Click image for website.

To those with an interest in economics or an interest in the world in general would stand to gain so much from the forum. Even if you’ve never studied economics in your life or have studied it throughout, opportunities to get involved in case study competitions and debate with big names is not one that comes easily, and the forum equips you all with enough knowledge to comfortably navigate through the field.

So to those in upper secondary school, college, or those waiting to enter university.. sign up today HERE!

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