The past weekend was a weekend of firsts – first time in Malaysia, first time leaving Singapore, first time seeing giant lizards, first time swimming by a waterfall, first time getting detained at the Singaporean border, first time avoiding alcohol duty fees…and we’ll stop it right there. Yes, it was an eventful weekend of firsts.
Let’s just say that mornings without breakfast are the worst. At six in the morning, my stomach was on its way to eating itself to death with hydrochloric acid. Luckily, my friend G packed an extra banana, which she graciously gave me. Note to self: listen to what my mom says and buy snacks the night before. Despite my howling stomach, I couldn’t help but feel excited to travel with ten other (new) friends, because it made me feel “Grade-8-young” again. Waking up early for this short, but formative trip was akin to waking up for Temp Mini School’s annual Strathcona trips. Ah, I will always be the one to find ways to feel nostalgic 🙂
After taking a Singaporean cab, bus, Malaysian cab, ferry, and a badass 4×4 truck, we finally made it to our quaint beach hut on Tioman Island. I can’t deny that some form of island charm exists in this world; and that charm thrives because of the slower pace that island life usually embodies. I always feel less guilty for sleeping late, sleeping in, and for being a glutton when I’m on some island off some coast in some ocean. I could sit on a beach, read a book and listen to the sound of rhythmic, rolling ocean waves all day.
And frankly, that’s what I did most of the time – sit on the beach, read a book, nap and play in the warm and clear South China sea. We spent most of our time screaming things like “THIS CAN’T BE REAL LIFE,” and “YOU CAN’T DO THIS SH*T AT HOME”! Most of the time I felt a great sense of privilege and gratitude. At night, I felt especially small and insignificant, because the milky way is a good reminder that I am but a fleck of energy, merely existing in this vast universe of ours. TL;DR: Existentialism becomes a topic among exchange students while star-gazing/admiring the beauty of Mother Gaia.
Earlier, I mentioned that my trip to Tioman was the first time I swam by a waterfall. It looks underwhelming in this photo, but I assure you it was not. Given that I was sunburnt (I have a bad tendency of thinking that my skin can take more sun than the average person. Now my hips are burnt, aka karma set out to teach me a lesson), swimming in fresh water was a real treat. We had the pleasure of spotting lizards, butterflies, fish and spiders (?!) during our trip to this mini waterfall. To this, I will painfully admit that seeing all these creatures, especially the fish, made me feel really hungry. Was this animalistic, natural, or just human of me to feel this way? Maybe I will be better equipped to that question when I finish my “Animal Geographies” module at the end of this semester. 😉
On Monday morning, we mustered what was left of us and made our journey back home. This took a whopping 12.5 hours, thanks to a culmination of things: waiting for the ferry (1.5 hours), waiting for the bus (3 hours), and waiting at the border because myself, LMN and H got in “trouble” (1 hour). My brother claims that the border guards probably didn’t like me because I have crazy red hair. Thanks, Peter.
I’ve opted to stay home this upcoming weekend to catch up on what I like to say, “life.” My readings are waiting for some major TLC and I have a million e-mails to answer. Upon reflection, I do admit that long, arduous journeys, especially in big groups, are fun, and at points even more memorable than the destination. My friend LMN was explaining this sentiment in German, and when she asked me to translate, I said something extremely inarticulate: “it’s always about the journey, not the place where you end up…,” only to realize that it’s supposed to be “Life is a journey, not a destination.”