Well where do I begin with Camp Tinangol, we were there for just under three weeks, which is by far the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since leaving England. However it wasn’t the length of time that made it so special – it was our incredible camp leader Kenny, the lovely staff on site, our crazy but adorable dog Kimo, as well as the work and people in the village that we had to thank for making it so unforgettable.
Now I don’t want to bore you with every mundane detail as to be honest, the working days were fairly similar, so instead I’ve decided to write a truly original ‘a day in the life of…’ post 😜.
My personal alarm would go off before the 6.30am gong (yes we had a gong, which was used to alert people of food – as the camp site was fairly spread out). I’d then check for any new red ant bites before maneuvering my mosquito net and stumbling out of bed. Being an annoyingly organised person, I’d have my clothes ready and waiting. When planning our outfits we had to be respectful of the local people, so our shoulders and the tops of our legs needed to be covered.
I would then try and quietly walk down our longhouse, which is a traditional tribal house, before putting on my muddy walking boots and heading down to breakfast, which started at 7am. People would come down in drips and drabs, which was mainly dependent on what was on offer. Pancakes had the best turnout, followed by noodles, porridge and then fried rice. My personal favourite was porridge, which I hadn’t eaten for three months!
At 8am led by Kimo (the dog), we’d start the 1.5 mile walk to our project site. Majority welcomed the fairly challenging hilly and uneven morning walk, which by the afternoon was severely cursed.
We’d arrived in the village saying good morning (Selamat Pagi) to the local people. When Kenny taught us Malay phrases, we were told to be as cheery as possible, so ended up sounding like a morning chorus.
The group would then split into two separate projects – one would paint the community centre, while the other would work on restoring a playground for the local nursery and children in the village. As we had started with the playground, I was determined to get as much done as possible, so didn’t end up painting.
We’d begin our work just before 9am, but by then it was already 30 degrees. Sun creamed to our eyeballs, with our water bottles full, gardening gloves and hat on, we were ready to take on the site.
The playground work required a variety of skills including hoeing the roots of weeds, which were over 6ft tall, digging, uprooting trees, creating steps, carrying extremely heavy wheelbarrows, starting bonfires, landscaping, making cement and building brick walls. The work was very physical and in the heat, it was demanding.As midday heat hit the playground we’d stop around 11.30am-12pm for a two hour lunch. I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t I write my blog then. Well let me tell you, after a full morning of work I couldn’t move! We’d start work again between 1.30-2pm. The afternoons were always harder than the mornings! However we can proudly say that our hard work certainly paid off as the area was transformed from an overgrown mini forest, to a place where kids could play. Sadly we didn’t completely finish it, so it’s now in the capable hands of the next group (n.b. firstly the first picture is a before shot – yes it was that overgrown 😮 and secondly we didn’t forget the bit in the middle, it’s a pond). Finishing around 3.30pm, we’d pack up the tools, clean the dirt off our arms, legs and sometimes face, access our war wounds before the painful 1.5 mile walk back to camp. After a hard day of work, I resented but almost welcomed the challenge. On one of the days I was dared to carry a 8kg log back, (which later became my workout log named Lorraine). Obviously I had to win, but regretted it after 5 minutes. When back at camp, I’d do a few stretches before sitting down and drinking a Milo (Australian hot chocolate). The gong would go off at 5pm for an afternoon snack of either rice crackers, doughnuts, fried bananas or banana dumplings. Eating more than I’ve ever eaten before in my life, I generally opted out of snack time.
After a cold shower (which was more than welcomed) I’d put on some loose clothes, spray myself with mozzie spray, sort my clothes for the next day, then would head off to the washing area (a bowl and cold water) to clean my clothes. Once all the chores were done, sometimes we were lucky to catch an incredible sunset.
The gong would ring for the last time of the day at 7pm for dinner. I’m not going to list every meal here as we could be here for hours, however know the food was super yummy (Kimo thought so too). Full and sleepy, we’d still take part in an evening activity such as playing cards, heads up or even one night a quiz (which I jumped at the opportunity to organise – such a loser). Everyone would head up to bed from 8pm. Ducking and diving from the massive beetles which sounded like spitfires, I’d make it to my bedroom, check the bed for any bugs before crawling inside my mosquito net and passing out. Eat, sleep, work, repeat. So that’s Camp Tinangol done and dusted 😊. Honestly I can’t quite believe how quickly the three weeks went. But onwards and upwards…
Jessica Storm ✌️