Travelling to Borneo Malaysia in the summer of 2015 was an experience I am proud to have undertaken. After a grueling trek across the globe, I was finally able to breathe the air of a new continent once again. I surprised myself by immediately recognizing a few plants along the city limits; banana trees and sugarcane, especially. How is it I can remember these plants when the last time I saw them was 2 years prior on a trip to Tanzania? Amazing the things the brain stores in long-term memory without you even realizing it. And that's why I love to travel. I love to just soak it all in, absorbing the surroundings and memories which permanently become a part of me.
As I traipsed through the emerald, rich, primary rainforest at the Rainforest Discovery Center, I saw this new world through a sweaty, fog-like lens of awe and wonder. Sitting on the tallest platform some 120 feet up, in the trees near the nesting hornbills, I looked out over the miles of green vines and tall trees and couldn't absorb the fact that the forest didn't go on forever. Yet I knew it is all being lost at an alarming rate. I've never considered myself a tree-hugger, but I did physically hug a few, giant, spidery trees when I got my feet back on the ground. All I can feel is how blessed I am to have been here before it is gone.
The hidden world of the forest that emerges at night is as glorious as the daytime scenery. Bugs, snakes, spiders, birds and giant flying squirrels made me feel as I was part of a bizarre movie filmed long before people had colonized much of the planet. All these organisms were just playing their role in the ecosystem, as if I wasn't there at all. I didn't even matter and could just become one with the sweat droplets rolling down my body. A civet emerges from the depths of the darkness, just past where the headlamps reach and I pause to watch as it travels along its branchy path with ease. The purple tarantula on the tree nearby scurries out of the way. All I can think, is how blessed I am to have witnessed the hidden wonders of the forest.
This land of amazement opens up its special gifts for my eyes to see; proboscis monkeys, orangutans, pygmy elephants, sun bears, butterflies, and even a few rainbows. But there was more to learn about the land, because Borneo is not free of human influence. On this trip, I met researchers who give up any resemblances of normal life in order to gain more knowledge of these creatures in hopes of being able to better protect them. I met conservation officials who care as such about helping the local people as they do helping the local wildlife. My homestay family supported me with more delicious food than I could possibly eat and made my many special circumstances fele like no inconvenience at all. I am so blessed to have become a moment in the lives of these wonderful people and hope that they feel the same in regards to me.
Borneo was my blessing. The air, the land, the water, the people. It provided me with mental sustenance that was so desperately needed.