Friday, March 25, 2011

Kayak For Humanity

Sekelip mata sahaja, ekspedisi sudah sampai ke penghujungnya.
We are now all at Kuching safe. From my last blog at Kuala Matu, we went to Tanjung Manis, Kampung Semop, Kampung Serdeng, Belawai, Kampung Grigat, Kampung Teriso, Sebuyau, and finally reached Kuching safely.
We are very fortunate to have Tok Hamzah with us guiding us kayaking routes via rivers. While we planned for sea kayaking, the marine police has constantly warned us against kayaking at sea, the sea condition was not suitable for light craft. Tok Hamzah planned for river kayaking and headed our expedition throughout.
At Kampung Serdeng, we gave talks to children and at Belawai we cleaned the beach. We also donated fuel and helped clean Kampung Teriso as well as met folks at all villages we could reach.
At times the rivers in Sarawak were so difficult to paddle as the current was very strong. PLC 4 marine operations force catamaran, a larger boat that PSC 12, was sent to escort us starting 19th March.
Having the privilege of 2 boats, we sent all land support vehicles back. Thanks to UNIMAS, they have provided us 2 vans and 2 4WDs throughout till we have the boats.
PLC 4 was also our accommodation, we set tents on the deck to sleep at night but all got wet in the morning due to rain and morning mist.
At times when current was so strong and sea condition was not suitable for kayaks, PLC 4 was also our storage for the kayaks.
We also had water rationing as the catamaran could only carry a maximum of 2,000 litres of water, which was used up within hours by more than 30 people on board! No shower or bathing allowed and we use mostly river water for washing and cleaning ourselves.
Rivers in Sarawak are very wide. When kayaking we felt like we are at sea, only difference was that you see trees on the left, right and front of you.
We also experienced staying a night at the terminal where we slept wherever possible - the waiting area, praying room and on the floors. At times we felt like refugees from nowhere and I wondered if we get donations if we just spread a hat on the floor! Haha!
All well, we did what we aimed for. Five causes - environment, youth outreach, sports development, organ donation and unity - all achieved.
We have Malays, Chinese, Indians, Bajau, Melanau, Iban, and other ethnics in our team - doing things together in a harmony way. That proved that
Malaysians can always work in a united way.
For environment, we pick up thrash at many areas, did gotong royong with kampung folks and educated all participants on the importance of environment preservation.
We also gave talks on organ donation and I shared my experience giving part of my liver. We have about 20 people signing the pledge to donate organs after death.
The team also reached out to over 25,000 Sarawakians and about a thousand followers on Twitter and Facebook. We also successfully introduced sea kayaking and expedition experience to all participants - they particularly love kayaking with high waves and strong wind as compared to river and lake.
We are now at Bintawa marine base and will kayak to Kuching Waterfront and expected to reach waterfront at 5.30pm.
Today is also the 204th Police Day and we are very pleased and honoured that the marine police served as a GREAT partner for us. They did not only escorted us but they helped carried our kayaks, assist every paddlers, even did community service works with us. Most importantly they have saved our lives and always gave us precautions on safety.
For that we also gave honour to the Royal Malaysian Police force to have a representative on our expedition - L/Cpl Norazif Ab Rajak.
Happy Police Day!

things just happen, the rest is up to us to make it GREAT!

Hoong Ling

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kayak for Humanity Day 3 at Kampung Kuala Matu

Today we kayaked from the jetty we stopped yesterday, back to the ferry jetty. Tok Hamzah was very concern with our safety and the unpredictable waves at the estuary.

From the ferry jetty we hired a lorry to carry all our kayaks. The UNIMAS bus and us travelled by ferry to the opposite side. When we were about to leave the jetty, 3 villagers came to send us off. Just one night of bonding the villagers were so close to us. I was particularly close to Kak Ramlah.

As the ferry left the jetty, the villagers waved us goodbye and I was in tears. I just can't do this, leaving people who have so warmly served and bonded with us.

We headed to chalet YB Datuk Abdul Wahab, the Member of Parliament for Igan. He hosted us at his chalets. However he wasn't at the chalet and Tuan Basmi represented him.

Many helped in the kitchen to prepare a feast. We then went to Kampung Bawang, Kuala Matu to Tuan Basmi's home for tea. As we walked almost 3km to his home, we also stopped door to door to greet the villagers.

After tea time, we saw a few children having line dance at the road side. A few paddlers joined in the fun and later a good song came and everyone had joget with the villagers, even Tuan Basmi and Tok Hamzah joined the fun.

We went back to chalet for some rest. And then were surprised by a dinner and karaoke get together. To our surprise Kampung Igan villagers came to join us sing along. They came by a van and when they left most of us cried. I also got a newfound godmother - Kak Ramlah.

At night, the UNIMAS students who joined us have to leave and another batch of 10 students and staffs came. UNIMAS provided 3 batches of students and staffs group, each group joining us for 5 days.

During the sharing session, almost all cried. We are already ONE family and for some it was difficult to accept separation. I stopped crying that night, perhaps dried my tank of tears or perhaps I need to learn to love but not 'fall in" love. But all well, I always cry anyway!

Moving on to Daro story for Day 4....

things just happen, the rest is up to us to make it GREAT!

Hoong Ling

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2 - Kampung Kuala Igan

The first day was dramatic where all capsized in 17 feet waves and 6 nautical miles wind.
There was also alert from the Marine Police preventing us from kayaking at sea. We had to make quick arrangements. The UNIMAS bus was supposed to leave us for expedition but had to follow us along.
We hired a lorry to carry all our 17 kayaks and our vehicles ferried us to a jetty near Kampung Kuala Igan. Tok Hamzah, 65, the village head joined us at the jetty to kayak with us! We were excited to have him lead the team.
Tok Hamzah, a strong and very fit man loved kayaking but has not been kayaking for the last 16 years. We kayaked to Kampung Igan with marine police boat escorting us. The water was still but strong wind blew us to the right as we paddled.
Along the river, on the right side there were many jetties and many people waited for us to kayak by. Young and old alike, sat at the jetties as we passed them. We were paddling slow and waved to them, from 2 to 50 people at every spot. They smiled and waved back at us. At one of the jetties, there were even about 100 villagers.
When reaching Kampung Igan, I was awed by the crowd at the jetty! Over 500 people welcomed us with kompang accompaniment. We had a short speech and did two highest salute to Tok Hamzah and the villagers each. Our highest salute was a salute and singing the national anthem. Tok Hamzah was seen in tears.
I was in tears too, touched by the warmth and hospitality of villagers there.
We then walked to the Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Islam Igan (LAK II) building as our accommodation. It was opposite the mosque. Once we placed our luggages, we were all sent to Ms Maslinda's home - she is SPDP supreme council member. She was the lady who has helped us in and out in the Mukah district.
Our dinner menu includes ayam goreng, gulai umbut kelapa, daun sambung nyawa (ulam), ikan kering, daun ubi, dessert and my favourite raw fish dish - umai. This was the best meal I ever had in my life, spiced with the sincerity of villagers and their hospitality.
After dinner, the ladies went to Mak Su and Tok Hamzah's homes to bathe (we divide the girls into 2 groups). When we went back to LAK II the villagers were BBQ-ing chickens for us!
We chat with the villagers till midnight before we call it a day! Kampung Igan, a place to remember.

things just happen, the rest is up to us to make it GREAT!

Hoong Ling

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kayak For Humanity - Day 1 (17 ft waves, 6 nautical mile wind)

We have the honor of the Honourable Dato' Sri Shabery Cheek, the Youth and Sports Minister flagged off our team today, in conjunction with the Karnival Mesra Belia 1 Sarawak.
When he first came to Mukah, his first concern was our safety and asked that our expedition director briefed him thoroughly on safety measures we are taking.
When he arrived at the Mukah Waterfront for the carnival launch, the first thing we spotted - he was wearing our Kayak For Humanity corporate shirt! We felt so proud that his first concern was for us and he came to greet all paddlers!
Looking at me, he was surprised I looked different from those days in the Youth Lab. My expedition director told him about my shaved hair and I removed my head gear for him to see my new hair cut. Excited and surprised, he took an opportunity for a photo moment with me.
He was very please with our preparation, the team and very worried about our safety. we planned to steal his precious time only for a short flag off by sounding the air horn but he wanted to follow us, observing us by boat!
All of us went on our kayaks, and the minister with score of reporters were on the marine police boat. Two marine enforcement agency boats escorted us, one each in front and at the back.
We thought the minister will only flag us off on land and we will happily kayak out the estuary. But he followed us almost half the way, closely observing us. I was thinking, 'he is one concern minister - if it is possible, he'd join our whole expedition'!
We kept paddling, and when we were out towards the sea, we felt the big waves. Right in front of my eyes, HUGE collection of water was rolling towards me. In the kayak, I felt like I rode up a mountain and downhill. We all went uphill, downhill. As long as we face the waves we are safe, we should not have side waves so we positioned ourselves to face waves.
Uphill, downhill. It was difficult to paddle but we were enjoying the waves. Then suddenly the marine enforcement boat in front turned back, and shouted 'patah balik!' (Turn back). In a kayak we can slowly manoeuvre back but the strong current, high waves and many paddlers prevented us a direct u-turn.
We heard from the back 'port side!!' And we all tried to paddle to the left. I saw on my right side, huge high waves with lots of white horse kept slapping in towards the shore. Huge waves still kept rolling and I was still going uphill downhill.
I couldn't see everybody as the waves blocked our sight. When I'm going uphill, my brothers and sisters in front were going downhill. All these happened in split seconds. Sometime the waves are like humps on the roads but definitely very much higher - some are big and a little flatter so we went up and downhill, some are sharper so we went up and straight away splashing down!
I was paddling hard to the left and kept wondering what will happen if I was slapped by the huge waves on the right.
I saw the marine police boat came on my left and then Ravi, my brother who was nearest to the boat capsized. I looked around and I was nearest to him. He is well built and have a size 3 times of me. I was thinking I must save him but his weight? 'He ain't heavy, he's my brother' I convinced myself. But I must be safe first before helping others so I made myself steady.
First big wave came uphill I went. But before I even managed to get 'downhill' another big wave slapped me from the top. The next thing I knew, I was in the water, without my left slipper.
I was in the water for long, holding tight to my paddle and I grabbed my right side slipper too. And then slowly I float on water thanks to our PFD. Looked around and saw my kayak was swept far away!
I looked at the back, a huge wave is coming towards me and I quickly turned in front and the waves splashed my head. It happened a few times and Kay, my brother nearest to me asked me to calm down and wait.
Suddenly the marine police boat came, threw a float and always the lucky devil, I was the first to be saved on the boat.
The marine police were swift in their action, searching and saving us one by one. When Ravi was up - the third person, I held to him and cried! He is the person I always argued with, had the most yelling towards each other but I still love him. Next was Rahiman and then Frankie, Harris and Chong. My tears just rolled freely to see each and every of my brother being brought up.
Lastly Kay was near the coast where the boat could not reach (too shallow). I thought the marine police left him and I cried. I did not know if everyone was safe and I kept crying until someone told me most of them reached the shore safely. Now that I write my experience again, my tears still flow.
We were carried back to the jetty where we started our journey. The marine police bought us water and asked that we stay there, calmed us down and went off for another round of search and rescue.
We waited very long! The land support team tried to call and communicate with the rest at sea. All were safe. My next concern - our kayaks and paddles. We have RM47,000 kayaks, RM10,000 kayaks and UNIMAS kayaks. Many were seen floating and drifted away.
After a while we saw our kayaks heading back to the jetty - 12 of them. It was almost night but we could recognise those are not our team of paddlers! To our surprise, those were villagers paddling our kayaks back to us.
After about half an hour, the marine boat came back with another 7 of our kayaks, marine enforcement boats also ferried a few paddlers back. I hugged Asraf and cried. I was so relieved all were safe!
We went back to hostel by bus, although felt like victims of tsunami, all were in high spirit - we learnt a lot from this experience. It was a GREAT day.
After dinner, everyone shared their experience. Those at sea went to search and rescue the kayaks, tied them all and sent back to the shore where villagers nearby already gathered the whole kampung to come help.
While the paddlers were assisting and collecting all kayaks, the villagers climbed coconut trees to plucked fresh coconuts to serve the team. Then the villagers asked permission to try the kayaks which Asraf, the expedition director obliged. Those were the 12 who paddled our kayaks all the way back to jetty.
At jetty, they gathered and all we could do was to serve them water. A few villagers when reaching the jetty shouted 'wah aku anak jati nelayan!' Some said 'aku pertama kali ni, nyaman!'

In excitement we took photos so a few villagers sat on the kayak and one kayak was dented! But all is well. All came back safely, all kayaks found, even all paddles were found.
Most surprisingly, someone held high a pair of pinkish red slippers and came to me, 'nah ur slippers!' Even my Crocs came back!
Everyone is now even better equipped with experience, knowledge and what to do if we face 17 feet high waves with 6 nautical miles strong wind. Yesterday was a GREAT day for all and everyone has their own stories to relate now.
Pray for our smooth journey daily while we, too pray for the tsunami and earthquake victims in Japan and areas of Philippines and Hawaii.

things just happen, the rest is up to us to make it GREAT!

Hoong Ling

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kayak for Humanity Sarawak 2011

4.30 am and we are all at lobby awaiting transport to ferry us to KLIA.

Our flight sponsored by FireFly, we only paid for airport taxes and baggage.

All of us, 11 of us were in Diver City t-shirts. Diver City gave us t-shirts, waterproof bags and PDA cases.

Reached Kuching, a smooth flight and first destination was for breakfast. I had my first serving of midin, a fern-like vegetable which is compulsory to eat in Sarawak!

We were expecting our container to clear today but unexpectedly, we had to wait till the second day.

Forced to stay in a small room furnished with only 6 benches as our 'beds' and floor as our sleeping ground. 14 of us cramped that room with luggages and all our stuffs. No water that day so some of us slept in filthy condition. We had newspapers as pillow and towels as blankets. But all well, the room was cold, chilled by air-conds and we even have astro!

The next day we bathed, cleaned ourselves in a public wash room and then moved to the port to unload all our stuffs, kayaks, equipment and the many freebies for Sarawak folks! We travelled, leaving Kuching to head to Mukah and decided to stop at Sarikei.

We'll rest the night before continueing journey to Mukah tomorrow.

things just happen, the rest is up to us to make it GREAT!

Hoong Ling

Sent from my BlackBerry® Smartphone