Arrival -  Xin Tian

Finally, after a few weeks (or months) of lesson plannings and skype meetings, the enthusiastic Charismen of Teringai Project 2015 finally reached Kota Kinabalu after a few hours flight! We received the warmest greetings from Mr. James, the past president of the Rotary Club of KK. We were also brought to the beach to enjoy the sunshine and sea breeze. It was definitely a lovely way to start our first day here in KK with the hospitality of the Rotarians.

After spending a few hours chilling by the sea, it was time for us to get going with the purchasing of materials for the next two weeks. We explored the city while walking from shops to shops. The best part of it was when the various snacks and cute stationery in the supermarket reminded us of our childhood.

Dinner was great with great company. The ice among the Charismen had been broken after the bonding sessions which we had whenever we could throughout the day.

Live update: Everyone is mentally exhausted but is currently brainstorming about the incentive system which will be carried out for the students in the next two weeks. (This is how passionate the Charismen are!)

Leaving to Teringai tomorrow afternoon and we can’t wait for it already!

Rotarians and us!

The punctured tyre!

Day 1 -  Jacklyn Lam

The luxury of sleeping past sunrise is not going to come by easily in the next two weeks to come. So, we slept in. After a hearty breakfast in Jalan Gaya, Xin Tian and I attended the weekly Rotary Club Kota Kinabalu meeting to give an insight of our project. The Rotarians gave a big thumbs up to our project’s cause and we were good to go.

To our surprise, we managed to squeeze 12 people and our huge bags into a mini van and started our bumpy ride to SK Temuno Teringai Darat, Kota Marudu, accompanied by Mr James Masaya and his adorable Primary 4 son, Maxwell. Our endless chatter provided much entertainment throughout the 3 hours ride. However, the mini van came to a halt about a hundred metres away from our destination. One of the tyres had punctured. This didn’t seem to be of any surprise to Mr James as he calmly walked over to his house nearby and got on his bike to summon help. Meanwhile, the rest of us got to explore the kampung nearby.

Soon, we were set to go again and as we arrived, we were greeted with open arms. Kids rushed over to lend a helping hand with our huge bags.  We settled down for dinner near 7pm. A whistle was blown at around 7.30pm and kids started rushing down to the canteen for nighttime revision.  Worn out after a long journey, we couldn’t resist leaving the kids at the canteen so each of us naturally made our way to a table to introduce ourselves and help them out in their homework. The first kids I taught there were Diego (P4), Wecollant (P4), Johnley (P5) and Samlin (P5). They mastered multiplication and division in such a short time and the feeling of satisfaction that washed over me is just the beginning of many more good days to come here in Teringai.

The helpful kids carrying our luggage

Day 2 -  Britney Kua

Today was the first official day of teaching. As excited as we were, we still managed to get up and ready slightly behind schedule and just about made it to the first ever assembly we’ve attended.We were called up onto the front stage where the teachers were sat in one straight line and were introduced to our bright students who all looked so eager to learn from us and about us. Who knew that these were the kids who would so quickly capture our hearts?

After the typical assembly formalities, we were off to the staff room for a second round of introductions to the teaching staff. Warm welcomes were received in return.

After a short briefing with the teachers and principal of SK Temuno Teringai Darat, it finally struck that our short 2 weeks here would be majorly busy. In the short time we had here, we were due to complete so much– teaching in the mornings and afternoons with extra classes in the evening and at night, a mural to draw and paint, a play performance performed by the students to set up and also a dance performance to practice for as a farewell performance to the kids.

We then headed off to our first classes that morning which were the Year 4 and 5s. Considering that it was our first day, we took it easy with an introduction activity just to get to know the kids and their level of English. First thing as soon as the lesson begun was us teaching the kids a ‘Bananas Unite’ chant which they ended up loving! This chant allowed us to grab the attention of the kids whenever they became restless or started running around the classroom causing havoc. Don’t laugh, it is no easy feat keeping 30 feisty little 10-year olds glued to their seat throughout the lesson. This tactic proved to be quite useful in situations like these.

For most of us, today was an important day. Maybe even the most important because it was the first official day of lessons and it was when we finally learnt about the variety of children and their capabilities within each of the classes we were assigned to.It struck us the hardest to learn that some of our kids could not even differentiate between boy and girl. How were they expected to pass a UPSR English paper?Then again, there were the top students who could converse in the most basic conversational English and even occassionally build grammatically perfect sentences.It was very much thought-provoking but we kept the thinking and reflecting for later on in the project as we had to make a major reshuffle of all the lesson plans we had previously prepared. We knew that most of what we had planned will no longer be applicable given the levels of understanding shown by the students.

After teaching during school hours from 8am-1pm, we taught the Year 6 students during their extra classes (2-4pm and 7-9pm). That works out to be many hours of being on our feet and teaching– not to forget the time spent playing and bonding with the kids during their free time.

At the end of the night, we were undoubtedly shattered from the activities of the day but powered through to have some reflection time as a group and also do some lesson planning for the lessons coming up in the next couple of days.An important question on our minds today was: Do the smart kids continue getting smarter and the weaker kids continue staying stagnant at their level of knowledge and understanding?How do we overcome the vast difference between the varying capabilities of students in each classroom? How do we satisfy the better kids whilst also giving enough attention to the weaker ones?Food for thought to brainstorm for the next couple of lesson plans.

Till the next update.

Third day of our volunteering mission and my last full day in Teringai. We decided to start off the day with mural painting. The kids were very curious and stared at the wall, wondering what we were going to do next. They were excited about how it would look like at the end, and honestly so were we. As I was teaching Mathematics and English to the students, it struck to me of how poor the quality of their education is. Basic addition and multiplication proved to be overwhelming for them.

However, there was one student that surprised us all, his logical reasoning of obtaining his answers in an unconventional way truly put us in awe.


At that moment, I thought he was definitely a genius in the making. The sad thing however was that when one of the volunteers praised him, he replied saying that he was not smart because he belonged to the ‘dumber’ class. I now am able to see for myself, how the elite system in our education is flawed, mostly only benefiting those with smart grades at an early age ,at the expense of those who were weaker that had much potential. I went into this experience thinking what I could do for these kids, but it turns out I gained more than I have given. They thought me to be grateful and also to be patient.

When I realised how hard it was for me to remember 5 words of Rungus ( their local dialect) in 3 days, it struck to me how hard it was for them to even remember 5 English words a day. I had learned to become more understanding towards them and focused on making lessons fun to make studying more appealing rather than feeding them words they would simply not comprehend. I feel sad, now that I realize my time in Teringai is almost up. I wish I could have done more and spent more time with them but sadly my time with them ends tomorrow evening. This has been a short but memorable experience, which was truly enjoyable because of my fellow volunteers and students.

Day 3 -  Kriztee Fu

Mural is halfway done!

I’m going to miss this team, these kids and this place

Day 4 -  Jiale

As usual, we had breakfast at 0630 and reported at the teacher’s quarters at 0730. The kids were doing their weekly aerobic exercise on the field. They seemed to enjoy themselves a lot and after requesting to the teacher, we are going to be in charge of the exercise next Thursday, using our own choice of music and moves. As the kids were still doing the aerobic exercise, some of us continued to paint our mural while the others joined the kids on the field.

At 0830, 5 of us entered 6 Gemilang for English and the other 4 entered Year 5 for English. During the recess, 3 of us spent some time at the reading corner outside the library reading stories to the kids. It was quite fun and fulfilling as the kids were all very enthusiastic and did not seem to mind some of our lousy translations. After recess, all of us entered 6 Impian for English. We split the kids into groups and each of us were in charge of one group and we went through paper 2 with them question by question. We discussed and explained the words, then we made the sentences with the kids, enabling them to write down the correct answers.

The kids have a weak foundation in English, hence we think that the best way to drill them for UPSR is to familiarise them with the sentence structures and words that might be used in the exams. Some of the kids were fast to understand but there was quite a big majority that still had a problem remembering the words even after a few repetitions. As there was no teacher in Year 4, some of us went into the class earlier than planned and taught them Mathematics. We cancelled the Year 4 English lesson and continued with Mathematics as the progress was good. During lunch, we were informed that the RCC visit was cancelled. Hence, we conducted extra classes for the two year 6 classes for English and Mathematics.

The kids have a weak foundation in English, hence we think that the best way to drill them for UPSR is to familiarise them with the sentence structures and words that might be used in the exams. Some of the kids were fast to understand but there was quite a big majority that still had a problem remembering the words even after a few repetitions. As there was no teacher in Year 4, some of us went into the class earlier than planned and taught them Mathematics. We cancelled the Year 4 English lesson and continued with Mathematics as the progress was good. During lunch, we were informed that the RCC visit was cancelled. Hence, we conducted extra classes for the two year 6 classes for English and Mathematics.

The afternoon extra class for 6 Gemilang

Aerobic exercise every Thursday morning

Day 5 - Celina How

It was 6.30am when everyone got up and got ready for classes. Sean arrived today. After breakfast and my daily morning hot Milo, it was time for classes. Classes started exceptionally early today at 7.30am. It was so early, but the kids were as hyped as ever for class. Usually classes in KL starts at 8 in the morning but students here were still dead asleep on their tables. Where do these students get their energy from? It was story day for Year 5. So we were divided the students into groups. But I was left with only 3 students at first. Then, Veno shouted, “Siapa nak baca dengan Kak Celina?” Then a bunch of students just took their chairs and came quickly to me. It was nice to see the kids actually eager to learn. The looks of the kids when I was telling them a story was priceless. They listened quietly and would ask me for the meaning of the words if they did not understand.  

Today, we also had a dental workshop for Year 1, 2 and 4. We bought them tooth kits. They were so happy to receive a tooth kit (toothbrush and toothpaste). They were super excited to see the nurses. But half of us left early because there weren’t any teachers in some of the classes. So we took over. Veno and I decided to teach 6 Impian. We did a science quiz with them. During this quiz, we split them up into groups. They were all so competitive. We took a 20 minute break from teaching and we let the kids teach us instead. They taught us Bahasa Rungus. I learnt how to say one to ten in Rungus. Their language is actually really interesting and special.

On Thursdays, some of the kids would go to Rotary Club Centre (RCC) to play games and interact with the other kids. Veno, Britney and I decided to stay back to give extra classes to 6 Gemilang while the rest went to RCC. As I entered 6G, two lovely girls, Bella and Rose, gave us bubble gums. It was really sweet of them to do so because I never taught them before but they were still willing to share their sweets with us.  I refuse to take it because I felt bad. But she kept persisting, so I took one. But she has this theory if I take one; my other eye would be blind. I love how they come up with theories like these. But I gave her two candies in return. Barter system. She refused to accept it too. So I told her if she didn’t she would be blind. Then she laughed. It is cute how little things can amuse them.

However, when class started, the kids from 6 Impian wanted extra mathematics classes too. With so little manpower, Veno and I had to split the kids into two groups. Everything went smoothly until the end of the class when a girl whom I was teaching cried. Panic and scared, I tried to console her and asked her why she was crying. But she refused to look or talk to me. I tried so hard to talk to her. But she ran away from me. I was worried about her. Was I that strict? Was I too tough on her? Thoughts kept wandering through my mind. Veno and Britney tried to comfort me. The feeling of making a kid cry just makes me a little more frustrated at myself. So, I just tried to relax. Since the rest were not back yet, three of us decided to go for a walk. As we were walking out form the school, the rest came back. Most of them went to play with the kids. Half of us decided to walk to a nearby river. James showed us the way. On the way back, we saw Buah Tarap. James tried ‘jolok-ing’ one for us but failed. When we got back, it was just nice for dinner. Abang Paul kept milo in the fridge for us! So we had cold milo. Before I ate, I saw my student. She still did not look at me. Then I went to her and apologized. Then she hugged me and said she forgave me. Relieved. After dinner, we had movie night for the kids to distress them. We played “Big Hero 6”. I could hear some of the kids tearing at the end of the movie. It was passed their bedtime. So we sent them back to bed. Light out.

Throughout the project, it was clear to me the difference in level of education of the students in rural areas as compared to students from the city. However, the students were still as eager to learn. The kids there were filled with energy. They are balls of sugar running around. Their energy level never decreases. We were each in charge of two students in teaching them mathematics. I saw tremendous improvements in my boys, Juhaili and Arikcan. What touched me was before I left, Juhaili gave me a letter. Inside the letter, he said he would help Arikcan with Mathematics when I am gone. He would make sure that both of them will work hard to be successful. He even wrote down, if Arikcan keeps playing, he himself would advise Arikcan and ensures he studies. When I read that letter, I almost teared. I am very proud of both of them. Before Juhaili went back home, he turned to look at me and teared and walked back home. I did not want to leave. Honestly, I hope this project would last longer. One kid actually said “I want to be an accountant like Kak Celina.” Goodbyes are the worst.

During this project, I have learnt a lot about myself. This project has taught me to be more patient and braver. Life was quite carefree there. At first, it was tough but I got used to it. I will always remember showering with sungai water and always wonder what is in that water. Laughing at my own jokes while the others would just laugh at me. This would not have been the same without my team mates. Not looking down at our smartphones (because we did not have signal), we actually bonded more. It was really nice to see everyone’s face and not just my phone screen. I will miss all those Skype meetings, “pillow talk” conversations and also conversations about food every single day with no fail and the wars with red ants every single morning.

Day 6 - Wei Teen

The excited kids learning the proper ways to brush teeth

Our pillow-talking time

Story telling session with my primary five kids!

After a hectic week of learning and teaching, the long awaited weekend finally came. However, this Saturday wasn’t as sweet as a date for us and the Primary 6 children in SK Temuno Teringai. Why? Because we had no other options but to stay in school to face the upcoming extra class on a cosy Saturday morning which I would have probably slept in if I was still back at home.Oh great, the hateful extra classes again.That was my first thought when I realised that additional English and Maths classes were scheduled for the morning from 8am-12pm. Yes, 8am early in the morning. On a Saturday. Solely for the standard 6 kids.To be honest, a glance through their fully packed timetable brought me back down memory lane. Back to the days where I used to call them the ‘Sardine Tin Saturdays’, which I wouldn’t even have a second to exchange my breathe. Memories about having hours after hours of boring extra classes flood back into my mind, and I didn’t want to see these bubbly kids having to experience what I have gone through.  I felt really pitiful to have the year 6 borders retained in school for the weekend, and the more I thought about it, the deeper my heart sank.

But, those were just my thoughts. AND I WAS WRONG about these children’s opinion about having extra lessons. Out of my expectation, the kids were so eager to learn, and they seemed to be more than happy to have classes with us. Little did I know that to them, extra class means knowledge time that they receive as rare as diamond! Why couldn’t I be like them when I was their age? I thought. That passion about learning is definitely something that I have never seen in a city kid of their age!

Every single time when I asked my assigned kids – Azrinchuil and Feridolen whether they would like to have homework from me, they would surely reply me with a fixed answer: ‘MAU!’, along with a wide smile on their faces. Despite the fact that the homework that I was about to give was on English and Maths – which would be the subjects that I fear most if I were in their position, they were still willing to get more homework. My ice cold heart melts every single time I see and hear their replies. I love having conversations with them. They are just too adorable to be true, and their positive attractions are so strong that I can still feel them with me right now at this second, with an image of their faces fading into my vision although I’m already across the ocean.

But having lessons at 8 o’clock in the morning just seemed a little too early for us humans from the urban areas. So, one of my project ventures decided to ask for the time they usually wake from bed on weekends.To our surprise, what the kid replied was: ‘Biasanya kami perlu bangun awal pada pukul 5.30. Tapi, kami bangun lewat sikit pada hujung minggu. 7.30 pagi baru bangun.’Haaa. So 7.30a.m. is considered late for them to get themselves ready for the day in Kampung Teringai. No wonder they were all fine to have tuition at 8.00a.m.! Seriously, I couldn’t even remember when was the last time I woke up at 7.30 on a weekend. It really is time for me to face the wall of shame. I told myself.

After lunch, the Headmaster, Cikgu Larry and other teachers came back to school on purpose to bring us for sightseeing at the Teringai Beach. They said that the Teringai Beach is a must go place if you ever come to Teringai.Unfortunately, the kids were not allowed to join us at the beach as the school had not collected their parent’s written consent beforehand. Having no authority in making any decisions on this matter, we had no choice but to follow the school’s original plan for us. The team was divided to take two different 4 wheel-drive. Me, Jiale, Xin Tian, and Sean climbed onto the back of the first Hilux, while the rest went on the second vehicle tailing behind us. So there we go, off to the beach. Our car sped on the bumpy and sandy kampung road, creating inertias strong enough to make us scream as though we were taking a roller coaster ride, while causing sand to trail behind us throughout the whole journey.

t was a windy day. Very very windy. The wind was so strong that it kept blowing my hair off my face. Then suddenly, Poof! There went my cap flying away from my head with a gust of wind without saying goodbye to me. It made a little dance in the air and landed safely at the side of the road near the bushes. But the vehicle that I was on still kept going at its original pace, creating distance between me and my dearest cap. Soon after, I could no longer see my cap, nor could I see the other Hilux with the other half of our teammates on board. Strange, wasn’t it? The other car was just behind us a minute ago, but they were out of sight already after a blink of an eye. Was our driver speeding that fast on a road like this? Or the other car was just genuinely trying to avoid the flying sand created by us? We didn’t know the answer to that.

It took us some time before the other Hilux could catch up with us at the beach. Britney came running towards me once she got down from the car. ‘Do you know what happened just now?’, she asked mysteriously. ‘Nope,’ I answered. ‘That Shafiq jumped down from the Hilux to save your cap. He said that he should be able to make it and jumped off the car without a warning which gave us a shock of our lives! The car stopped immediately after to make sure that he was fine. So that’s why we were way behind you! Here’s your cap,’ said Britney while taking my cap out of her bag. My, my! Goodness me! My heart skipped a beat even by listening to her story. I nearly got a heart attack!

Thank you Shafiq for picking up my cap, but please do not do something like that again alright?

We had lots of fun at the beach while battling the strong, sandy wind. Every gale of wind came along with a layer of sand coating our skin. So at the end of the day, we came to a conclusion that today might be the best day for us to join the kids for a shower at the river! (The kids in SK Temuno Teringai shower in a river behind the school compound every evening)

Yes, that was my first time showering in a river. It was totally a whole new experience. The girls first changed into their sarong, then started washing their clothes in the river. Me and a few other colleagues did not have the guts to enter the river initially as we were having our week of the month. But hey, we were there to experience, weren’t we? Slowly, we took small steps into deeper parts of the river, with the water level reaching our waists. As we were focusing on our footsteps, here came the whole gang of kids splashing water at us. Being humans, our first reaction was to splash them back with water! So, a fun and exciting water fight began in the little stream of Kg. Teringai. Later on, Britney, Celina, Veno and Jiale decided to sign up for something closest to cliff jumping during this summer break. The kids led them up a huge rock of about 2 metres tall. And from there, they had to dive into the river. There were lots of water splashing everywhere, accompanied with laughters and screams of joy.

We had so much fun in the river that we merely heard the sound of the whistle urging us to get back to the hostel in order to make way for the guys to shower after us ladies.

Without us realising, the Sun had already set itself behind the mountains of Kudat. (Sun sets at 6.30pm in East Malaysia). As usual, dinner was ready at the dining area waiting for to dig in. But today was slightly different from other nights. Today was bonding night where musics were played and BBQ dinner was served.

The girls taught us how to make curls on long hair manually without any tools other than our bare hands. It was amazing to discover how the villagers created ways to curl their hair without using a curler!We ate, sang, and danced like a normal dinner party. But what made it different from other parties was the flavour of their culture that I will never forget. It was a long yet memorable night…While writing this, I actually have the song ‘Sakitnya Tuh Disini’ playing on my computer, and trust me, that song brings back lots of memories about Project Teringai.I will never forget the evening where we danced Sumazau in a circle, when the electricity suddenly cut off by itself. That was the evening that we sang “Call Me Maybe” but received no response from our audience. That was the evening where Sean and Xin Tian had their first duet, not forgetting the dance performed by the girls for us too. It was the evening where we realised how the principal and other teachers can actually sing so well. That was the night where we danced so long together and we all sweated so badly. I can still remember the melody of the song going on and on….Sakitnya Tuh Disini, di dalam hatiku, Sakitnya Tuh Disini, di dalam hatiku… with Cornelius’s tiny mini body moving along with every beat.

There are too many things to remember, but nothing to forget. It is indeed a blessing that fate brought us all together. Without anyone of you, #teringai2015 will be so different. Thank you, for all the great memories created by you.

Nunu Gamon Nu? Samadan Oku Dikau.

(What are you doing now? I miss you.)

Xin Tian, Jacklyn, me, Jiale and Sean on the hilux, feeling super excited

Look at them curls! Done by the Suhaini, one of the hairdressers

So, this is the road we had been driving on

My kids

Day 7 - Wei Teen

Our heading to the tamu (morning market) in town today was pretty impromptu. Our Rotarian friend, James Masaya suggested that it would be a memorable experience for us yesterday night and we were like “Why not? Okie, ons la!”. So at 6am this morning, all 9 of us squeezed aboard the back of a pickup van for the hour-long journey to Kota Marudu.

Kota Marudu is the closest town to Teringai. Despite its small size, it is busy due to it being the main supply centre for nearby villages. Everything you would expect from a small town Kota Marudu has: from local supermarkets, some fast food and even cybercafes. 

Along our journey, we stopped by an asrama for secondary students. Most of the Teringai students who graduated and entered secondary school ended up studying here and true enough, as our van passed through, some of the kids recognized and welcomed us. “Hi, kakak dan abang UKECharisma!” they waved as our van approached them.We had mi kolok for breakfast. I ended up finishing up Xintian’s and Jacklyn’s meals, as per usual. The football jerseys that the boys seemed to be always wearing back at Teringai appeared to be a bestseller here as the clothing shops were filled with them. They costed about RM20 each by the way.

The temu itself was a legit pasar by the locals for the locals. We saw some curios like mountain rice, root water, and a dog which Jacklyn thought we bought. The girls bought some presents such as bracelets, headbands and jerseys for their kids. Myself? I went for the strongest lastik I have ever seen for my boys.We were supposed to head back to Teringai at 10am but only left at 1pm as some of the van’s passengers were late. So much for our short morning excursion, huh? Some of us got a little frustrated during the wait, but it seemed that life stories and shipping were effective methods of keeping us occupied. There weren’t many kids left in the asrama when we got back. Some kids could usually head back to their homes over the weekends, leaving only 40 of them here, mostly the Year 6s. But even with half the numbers, the kids were still full of spunk during our treasure hunt. Overall, despite being a ‘rest day’, playing frisbee and practicing Thug Le left us pretty tired. Hopefully the Monday blues won’t get to us tomorrow!

Awkward poses of the kids during the hands and feet game conducted by Kak Jiale

The newspaper game conducted by Kak Veno forced them to make awkward poses again

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