One of The Best things in our line of work at Camps is the people we meet. People who makes the effort to travel thousands of miles away and volunteer to make a difference. NINA CAPEK, came out to Borneo a year ago this month and she explains it here, on her return….
This time last year I spent an amazing 2 weeks living and volunteering in the Bornean Village of Kipouvo and exactly one year on I came back to pay them a surprise visit! As a teacher in the UK, and a very keen traveller, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to spend my summer. As soon as I heard about the Camps International community project in Borneo I knew it was something I wanted to do.
Having done a little research I thought I had some idea of what life in the village of Kipouvo may be like but these ideas were totally shadowed by the amazing experiences I had and people I met. I could write pages and pages on my time in the village and even then I couldn’t really do my experience justice so for the purpose of this blog I Will keep it short and let your imaginations (or even first hand experiences) fill in the rest!
People always say that first impressions are the most important and that they are usually accurate and in this case those people are certainly not wrong. As we arrived and drove through the village we were greeted by friendly waves and lots of ‘Hello’s from all the locals, I will never forget Rory’s van struggling to drive up the hill towards the newly built house that was to be our home for the next few weeks, and seeing Regina, Betty, Camila and Boy waiting to great us. Despite the obvious language barriers the welcome we received was so warm and genuine it was obvious we were going to be very well looked after.
Over the course of my stay I was honoured to be accepted as a member of the Kipouvo community, I joined the villagers at church, for village clean up day (gotong royong) involving lots of people from local villages and numerous other party parties! All the villagers were very respectful of our need for privacy but after a few days some of the barriers were broken down and it became the norm for us all to eat together and to spend the evenings laughing, playing games and drinking Tiger beer and the local rice wine. I can honestly say I have never spent so much time laughing as I did with the wonderful ladies of Kipouvo.
As well as becoming a source of entertainment to the locals I would like to think we also did some good in terms of the work we did. Our projects involved teaching, helping out in the school canteen, ‘helping?!!’ rubber tap trees and clearing the paths in the herb garden but our biggest projects were painting a mural in the pre-school (see photo) and building a road to make passing over the river running through the centre of the village easier for cars and vans to pass. The work was not always easy but with the volunteers and locals working side by side the ‘work’ days were just as much fun as the ‘non-work’ days.
The night before our group left, the village threw us one of the best parties I have ever been to. The whole village turned up to see us off; there was food, rice wine, dancing (see photo) and tears late into the night. After the project was over and the group had returned to KK we couldn’t leave for home without seeing all our new friends one last time so we decided to host a day at the beach. I will never forget the smiles and the giggles as 14 people piled out of a small mini van laden with bags and food. For some of the children it was their first ever visit to the beach and they, like us, loved every minute of it. On returning from the beach the villagers all piled back into the van and lots of tears and waving later they headed back to Kipouvo.
Three months on Mel (from camp Borneo) was visiting the UK and I have invited her to come stay with me for a few days. It was great to see her and try to re-pay some of the Bornean hospitality. When she produced letters from the village it was so exciting to hear the latest news from Kipouvo and to know that we had not been forgotten.
And now……. I am siting in the Camp Borneo office having just visited Kipouvo exactly one year on. This summer I was attending a wedding in Malaysia and there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to visit the wonderful people of Borneo. With the help of Mel and Regina we managed to arrange a surprise visit back to the beach for some of the Kipouvo residents. Most of the villagers had no idea that I was back and I was totally overwhelmed by the reception I received when the 13 adults and 3 children (who had all piled into the mini van for the 30 minute trip to the jetty) saw me. I was greated with hugs and tears like a long lost member of the Kipouvo family. We had a fantastic day of laughing, photos, swimming and food on the beach and even survived the boat journey back to KK despite the rain, infact it just led to more sounds of giggles echoing through the boat.
ThatåÊevening I headed back to Kipouvo with the villagers and couldn’t wait to see if anything had changed since my last visit. As I drove through the village it was like I had never left, the first thing I noticed was our carefully crafted road, unfortunately it had not really survived a heavy truck passing over it but it was still better than it had been when I originally arrived. Driving past the pre-school it was great to see that our art work (including our hand prints) was still there to b enjoyed by the children and their teachers. Arriving back at the homestay it was like returning home, the rooms, the welcoming smells, the balcony where I had spent hours playing cards and drinking with the locals and even the house cat ‘Meow Meow’ were all so familiar.
I was really pleased to see that a few minor changes had taken place, most noticable were the plants that were scattered all around the grounds and the arrival of a large white board to aid teaching. As the evening wore on and rumour of my return got around more and more members of the community braved the rain and could be heard shouting ‘Nina, Nina’ as they ran up the hill to see me!
As we sat eating, playing games and drinking rice wine I was so pleased to see that all the villagers (including the cat) were just the same as they had been a year ago but the one change that struck me most was the way their confidence had grown. Where as before conversations had been slightly stilted due to a concern about the accuracy of their English, now everyone was happy to join in conversations, crack jokes and even be more than slightly willing to take the micky out of me!
As I drove away from the village the next morning I was left in no doubt that everyone would be just fine and that one day, whether they like it or not, I would be back!