October 9, 2013, by Ellie
Heading North: Cameron Highlands and the Orang Asli
The last couple of weeks have felt like university in overdrive mode. Moving from second year to third year is hard enough in a familiar environment, but doing it in a whole new country is one hell of a ride! Take the much more independent learning style, and add a number of complicating factors…for a start, there’s the heat and the humidity. For the first few days here I thought I was actually melting. Now I’m currently sitting outside on the patio in 30oC heat, doing my work and wearing jeans. By the time I get back to the UK I’m never going to stop complaining about the cold!
As well as the heat, there’s the wildlife. Sitting at my table out here I’ve had two skinny cats stroll past. Also a minute ago a huge flock of tiny birds swooped down on someone’s leftovers a table away from me. This morning I nearly stepped on a praying mantis, and I’ve grown very attached to the stray puppies here as well. They’re very cute to look at and I may have possibly named some of them…
Anyway, the gist of the last fortnight is that it has been Full On. Not in a bad way, it’s been really exciting but I have to admit I feel a bit drained. I’ve been up since 7am having had a full day of lectures, plus a trip to the SA fair – I went a bit fast and loose with the societies, found myself signing up for diving, orchestra and Malaysian culture! Later this evening I’ll be meeting up with my Enactus team to talk about the next stage of our Very Exciting Project.
Let me tell you about this project. We are planning on working with the Orang Asli (“original people”) here in Malaysia, to produce a sustainable business run by them, which will improve their economic situation. Currently they face many difficulties and the situation is complex, but we’ve got some great ideas and some dedicated people on the team. Hopefully I’ll be able to update some time later this year with our success! The weekend before last we visited the village we will be working with. The village is around 2 hours drive north of campus, near the Cameron Highlands (which I visited a week later, more on that below!) and the experience was very informative and very eye opening. We spent some time learning through talking to people in the village, and also got the opportunity to go swimming! Swimming in a hot river spring in the jungle was amazing, even though I nearly lost my glasses on the riverbed at one point!
As I mentioned before, I spent last weekend in the Cameron Highlands. It was my first proper trip off campus and felt a lot like an adventure! For a start I wasn’t expecting it to be cold, but when we got off the coach we were practically shivering! Big difference because of the elevation of the area…getting there to begin with involved what felt like endless winding mountain roads, the coach lurching slightly alarmingly around a lot of the corners!
Once we made it, we got to tuck in to our first banana leaf curry, which was TASTY and also cost about £1.50. We signed up for a package tour, and after a night in the hostel we had an eventful day! The tour included seeing a butterfly farm, a pick-your-own strawberries place, a tea farm (very beautiful), and a tea factory where we stopped for a cream tea with a Malaysian twist! We also went to the highest point in the Highlands and visited an ancient mossy forest. At the end of the tour we had the option to go on a 2 or 3 hour jungle hike…of course I picked the 3 hour one! I wound up being too busy falling over/trying not to die to actually regret this decision! Plus we looked very fashionable in our Ponchos/glorified bin bags…I think I’ve caught the hiking bug because this weekend I’m climbing Broga Hill, a peak close to the university. It should be an interesting experience; we’re setting out at 4am…I feel tired just thinking about that!
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