November 2, 2007

singkawang sojourn day 1 & 2

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids, Snapshots, Social Responsibility According to Me, Travel and Adventure at 7:33 pm by meldee

So I’m back, huzzah! Back home, back on Facebook (gaaaah!), back online *strokes modem affectionately*…back to being worked up about the same old small things like my TAC requests from BOTH my online banking accounts not showing up, which is horrible because I have absolutely NO CREDIT left on my phone. Bah humbug!

But this isn’t about banking, though my banking stories could possibly entail a whole new entry in itself. I am quite fascinated with banking; it’s a strange fixation not even I understand.

This is about me finally going off on a mini-break, humanitarian trip, and journey of self discovery of sorts to Western Kalimantan, around the Pontianak region. And let me just say, 4 days sure as monkeybottoms was not enough!

For those who don’t know this, Pontianak is a vampire of sorts in Malay folklore that comes about when pregnant women die in childbirth—they come back to haunt and terrorise other pregnant women at night, wooo~ as Suet would say. But this was Pontianak the town, and it is located near/on the Equator ๐Ÿ™‚ So at 12 noon, nobody has a shadow! How cool.

I’ll just give a quick summary of travel details before you fall asleep on me, I’ll explain more as I add photos ๐Ÿ™‚ You better damn right hope my bandwidth hasn’t been exceeded for this month! (note: Gaaaah. Gaaaaah. Dropshots is still being a royal pain, have gone back to Flickr. This one also limited. Rawr!)

The Malaysian World Vision (henceforth known as WV) Malaysia entourage consisted myself, two WV staff (Susan and Su Hsien—yes, another one! Haha what a coincidence), two other youths (Jia Xiang and Stephen, both from JB), a journalist from a local Chinese travel mag (Siew Ling, my new friend *heart*) as well as a local celebrity (and supposedly some sort of icon in the Chinese-speaking world, which I am undoubtedly excluded from—she’s a DJ, presenter and singer too) , Phoebe, and her assistant Su Ting.

Everyone spoke Mandarin except me -_-” Thankfully I also have the ability to tune out almost immediately should conversations commence in said language, unless everyone’s pointing at me and laughing whereby I would then proceed to either very aggressively demand to know what is being said, ignore them even more, or sulk.


From KL’s LCCT, we took a flight to Jakarta where we met Imelda from the World Vision Indonesia Jakarta office who was to also accompany us on our trip. From there, we caught another flight to Pontianak (flights from KL-Kuching-Pontianak were too few and far between). From Pontianak, it was a bumpy, crazy 3 hour drive to Singkawang which was our homebase for this trip. Honestly, in the heavy rain, the driver was going at 80km/h around bends and bumps, and they have no seatbelts in the back seat (believe me, I kept reaching behind frantically for it!)—they also have a strange system with their indicators and their honking. Want to overtake, honk. Vehichle in front (car, bike, pedestrian) going too slow, honk. Going round bends at top speed, honk. See someone you know? honk.

Malaysian drivers seem really considerate and gentle in comparison, which is really saying something. Heh.

Anyhoo, you with me so far? Ok.

Our transit at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport. On the shuttle bus I saw a Krispy Kremes and let out a little yelp—Su Hsien (who studied in Perth) asked me why and when I breathed “Krispy Kremes!” she literally grabbed my arm and with wide-eyes exclaimed “Where?!” but it was closed, and we couldn’t find it again after. Sob. Anyhoo, I loved the giant chandeliers they had—and the wood carvings and all that! So pretty!

After that was the Supadio Airport in Pontianak—this place was a madhouse. Indonesia has a strange Smoke-Anywhere policy—you can even smoke in non-smoking areas, go figure.

Because of all the smoke and people, the three of us escaped outside to—you guessed it, more smoke. That’s Siew Ling, the journalist (I later found out she’s also a Pisces, has had similar relationship troubles to my good self and is same blood-type B! Plus I totally want her job ok! She’s been to Japan, Sydney, all sorts of places! Only problem is, me no speaking/writing Chinese) from Let’s Travel, me (I deflate in heat) and Su Hsien, who works in Publicity and Communications in WV Malaysia.

After the crazybumpyscary ride to Singkawang, we arrived at the Mahkota Hotel. I’m not sure if it’s a chain of which there is a branch in Melaka which I stayed at over Chinese New Year this year, but I was honestly expecting something no frills, no fuss, even a little bit dodgy. So when I saw this, I was pleasantly surprised—and felt guilty. Was I not supposed to be experiencing poverty and destitution?!

The dining area where they had live performances every night which consisted of a few people yowling and dancing to musty old English songs like ‘I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)’, etc. Thankfully I blotted the sound out by watching StarMovies and HBO ๐Ÿ˜€

The reception area. There was Pak Tom and Feliki (sp?) from WV Singkawang there to look after us, and Susan from WV Malaysia in the centre. I had the least luggage of all—which frankly made me quite worried when I saw that even the guys had bigger luggage than mine o_O

After a full day of travel, we headed out for dinner. Su Hsien has a sponsored child, Rita, who traveled three hours that day to meet her. Su Hsien had a load of stuff for her; maths books, pencils, etc—I chipped in a balloon from a packet that my dad told me to bring along and give to the kids along the way. I was initially quite skeptical but when the balloons went down like a ton of bricks with the kindergarten kids especially, I regretted not bringing more.

Anyhow, this was a picture of us at dinner. Clockwise: Su Hsien, Rita’s teacher (I forget her name), Su Ting (Phoebe’s assistant), Phoebe, me (bah!), Stephen, Jia Xiang, Siew Ling, Imelda, Pak Tom, Anggoro, Susan and Rita. Rita’s 8 and she’s really really tiny! My brother looks like Godzilla in comparison to her. She was also really shy. Dinner was great—I’ve also discovered another tendency among the people we visited, to always, always, have fried chicken. I’m swearing off fried chicken for a month, at least.

Day #2 of our visit, kicked off with breakfast in the hotel! I had way too much coffee (as usual) and as the result was remarkably bubbly at the ungodly hour of 6-something in the morning. The sun rises really early there, and they’re one hour behind Peninsula Malaysia time. With Stephen, Jia Xiang and Su Hsien, taken using the timer *beams*.

Before we headed off to the villages,we stopped by the WV Singkawang office to pick up some stuff—exercise books and clean water, etc for the children and us.

Check out that beautiful shade of blue sky *marvels*.

Myself and the guys. Though there was a slightly bigger communication challenge between myself and Jia Xiang, conversing with Stephen wasn’t as bad because he’s in his third year doing Biotech at UCSI. Jia Xiang is still doing the Chinese school equivalent of Sixth Form in Batu Pahat. They’re both really incredibly jovial and high-spirited and made the trip that much more fun, as I am quite boring around strangers.

The WV Malaysia entourage and Rita, Su Hsien’s sponsored child. You can learn more about sponsoring a child here. Mind you, I said sponsor, not adopt. When you sponsor a child you don’t just give them money, it goes to a pool that benefits the entire community your child lives in. It could go towards building a new school, a new well, pipes and materials, and training teachers so that your child has a better shot at a brighter future.

You know the saying about giving a man a fish a day to feed himself, compared to spending a day teaching him how to fish? Or something like that? Yeah, that’s what WV does. I personally really like the idea of teaching the communities self-sufficiency as opposed to the spoonfeeding most governments and some charities do.

The first village we went to was called Sijankung, about an hour’s drive away, where we visited a kindergarten jointly funded by the church and WV for children aged 3-5. It was literally, four rooms in a row. It makes our schools here look so…pompous.

The kids were so good! Though they gave us a naturally curious once-over, they remained fully attentive to their study. Apparently they’re quite used to visitors, and love love love taking photos. In kindy they learn the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, as well as 10 core moral values to help ease the transition into elementary school.

The kids. Awww…look at their lickly iddy widdy uniforms *spasms with delight*. We were celebrities of sorts there, really, because the mothers kept insisting on taking photos with us ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the mothers I talked to kept gushing over how good WV has been in helping them out, especially with her having 10 kids (gasp). She was really lovely *warmfuzzyfeelings*. I hope I’m that good natured especially if I have 10 kids! LOL.

Me and the kids’ outdoor-learning classroom.

The next kindy on the visit list was the one at Sagatani where all the kids wore bright pink! So cute! There was an adorable little boy there that absolutely stole my heart with his twinkling eyes and gap-toothed grin.

Their headmistress, Ibu Yenni (in purple) giving a mini-speech before the kids started singing and dancing for us.

“Who wants something special?!” The kids all reacting joyfully, but none more so than my little boy (look carefully, he’s the one with the huge grin and is up on one arm elevating himself above his peers). They had to answer really simple questions like “which animal has a trunk/long neck?” and they got sweets, pencils, and balloons (from me).

I love ickle kiddies. There’s just something about them that’s so full of awe at the world that we adults are so weary of and jaded about that’s breathtaking in its naivete. I reckon we can all learn something from them.

After two kindergartens, we upped it a level and proceeded to the village of Sibaju for lunch and to see the kids at the elementary school. While the two kindergartens had clean running water, Sibaju didn’t. The community here was so excited about WV coming in to help with building them a school and getting clean water to each home that they actually gave their land to build the school! Here we also met two other sponsored children, Santo (sponsored by local artiste Michael Wong) and Orisius (sponsored by Lite FM DJ Non). The kids were lovely, they welcomed us with huge smiles, enthusiastic greetings and a traditional dance.

They’re camera-lovers! They found every way to entertain us to ensure photo-taking ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here a boy on stilts tottered around for me while his friends crowded around to get their 15 seconds of fame;)

Phoebe and the kids. She even taught them the “ke ren lai, kan papa” song. If my phonetic-ising of it is wrong, shaddap I don’t care, as long as you get the picture.

Me and the tiny dancers ๐Ÿ˜‰ The girl at the far left of this photo and in the centre were amazing dancers. You couldn’t take your eyes off them! They had amazing grace and rhythm, and it was a pleasure to watch ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, when the lot of us got dragged up there to emulate their dance moves, guess which two-left-footed numbskull ended up massacring the steps -_-“

We also had fresh corn for a lunch appetiser! Believe it or not my pale-as corn beat Su’s orange one in terms of taste and texture hands down, hah! We were also making (lame) jokes about how it’s not the person that chooses the corn, but the corn that chooses the person (yalah okwe are very lame, go away).

I love this shot! As we sat down to lunch in their tiny seating area of sorts a little girl was peeking up at me talking to some of the other people, and I snapped this picture of her. Needless to say shortly after she was very rudely pushed to one side by her bigger peers also trying to pan-cute for me. Sorry guys! ๐Ÿ˜›

I don’t remember his name but this boy (aged 13, with one eye :|) followed me into a classroom and wrote this down on the blackboard for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Naughty naughty! This bubbly cheerful little girl skipped school that day because she heard visitors were coming to this school, so she popped by to say hello and amuse us with her stilt-walking antics ๐Ÿ™‚

As guests of honour, we got to give out exercise books and pens sponsored by WV Indonesia to the kids! It was an extreeeeeeemely hot day, mind you, so discount how I look like.

Me and Siew Ling, and the yummiest lunch ever! There was sambal belacan, bamboo shoots, fucuk and potatoes, and pork with onions, nyum nyum. I don’t know how they made it but lemme tell ya, it was damned good! It was so good I’ve even decided that it’s on par with my grandma’s cooking, which is really Saying Something.

After our lunch, we went to the homes of Santos and Orisius to give them gifts from their sponsor fathers.

The girls. The kids all followed us to his house cause they wanted to see what would go on. Orisius’ sister is seriously so emaciated, I think she’s about 10-12 and she has to do the cooking and cleaning sometimes. They live in a tiny two room wooden hut with no electricity and running water, and no furniture at all. His father left his mother when she was 7 months pregnant with her youngest child, so she has three kids to take care of and the barest minimum income to cover it. Sigh. She couldn’t have been more than 35 years old, but she looked so utterly worn out and defeated that it made her look twice her age.

I honestly cannot imagine living under such conditions, and to do so with three kids depending on you, no husband and no outside, good grief.

I distracted myself with taking a photo of this giant-piant spider (as opposed to eensy-weensy). Izuan, any idea what this species is?:)

Their kitchen. Observe the peaceful puppy and kitten! Also, try to imagine cooking for your family of four, day in day out, under such conditions.

Village kids (and Imelda in the stripey top) seeing what they could see (me, in between scratching viciously at the horrid insect bites and slapping away at Aedes mozzies).

After this house, we had to trek about another 15 minutes to the house of Orisius, who is Non’s sponsored child.

That’s Su with Orisius (in yellow) and his parents in the background. Mind you, while this house looks a lot better than Santos’ (they had electricity, a TV and VCR player), their family has 8 kids, of which Orisius is the second-youngest of. His parents work as farmers and tap rubber, and have to walk three hours each way in a day to get to work. His mum Marina was telling us, the only reason why their house looks ‘nice’ in comparison to others was because a few years back, when they reared pigs, they sold the lot and built the house. But they don’t have toilets or pipe water, and all the pigs died because of disease, so their burden is at times too heavy at times that they can only afford to let 5 of their 8 children go to school.

Me being a jakun with their last giant pig. I didn’t dare get too close because it looked so fierce! It was so fat, too! Imagine if anything had happened, the headlines: ‘Death by Pig’?! *shudder* That’s like Hannibal. I’m kind of afraid of actual pigs (but not of eating their meat, har har!) after reading Hannibal.

After this, we headed over to the village of Sendoreng where we would spent the night, interact with the youth there and sit in on a discussion/open forum between WV and the village elders (all male, needless to say).

One of the village elders had very kindly let us bunk at his place. We were told we wouldn’t need to bring anything cause it would all be ‘taken care of’…little did we know what awaited us…

Ta-daaaaah! Our room, to be shared between me, Su, Susan and Siew Ling. That was it, folks—a few mats on the floor. No pillows, no bedsheets, no blankets, no mosquito netting (to our chagrin at 4am when each of us were fighting a losing battle with them vicious jungle mozzies). We gave the boys our single tatty mattress because their room looked like…urm, a haunted room in a haunted house. It had cracks in the floorboard and all, so the lads stayed up till about 3am chatting and looking at the stars until they totally crashed at about 4am.

Meanwhile us four became blood donors—I had no pillow or blanket (Susan came prepared with hers, hmmf!) so had to roll up a few of my clothes as a pillow, bummed socks off Siew Ling and used my hoodie as a blanket of sorts, reverting it and using the hood to cover my face because those damned mozzies wouldn’t leave me alone! Gaaaaaah! They even flew into my ears! We woke up the next morning ragged and exhausted, but thankfully we all were good-spirited about it ๐Ÿ™‚ That night has been nicknamed ‘The Night of 1001 Sleeping Positions’, of which I probably contributed to about half of. I was sleeping kneeling down in yoga positions!

Heh, anyway, the rest of the house. They had a little pool and an alcove of sorts that had an image of Mother Mary inside, which I found incredibly beautiful. Close-ups later (as in, another entry).

The youths of the village, who were the raison d’etre of Jia Xiang’s and my presence on the trip. They were lovely—shy at first, then after a while they got warmed up. The girl in the solid baby blue shirt, Magdalena, has an amazing voice that can totally transfix you. She sang an Indonesian song at my request. My request, because Jia Xiang (who gave himself the Indonesian name ‘Fatino’, LOL, because of the difficulty in pronouncing his name) were divided into groups and we had to show them pictures of our lives here, and talk about our experiences and interact with them—we were talking about ambitions and hers was to be a singer, so I asked her to sing something for me.

When she did, it blew me away. I told her shakily how she’d better not let go of this dream and to hold it close to her heart because it might someday come true—I dunno why but something tells me she will succeed. She’s 18, and is the only one among the group of about 20 of them who can speak passable English. I hope she gets the chances she deserves, she and all her friends.

The next morning (ragged, sleep deprived, sore and blood-drained) with the wonderful people who took good care of us in Sendoreng *heart*.

I’d just also like to say that insofar as I am grateful to be sponsored this trip, my judgment hasn’t been (completely) clouded over in gratitude, etc—but I really, really, really do admire the work that WV does. Especially the fieldwork: the meeting with village elders, sourcing materials, getting to know the people and children—it’s really draining and tiring, and I imagine, quite disheartening at times when it doesn’t work out.

And I find it swell that even though this is a Christian organisation, they in no way tried to make myself (or the other non-Christian travelers) feel uncomfortable with conversion-speak and whatnot—it just goes to show really that at the end of the day, religion is just a personal choice, a vessel if you like, by which we each become good, useful human beings. Of course there were the obligatory pre-meal prayers, but I understand completely that it was a show of thanks for the food (amen!) and companionship; I’m all for being grateful for this (esp. the food).

But what I like best about their work is that they don’t just give the people that need it the money; they equip them with actual skills and knowledge, like saving (and banking, woots!), teamwork in building the kindergartens, wells and community areas, and of course, child protection rights. Which is amazing, because not even here in Malaysia where we view ourselves as ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ do we actively educate our children in their rights. In fact, some of us are even told by our own parents that we have no rights *ahem*. But that’s an old story—I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy because of WV’s actions.

Because there is no excuse for abusing children; not culture, not “Oh I’m Sorry I Lost My Temper”, not financial problems, nothing. As Pak Tom put it, the money just serves as a catalyst to get things going; sadly as much as we try to disassociate ourselves from it, money does make the world go round. BUT it’s not the only thing; there are also the core values I found myself reminded of during this trip: comradeship, love, altruism and the sheer might and power of the human spirit and heart.

Will continue this post tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚ More pictures then!



  1. tem said,

    ahhh awesome! I read this word for word.

    meldee: haha thanks tems! ๐Ÿ˜€ glad to know you did ๐Ÿ™‚ very the tiring ok typing so many words, phew.

  2. Izuan said,

    Nice pics Melody, and welcome back!

    I giggled at “fucuk”, hehe.

    That looks like a Huntsman spider, a female guarding one massive eggsac. We have them here too. They can grow really big.

    I go back to reading the rest of the post yea lol..

    meldee: thanks izuan! haha fucuk. yalah, it does sound quite….y’know. ooooh so THOSE are huntsmans! there used to be lots living on rez when i was in gippsland but i never saw one. are they poisonous?

    happy reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Fei Wen said,

    hiiiiiiii…welcome backkkoo~ that giant pig look harmless. lol. its just not in pink color!!!
    i love the pics, esp the kids in school….
    i hope there’s more to come, and more places and people to see and visit!!!!

    wanna sleep now, its freaking…1247am!!!!!!

    meldee: hey babe! haha it was grunting away, so fat and scary ok. and i don’t think asian pigs are pink, they’re kinda dirty ๐Ÿ˜› lol. yes yes, more pics to come!

  4. Sush said,

    looks like you had a blast!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ looks like you had fun with my ‘twin name’ too. hee. ๐Ÿ™‚

    meldee: i did! and there’s still more pics to come! haha. i think you mean ‘name twin’ though ๐Ÿ˜›

  5. elaine said,

    wow. your trip looks/sounds amazing! i bet it was a great experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

    meldee: it was, lainey babe! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Stefano "Stephen" Tai said,

    haha, i add on sth, the driver will honk when they saw young beatiful girls also, hahaha, pak sidek told me tat singkawang also known as bandar ah moi, but jia xiang dun believe tat… he didnt meet any ah moi in singkawang =.=…. seems like he really want to stay there n get married…. hahahahaha

    meldee: hey stefano! haha are you serious. zomg. yeah fatino’s gonna become a singkawang boy soon eh? hehe..

  7. Christine said,

    Hi, i’m from Pontianak. =]
    but, now i’m studying in KL..

  8. kee said,

    Very well written adventure! Stir up my curiosity about the place a little bit.

    Well, maybe I’ll make a trip there someday. Haha…

  9. Martin said,

    Nice blog. I have wanted to visit indonesia, but never had a chance.

  10. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also
    the rest of the website is really good.

  11. Do you have ะฐny video ฮฟf that? I’โ…พ want tะพ find outt moะณe details.

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