How time flies...a month ago today I arrived in Kota Kinabalu (KK) in Malaysian Borneo.
I spent the first couple of nights in a resort close to the city, where I attempted to recover from jet lag and checked out one of the small islands just off the coast, where I freaked myself out completely with my first experience of a truly enormous spider and two equally gargantuan monitor lizards...alas I was too scared to take any photos...
I then "checked in" to life with Raleigh International, which is many things...ever-changing, unexpected, fascinating, challenging and fun.
For the first two of the three 'phases' of the project I am at 'fieldbase', a surprisingly comfortable house in the suburb of Lintas, about a 15 minute drive from KK, with electricity (which I can attribute to the delay in updating this blog, as we do have had a number of challenges with its' supply!), beds (four to a room), loos and showers (albeit cold though very refreshing) and dare I mention, most days we have a wonderful cook who tempts us with delicious Malay dishes.
As one of the designated drivers (yes, picture me in a two tonne monster Land Rover...what's the blonde chick doing in that thing?!), I get to be out and about constantly and will be driving 'The Loop' between the different sites we have in Borneo, taking additional supplies to the participants.
I made sure I got poorly belly and the squits out of the way early on (!) after sampling too many weird delicacies at the Philippino food market one evening during our first week here - our challenge was to spend 5 ringits (less than $2) and see what we could find. Another guy and I ate a strange pink fish, some squid and an interesting noodle dish between us....not perhaps the best choice, given the outcome for us both! Rather then though, when I was in a house with a flushing loo, than when all I have is a 'long drop'...and yes, I have used a long drop (for the uninitiated this is a deep hole dug out of the ground for a toilet).
The climate is hot and humid...so you'd think I'd be used to it, but no, it's still sweaty betty and sometimes that includes a couple of days without access to water for a shower....I've ponged a bit. This was evident last week when I traveled to Kampong Ambong, a couple of hours drive from here, to meet the small Muslim community I will be living with during November. It was an incredible experience. The poverty is palpable but the villagers and children just melted my heart - all smiles, which turned out to be our only form of communication as I have no Malay (yet) and they no English. We're putting in a gravity water feed system for about a thousand people and hope to improve their community hall to be a long term facility for them once we leave.
We have also undertaken training at 'jungle camp', initially as a staff group and then this week with our participants, an energetic bunch who have now joined us from Australia, the UK, the USA, the Netherlands and Malaysia itself, and have completed our first jungle trek. Sleeping under a canopy of trees in a hammock really was quite a unique experience.
However, for more details on this and all the various activities we've been up to, the Raleigh blog does a way better job than me...so why create more work for myself...!! See attached...Visit malaysia-autumn-2007
Finally for now, Miranda, one of the other logistics chick and I spent the last three days taking delivery of and allocating food and equipment supplies for 80 people for the next three weeks and we have now sent the participants on their way to six project sites across Borneo so I have a little time to recharge my batteries before heading out on the aforementioned 'loop'.
Keep the e-mails coming, it's wonderful to hear everyone's news...I'll be in touch again soon...