The past couple of weeks we have stayed at camp Bonkud. It was a really nice camp in the middle of a village and, unlike Camp Tinangol, the project site and school were right next to camp. We slept 2 people to a tent which was comfortable in the evenings but you couldn't enter the tents in the day because they got so hot!
The first evening we were given another local dance by the villagers who ranged in age from 12 to 17 and we subsequently saw them perform on numerous occasions during our stay. They performed to gongs what looked like a big skipping rope game with bamboo and then tried to teach us. I could get my feet in the right place but really can't dance! After they finished they stayed at camp to chat to us. We were impressed with their English and were told that they are taught some bits at their school here. One of the girls told me that her favourite subject was maths and that she wanted to be an accountant!
The work at Bongkud was brick laying which i enjoyed much more than the work at Tinangol! I started off trying to get the cement in perfectly so that it would look nice but I soon learnt that that took far too long and they expected us to just slop it in quickly and really didn't care how pretty it looked!
On Wednesday afternoon 3 of us taught a lesson to 11 children who varied in age between 6 and 12. We used a white board to teach them words within the topics of emotions, what you find in a pencil case (a favourite in my Spanish lessons at school) and things found in a house. Overall, their knowledge and spelling was very good and if they didn't quite remember at first, a lot of them did by the end of the 2 hours. The camp manager Eve said that the children had been coming for 3 years and their English had improved so much in that time!
After work on Thursday the camp cooks taught us to make banana cake and pastry rolls. We steamed the cakes over a wok rather than using an oven but unfortunately all of them looked more like banana mush when they came out because our recipe used too many bananas. It was fun though!
At the weekend we went to Kundasang war memorial and were shown a video and then looked around the memorial gardens. Sandakan war memorial that we went to the previous weekend was where the death march started and this war memorial was where it ended.
After lunch we went to the poring hot springs and after suffering through a gloriously sunny week while we worked, we were not too happy to have it rain on our day off! I guess I have more of this weather bitterness to look forward to starting September. We still managed to do the canopy walk which was very high and didn't feel too stable. It swung from side to side and my nerves were not eased by the very scared looking guide in front of me! We then went to the waterfall before relaxing in the hot spring.
On Sunday we were scheduled to climb bongkud hill at 6am. Only 8 out of the 21 of us managed to get out of bed (when I told dad he seemed shocked that I was one of them). It a great view at the top and i enjoyed it but I am convinced that it should be called 'Mount Bongkud'
This week we were meant to do a 5 day and night jungle trek carrying 10kg on our backs and sleeping in hammocks. We started with a hard 5km trek up hill and were relieved when we started our 3km trek down thinking it would be easy from there. That didn't last for long as no one could stay on their feet and the mud was so slippy we slid from tree to tree for something to hold on to, lots of which were spiky so gave plenty of splinters. I also managed to get leeches on my stomach, shin and neck and when we finally reached the campsite (a bunch of trees) i found 6 on my socks and 1 beneath my sock which has managed to get pretty big feeding on my blood. After 1 night in the jungle most of us were exhausted so 14 of us returned to camp leaving only the very determined doing the trek. We have since been told that they don't normally do the jungle trek in rainy season!
The people that returned did a couple more days brick laying on the project site and at the weekend we were invited to 2 community weddings. On Saturday afternoon it was a muslim wedding reception and although jolly with some dancing it was a big contrast the the Christian wedding reception that we attended in the evening! The christian wedding was very loud, had lots of dancing, more food and unlimited beer. We seemed to be the main attraction and all of the others guests wanted pictures and to dance with us. After one of our girls sang karaoke to Beatles 'let it be' she wasn't allowed to leave the stage and she consequently became very good at singing jibberish to Malay songs which the locals loved. All in all a very good night and such a good experience!
The next day the 6 that had continued on the jungle trek returned with stinking bags and clothes and with horrible leech stories. We definitely got the better deal!
On the final evening we performed the malay song 'kota kinabalu', that Eve had taught us, to the camp staff and were all to sad to say bye to everyone.
We came to the capital again today ready to transfer tomorrow to Mantanani island where we stay for 2 weeks. Fingers crossed for good weather :)
Lots of love xxx