Greetings from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. I’m out here with some friends diving and hiking and swimming and being ridiculous and some of our friends are already home! I leave tomorrow to meet my mom in Tokyo! I will be traveling with her until the beginning of December…when I come home! I can’t believe it. This post is to mark the end of my grant year (Brooke told me I had to do it). I am borrowing a friends computer and writing/uploading as fast as I can so bear with me. I think I might keep up the blog throughout my life when it feels right…I don’t know why I feel more comfortable posting here than on social but it feels more private and I like that!
I had a pretty dramatic last week of school and I haven’t fully processed everything. The Saturday before my last week of classes I woke up with a man vigorously knocking on my bedroom window and let’s just say I really don’t want to talk about it but it was very upsetting but I am ok and I was able to get him to leave. I left as soon as possible to go to the safest place I knew…school, to meet up with my form 1 girls. I got there and they were really helpful and sweet and comforting and I think it was hard for them to see me not be my smiley self. The students kept laughing about someone coming into my house but when they saw my face and heard my story I think they got the picture and it was an important moment for them. We ate roti canai and played with water balloons by the surau and just as I was going to the English room to choreograph a dance with my form 4 students for my last assembly I got a call from my roommate that our house caught on fire. I kid you not. Our house legit caught on fire. Gabs was outside writing letters when a neighbor yelled “SMOKE” so naturally Gabs and our neighbor ran in and poured water on the electrical fire. The fire was in her room and we had major damage happen to the house and everything was covered in smoke and ash but it was ok and we were ok. Our landlord came and my mentor and basically our whole neighborhood came and stood in our disgusting smokey home as we mopped the fallen ash and wall and Gabrielle’s desk that had burned. No one spoke in English. We were petrified and emotionally exhausted and covered in ash. I know I sound dramatic but that was probably the worst day of my life. I felt so unsafe and uncomfortable and there was no where to go and no one that I felt safe with. The landlord hired a team of 20-year-old electricians who ‘fixed’ our wires while shirtless and told us through google translate that not even they would stay here because “the wires are so bad.” I had a small electrical fire in my room earlier in the year but nothing like this. It was awful and I wanted to be anywhere but in my room waiting while shirtless men walked through our house and were working in my bedroom for hours while I awkwardly sat on my bed after the incident with the man at my window and me in my bed, (the man who in a previous incident told me to come over because his wife was not home, and who has showed up at other teacher’s homes to ask where I am because he “wanted to learn English.”) I put on a facemask and my house dress and listened to music for hours drowning out the men walking in and out of my bedroom and house until we could leave. We drove to Chenor at like 11pm to stay with our friends and we all went to church the next day. The weirdest thing is – the night before the fire I completely packed my room up, taking down all my photos and packing all my clothes into my suitcase…over a week before we were leaving. Gabs packed her bags after the fire and we legit drove around with our suitcases in the car that week, afraid of another fire. We were scared to stay in our house but we did it anyway, covered in ash without a working fridge. Gabs moved into the spare room.
The last week of school was really tough. I hung out with students most days after school that week getting food and playing cards and playing guitar. I spent one night at my mentor’s house making lasagna and playing with her babies. Form 4 were in exams and Forms 1 and 2 were switching off having a day off school so that it would be quieter for Form 4 exams. Form 3 was finished with exams so they had no classes but were still caned if they didn’t come to school – even though their teachers didn’t show up to class. Form 5 was a preparing form SPM. All in all, no one really had class. I worked with students to make a video about their personal wishes/goals for the future, and we decorated the English room. It was quite poignant to be decorating the English room my last day of school because it has been a headache since the very beginning…when I was just given a bare room to decorate and create with basically no funds or help or materials. I am proud to say I am leaving the room painted with waves and a mural and decorations and pictures and banners and materials from projects we have been working on the entire year and art supplies and tables and chairs and good energy (but no air con.) On Wednesday, my second-to-last day of class, my mentor planned a going-away assembly for me and students gave speeches, I gave a speech (where I forgot to mention my mentor and it became a huge deal,) my principal gave a speech, and a student sang to me “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” in front of the whole school. After, the principal sang me a song and I was told I had to get up and give him a flower during his song…which I did…reluctantly, and the crowd went WILD. At the end of the assembly some students came up and gave me gifts and one student, who can’t read or write in Malay and is heavily bullied on an hourly basis for his weight and skin came up to me during assembly in front of the whole school and gave me a gift and it meant the world to me. Oh Malaysia I will miss you so much. My last day was filled with tears and pictures and hugs and gifts and cleaning and potlucks and so much at once.
We had a few days in between school and returning the car/ debrief where I spent basically all day going from village to village hanging out with students and saying goodbye.
I really love you all and can’t wait to see you.
My Malaysian number won’t work on my travels but you can message my American number on WhatsApp or DM me on social 🙂
ClareAbouts is not an official U.S. Department of State publication, and the views and information presented in this blog are entirely my own, and do not represent the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or the U.S. Department of State or the Fulbright Commission or Malaysia.