as logged by Celina How
It was 6.30am when everyone got up and got ready for classes. Sean arrived today. After breakfast and my daily morning hot Milo, it was time for classes. Classes started exceptionally early today at 7.30am. It was so early, but the kids were as hyped as ever for class. Usually classes in KL starts at 8 in the morning but students here were still dead asleep on their tables. Where do these students get their energy from? It was story day for Year 5. So we were divided the students into groups. But I was left with only 3 students at first. Then, Veno shouted, “Siapa nak baca dengan Kak Celina?” Then a bunch of students just took their chairs and came quickly to me. It was nice to see the kids actually eager to learn. The looks of the kids when I was telling them a story was priceless. They listened quietly and would ask me for the meaning of the words if they did not understand.
Today, we also had a dental workshop for Year 1, 2 and 4. We bought them tooth kits. They were so happy to receive a tooth kit (toothbrush and toothpaste). They were super excited to see the nurses. But half of us left early because there weren’t any teachers in some of the classes. So we took over. Veno and I decided to teach 6 Impian. We did a science quiz with them. During this quiz, we split them up into groups. They were all so competitive. We took a 20 minute break from teaching and we let the kids teach us instead. They taught us Bahasa Rungus. I learnt how to say one to ten in Rungus. Their language is actually really interesting and special.
On Thursdays, some of the kids would go to Rotary Club Centre (RCC) to play games and interact with the other kids. Veno, Britney and I decided to stay back to give extra classes to 6 Gemilang while the rest went to RCC. As I entered 6G, two lovely girls, Bella and Rose, gave us bubble gums. It was really sweet of them to do so because I never taught them before but they were still willing to share their sweets with us. I refuse to take it because I felt bad. But she kept persisting, so I took one. But she has this theory if I take one; my other eye would be blind. I love how they come up with theories like these. But I gave her two candies in return. Barter system. She refused to accept it too. So I told her if she didn’t she would be blind. Then she laughed. It is cute how little things can amuse them.
However, when class started, the kids from 6 Impian wanted extra mathematics classes too. With so little manpower, Veno and I had to split the kids into two groups. Everything went smoothly until the end of the class when a girl whom I was teaching cried. Panic and scared, I tried to console her and asked her why she was crying. But she refused to look or talk to me. I tried so hard to talk to her. But she ran away from me. I was worried about her. Was I that strict? Was I too tough on her? Thoughts kept wandering through my mind. Veno and Britney tried to comfort me. The feeling of making a kid cry just makes me a little more frustrated at myself. So, I just tried to relax. Since the rest were not back yet, three of us decided to go for a walk. As we were walking out form the school, the rest came back. Most of them went to play with the kids. Half of us decided to walk to a nearby river. James showed us the way. On the way back, we saw Buah Tarap. James tried ‘jolok-ing’ one for us but failed. When we got back, it was just nice for dinner. Abang Paul kept milo in the fridge for us! So we had cold milo. Before I ate, I saw my student. She still did not look at me. Then I went to her and apologized. Then she hugged me and said she forgave me. Relieved. After dinner, we had movie night for the kids to distress them. We played “Big Hero 6”. I could hear some of the kids tearing at the end of the movie. It was passed their bedtime. So we sent them back to bed. Light out.
Throughout the project, it was clear to me the difference in level of education of the students in rural areas as compared to students from the city. However, the students were still as eager to learn. The kids there were filled with energy. They are balls of sugar running around. Their energy level never decreases. We were each in charge of two students in teaching them mathematics. I saw tremendous improvements in my boys, Juhaili and Arikcan. What touched me was before I left, Juhaili gave me a letter. Inside the letter, he said he would help Arikcan with Mathematics when I am gone. He would make sure that both of them will work hard to be successful. He even wrote down, if Arikcan keeps playing, he himself would advise Arikcan and ensures he studies. When I read that letter, I almost teared. I am very proud of both of them. Before Juhaili went back home, he turned to look at me and teared and walked back home. I did not want to leave. Honestly, I hope this project would last longer. One kid actually said “I want to be an accountant like Kak Celina.” Goodbyes are the worst.
During this project, I have learnt a lot about myself. This project has taught me to be more patient and braver. Life was quite carefree there. At first, it was tough but I got used to it. I will always remember showering with sungai water and always wonder what is in that water. Laughing at my own jokes while the others would just laugh at me. This would not have been the same without my team mates. Not looking down at our smartphones (because we did not have signal), we actually bonded more. It was really nice to see everyone’s face and not just my phone screen. I will miss all those Skype meetings, “pillow talk” conversations and also conversations about food every single day with no fail and the wars with red ants every single morning.
Tears, sweat, joy. It was all worth it.