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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Community Service 2014 - Felda Air Tawar 3, Kota Tinggi, Johor

Honestly, I really dislike this 'subject' which is compulsory for all UPM students (I am not sure whether it is still compulsory for the following batch). Because of this 'subject', I lost my chance to participate in many events that I was interested in during Saturdays and I completed tasks because I had to, not because I wanted to. Community service is a good cause that encourages students to contribute to the community, but it is not good when students don't get to make their own decisions as in choosing the village that they want to go and activities that they want to carry out there to improve the community's living condition and awareness there. I had been hoping that this semester flew past, so that I can spend quality time doing things I like on weekends, and finally, it did.

Kampung Felda Air Tawar 3 (I didn't manage to see this view though)
(photo taken from Felda Air Tawar 3 blog)

However, there is one thing that I appreciate deeply, even after I left the place - our foster family, I believe all of us feel the same towards them. For two and a half days in Johor, we spent less than half of the time with them but still we could feel their tender loving care towards us. It was already school holidays when we went to Felda Air Tawar 3. There were weddings going on and villagers were busy doing the preparation (they have the rewang tradition where everyone in the village volunteerily participates in the cooking preparation for the wedding) but still they accepted our arrival. As a result, one family was willing to foster up to 11 students so that all 62 of us could joined this 'community service'! My foster family took 6 students, including me, Faa, Kogi, Mary, Idah and Mira who made up of 5 races: Malay, Chinese, India, Iban and Melanau.

At the beginning I was kinda worried. Firstly, I am not close to my foster-mates (we were not even acquaintances). Secondly, I am not really good in speaking daily Malay (writing is not a problem to me). Thirdly, I am shy and this was the first time I got adopted (LOL). My ayah angkat and mak angkat are orang Jawa and they are from the same generation as my grandparents. Ayah angkat is talkative and humourous, I really didn't expect an old man to keep making fun of me with language (ok he was just joking with me hahaha). Mak angkat is just like my grandmother who is always busy in the kitchen to prepare food for us. We felt her caring towards us through three meals that we had there. As soon as we reached our home (Kak Chombi, our foster sister fetched us), we were greeted with chilling ice bars (childhood!), drinks and a traditional Indonesian snack called Tampi which is made of dhal (food is really something that connects people together!). We chatted with ayah angkat to get to know each other more (and also among the foster-mates, hahaha) while munching on the snacks (mak angkat was cooking our lunch at the kitchen).  

Me and my lovely foster-mates!
(from left: Kogi, Faa, me, Mira, Idah and Mary)

After having eaten-with-hand lunch (I know it sounds weird, it feels weird too, to me, hehe), we headed back to the Wisma (the place where we had all the ceremonies and activities) for the preparation of station games for all the villagers especially children. I was surprised by the trust existed among the villagers. We went door to door to ask the children come out and join the station games and they did! They were happy and cheerful, unlike many children living in the city, unlike many of us there. I was somehow taken aback when a 9-year-old girl asked me my name and my age, and told me she had an older brother studying in university just like me. It was easy to feel close with them because of the trust they gave us. For the second day, many mak cik who were supposed to be busying in the kitchen joined the talk we held because they understood our situation and how awkward would it be if there was no audience (not many people attended because there were weddings going on).

They are just so sweet together!
At the night before we went back to UPM, we made currypuffs with mak angkat. We had lots of laughters due to our unskillfulness (except Mira who has such a gift!) and ugly currypuffs. Mak angkat felt just like my grandmother who cooks our meals and makes all the delicacies to feed our tummy. Grandma knows how to make currypuffs too, but I never helped out. I feel really ashamed for not spending quality time with grandma and suddenly I miss her very much. The next morning, we had to leave at noon. There was just not much time for us to mingle around. We walked around the village for awhile (the houses are quite far apart with hills going up and down) and headed back home to 'help out' in making baskets out of old newspapers. Yes we really wanted to help in making those baskets which will be given away as gift during our foster brother's wedding next year but we ended up messing around with the newspapers. The newspapers need to be rolled around thin stick which will be removed and the rolled newspapers will be used to make the basket. The basket will then be painted using lacquer as final touch. Before I managed to learn the waving skills, it's time to pack our luggage.

Us with our mak angkat and ayah angkat. Behind these smiling faces, there was sorrow. We have no idea whether we would ever meet again in future. Kota Tinggi is not really far away, I hope that one day we can gather again in this warm family.

Unsurprisingly, we all cried. It was a super emotional moment to me as well. How could some complete strangers accept you with open arms and treat you just like their children? And what kind of 'service' we had given to them that we deserve such a warm welcome? We have certainly gained something from this 'community service', not experience in organising activities or formal ceremonies, but the giving of unconditional love towards others, even strangers. You won't know how much people will be touched with your kind act. Maybe just a smile, maybe just a helping hand. This could be a happier world to live in.

Mak dan ayah, kami akan sentiasa merindui detik-detik manis sepanjang dua hari setengah tersebut. Jaga diri baik-baik ya, inshaallah kita akan berjumpa lagi!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dear Fellow University Students, It's Time to Get Up! Bangkitlah!

First and foremost I feel sorry that both of my blogs have been deserted for quite some time. I have to force myself to pick up the keyboard again after putting blogging at a less important priority and it became a habit. Before this, whenever I blog, inspiration kept flowing into my mind that I feel relaxed and confident in writing. But now... I have to slowly recover from the laziness to blog although the final examinations are just around the corner in less than two weeks time!

For this post I just want to update a bit to round up this whole third semester of my life here in UPM. This semester is a great leap for me, not in terms of achievement (I have somehow abandoned Wushu, boohoo...) but my ideology and determination in doing something I really want to do. All these happened after I went to a charity lunch organised by Baramkini which was held to raise fund besides raising public awareness on this issue. The whole issue is about the protest towards the building of mega dam at Baram, a place belongs to native people (orang asli). If the dam is built, villages will be submerged and people there will have nowhere to go. Activists built houses and barrage to block the way getting into Baram to stop the construction progress. I believe that not many people in Peninsular Malaysia have known about this issue which involves human rights and also the environment because we are living comfortably without the risk of getting chased away from our home. There must be someone who are willing to stand up for the people whose voice couldn't be heard. Not many people are willing to do so, risking their life for the welfare of others. But still, this group of people do. They are volunteers from all walks of life who fight for people's right.

The barrages which are rebuilt and rebuilt to protect the homes of indigenous people.
(photo taken from the Facebook page of Baramkini)

What have university students done for the community? Focusing on studies? Nah, everyone knows that is bu*****t! This is not about politics, this is social movement. University students need to have the awareness regarding human rights and do something when we see unrighteous things happening around us instead of isolating ourselves from all these current critical issues because the adults asked us not to do so, it's against the 'rules', 'rules' that restrict us to do the right thing, 'rules' that turn us into a mere working force for the 'ruling' force in the future, 'rules' that scare us from speaking up for our own welfare! Since we were young, an ideology was planted in our head - obey the rules and feel afraid of the rules. Yes, rules that keep the society in order such as the traffic laws need to be followed, however, unrighteous rules that erode our rights must be fought against! We have learnt in the history of Malaysia that all the pahlawan were once a 'traitor' in the eyes of the authority. They sacrifice their reputation or even life to uphold the people's right, to prevent their people from being further bullied by the colonizers! On the other hand, do you see what happen here? Who are the poor victims and who are big bullies?

The reason I wrote this post is not to provoke university students in creating chaos but to remind everyone regarding our dangerous state of ignorance and indifference. We might be young and inexperience, we have no income and power, but there must be something we can do to help the unfortunate ones. It is still not a culture here in Malaysia for students to be proactive in fulfilling social responsibility, however we can initiate it and be the re-pioneer to bring back the past where students are the conscience of the societythe eyes for the era(社会的良知,时代的眼睛)who stand up for justice. We can slowly pick up the pace by starting with something small:

  • Make complaints to the authority whenever you encounter a leaking tap, a broken street lamp, damaged road or any facility which is not functioning.
  • Report to the authority if you witness or discover any criminal case such as stealing and burglary, especially if it happens on you.
  • Keep yourself updated regarding the current issues especially those happening in Malaysia.
  • Lending those in need a helping hand. For example, join Community Kitchen (Dapur Komuniti) which distributes food to poor people or be a volunteer to give tuition classes for children from poor families.
  • Educate others regarding social awareness like consumer rights through conversations or writing.
  • Sign petition to against unrighteous policies and regulations.

Every small deed counts. We are weak and insignificant if we act alone. Together, we stand strong. Let's make a change, a change that can make our lives a better one.

Give me ten young man, I will rock the world.   
                                                 --- Soekarno, former president of Indonesia