My first glimpse of human activity after 45 minutes of dirt road (or maybe more aptly called “mud trail”) and the forest tamed by the dirt road that cut across it, was padi fields. With the rain drizzling down and a sun that is trying very hard but managed only to peek through the clouds, I saw that the young padi shoots have just been re-planted – you can see them all meticulously arranged, row after row. A few yards further down the mud trail, the village school stood majestically, its Malaysian and Sabah flags drenched and hung forlornly, amidst a cluster of houses.
All was still and not a soul was in sight. As we hung around, unsure of where to go next, Joachim suddenly appeared from behind the school, waving madly welcoming us to Kampung Terian! It was as if it was his village! He revealed later that he didn’t think we’d make it to the village, not with the rain that poured down so ferociously all afternoon. We were all ushered to the village rest area where a long table and a few benches stood. Thankfully, I off-loaded my rucksack and the bag containing my sleeping bag and knick-knacks. I, desperately but without much success, tried to shake off the mud which clung stubbornly to my shoes.
I was wrong if I thought our fight against the mud is over. The trek to the village chapel was even more treacherous! Steep slopes and soggy earth resulted in a slippery walk. At the chapel, we were treated to rice and free range chicken and sweet potatoes cooked in soya sauce, stir fried forest yam (which tasted like mushrooms) and stir fried long beans. The bananas were very good – you can tell that they had been left to ripen naturally on the banana plant. Search, if you may, but I bet you’d never find such sweet and perfectly ripen pisang mas in Kuala Lumpur!
We had got to the village too late for us to visit the micro hydro pool but I was actually quite glad since it meant I had avoided the inevitable leeches and I didn’t even have to bluff my way out of it!!! So it was only the power generator room that we had time for before night fell. Adrian’s brief on how the generator works was an eye opener for me – a lever to optimise the water intake, a ballast to get rid of excess power, a piece of equipment which for the life of me I cannot recall its name, to regulate the power generated prior to distribution and a miller, which uses the mechanical power of the generator!
By the time the university students have asked of Adrian all the questions to their hearts’ content, we had only the moonlight to guide us back to the chapel. None of us had remembered to bring along our torchlight! We were lucky that it was the Autumn Festival that night, the moon was as round as can be and beaming its silvery light on us. I made it back to the chapel in one piece, but not before a fall on the slushy slopes.
At the chapel I found that the other mentors (who, like me, had been assigned to spend the the night in the chapel) have had their bath in the river. It was then too dark for me to make a trip to the river. I started to dread that I may have to put off having a shower until I get back to Borneo Paradise the next day! Now that was not a pleasant thought! Then, Eliza informed me that there are shower cubicles behind the chapel. With no time wasted, armed with my Philips torchlight, off I went to take a much-longed for shower. The water was, oh, so refreshing.
When I returned to the chapel, all clean, I saw that some of the children had gathered in the chapel. Boys sat together while the girls were in another group. I gave the boys Twisties crisps and the girls a bag of hi-fibre snacks. As they chomped away happily, I asked one of the boys why he does not mix with the girls, he promptly answered “It is better this way as girls like to talk of everything and nothing!”.
Once everyone has made their way to the chapel, we were treated to a video presentation on the building of the micro-hydro dam. Then the children performed the Sumazau dance, while the adults played the accompaniment on the traditional gongs. The children were great dancers! The children then invited us to dance with them and we obliged though ours was a muddled kind of Sumazau dancing!
The night was over much too soon. The villagers and their guests slowly made their way back to their homes. A group of university students who missed out on the trip to the micro-hydro dam stayed back at the chapel and bombarded Adrian with questions. I fell asleep as the conversation droned on in the background. I was that tired!
Suddenly I was wide awake! A droplet of water dripped onto my face! I shifted position. After awhile, opps! Another droplet of water! I shifted position again. Let that be the last drop of water, I prayed, because if I were to shift position again I would either be squeezed onto the wall or onto Elaine! My prayers worked. It was not until the time to wake up when another droplet dripped on my arm! When the morning got brighter I looked up and saw that it was not rainwater that had dripped on me but water from condensation on the zinc roof! No wonder the droplets kept changing position!
We freshened up, had breakfast which the host had graciously prepared, gathered our still-wet-yesterday’s-clothes, said our goodbyes and off we went. On the way out we were introduced to the one betel nut tree from which there is DiGi (SMS only) service, if one climbed up the tree!
All in all I had a good time the experience will stay fresh in my memory for a long time to come. But I wonder if I would have survived it had the village no electricity and no running water and if I would have enjoyed it as much had we not have to hike to and from the village.
 Adrian Lasimbang of PACOS Trust. PACOS Trust is a community based voluntary organisation to raise the overall quality of life of indigenous communities. For more information, see http://www.sabah.net.my/PACOS/.
 Borneo Paradise Beach Hotel, was our base for the Challenge for Change Boot Camp, 1st to 4th October 2009
 Eliza Abdul Rahman, of Warisan Global, the event organizer for the Boot Camp.
 Elaine Lau, a writer for The Edge Malaysia.