as told by CHIN LI-ANN, SK Tumunda Salimandut volunteer
I was deep in a much needed sleep when the unmistakable trilling of my alarm signalled the anticipated time to gain consciousness.
My eyes snapped open as a jolt of adrenaline coursed through me. Today was D-day. Today would officially be the day that our volunteering project started. The thirty of us UKECharisma 2016 underlings were inevitably fated to be divided into two primary schools, SK Teringai and SK Tumunda respectively. In a decision that would determine the entire course of my volunteering experience, I was pre-assigned along with 13 other amazing team members to SK Tumunda Salimandut.
After a rushed breakfast that mostly consisted of people cramming buns into their mouths while lugging around heavy luggage, we said our farewells, posed for the mandatory group photos and set out with hearts full of excitement and anxiety. The route we took on the way to the school resembled a donkey’s trail more than an actual road for vehicles. Although the view was spectacular… I assume. I was too busy being fast asleep.
Upon finally arriving at the place we were bound to spend our next 13 days at, I was stunned and humbled by the lengths the school had went to in order to prepare for our arrival. Every student of SK Tumunda Salimandut had been lined up, starting from the entrance of the school, for the sole purpose of greeting us. After getting through about 200 “hellos” that passed by in a blur, we were led ceremoniously – surrounded by half a dozen filming cellphones, whoever said that kampung people lacked internet access?! – to the asrama, a compact building which housed the standard 6 girls and boys dormitories, as well as a dining hall. Once we had settled down, the commencement of speeches begin. We were all very warmly welcomed in the speeches given by the headmaster and the head of SK Tumunda’s PIBG association. Jacklyn as the director of UKECharisma as well as Kamraj and I as project leaders of this project also gave brief monologues. Subsequently, we were then encouraged to introduce ourselves with some simple biodata information. Thus began the panicked rush of 13 university students frantically trying to translate their fancily termed degrees into Bahasa Melayu. My personal favourite to this day is undang-undang aka law.
When it came to my turn however, in a moment which I would come to regret for the entire project, I stood up and announced
“Saya belajar um,
*checks phone for google translate*
Even while writing this I am mentally face-palming myself. Philosophy student problems for real. Luckily soon after the welcome ceremony adjourned and lunch began.
Time flew by really quickly as we unpacked our luggage and admired the facilities of the asrama.
“Wei, got bunk beds wei! And got mattresses some more leh!”
“Eh look! Look! Got toilet bowl also, can flush wan wor!”
Sadly only one of the toilet bowls would be successful in flushing. The other two were wonderfully constructed lies. Sigh, ignorance was bliss at that time.
After dinner, the reality of our responsibilities started to kick in and we gathered the standard 6 students in the dining hall, for a general breaking the ice session. Complete with some games to warm them up to us. We played a long list of simon says, big wind blow (literally translated from 大風吹) the banana peel song and so many more.
We also created funny nicknames for ourselves to aid the children in remembering who we were. Kakak Karyan became Kakak Kaya, Abang Kamraj was known as Abang gigit and I remembered that in early secondary school, as a joke, a few of my friends used to call me Little Ant, as derived from Li-Ann.
And thus I became Kakak Semut to the kids.
It was well around 9:30 when we finally ushered the kids off to bed, took advantage of our free time to finally shower and hold our daily reflection meetings within the team. As we wrapped it up for the night, it felt like it had been an impossibly long day. However, unbeknownst to us, the journey was just beginning.