Friday, 11 December 2009

Christmas at Fieldbase! - 10.12.09

The final phase of the expedition is well on its way, all the groups seem on good form and in the festive spirit. No rainy late night shopping and false bearded Santas for us, though. Out in Borneo the Christmas tree is more likely to have bananas growing on it and the warmth of a Christmas fire is replaced by balmy hot evenings out in Sabah.
 The projects are running to target and everyone seems to be having a great time, but with 95 people out in the field how does the expedition run smoothly? Well since fieldbase staff have mums too - I am going dedicate this blog to them, so you can see how our team ensures the whole operation runs without too many hitches.

Fieldbase is a large house in Kota Kinabalu, all the staff arrive here first and undergo a training induction and start to plan the expedition here.We all live and work in the house so there's a mix of office space, dormitory-style bedrooms, stores, a radio room and living space.We live together, eat together and socialise together so sometimes it can be a little intense! All the expedition kit is kept here along with the 3 Landrovers that are essential for the expedition to run. We aways ensure a minimum of 3 people are in the house to deal with any emergencies quickly and we man the radios 24 hours a day taking 2 scheduled calls from each Alpha group daily and often a few more calls in between. So, if they need any support from us we are always on hand.

Here you can see Dr Emma Chapman, one of our medic team and Mac McCarthy, Borneo's Country Programme Manager in the the radio room where some lucky soul gets to sleep each night to the sound of white noise whilst listening out for calls. We also broadcast a Raleigh radio show at 4pm every Sunday to our groups so they can catch up with each others' news and get the latest sports results. This is Vicky our current fieldbase medic....

We have 5 medics on this expedition, 4 of them are out on projects supporting the teams and one is based in KK providing round the clock care for our teams over the radio. They also give everyone first aid training sessions, prepare huge medical kits for our groups and monitor any ongoing medical issues. This really just skims the surface of their role out here, our medics are busy all day whether its creating supply inventories or initiating new procedures. They are vital to the expedition and keeping everyone safe and well.

Next up we have Jilly and Elda in their festive gear. Elda has worked out here for a year now as accounts manager and I'm sure I don't need to explain what that entails. She does a fantastic job of managing all our budgets and tightening the purse strings - as a charity we want to make sure peoples' donations are put to good use. She also makes some great food when Loli the cook has a day off and contributes a huge amount to the day to day running of fieldbase.

Jilly is our administrator, also fairly self explanatory! Jilly, on top of the masses of paper work needed to support all of our roles and making sure all venturers documentations are up to date, also runs a Raleigh shop at changeovers and has the lengthy task of extending tons of visas. Without these two keeping us in line, the office would be in a sorry state. They have both had the opportuntity to work out on projects for some of a phase and experience life on "the other side."


The logs team below are Phil, Anna and Nicki. These guys are reponsible for all the food and equipment for the whole expedition. Making sure 120 people spread over 8 locations are rationed out the right amount for sustenance is no easy task. They supply all the groups with kit and tools to manage a work site and a camp site, maintain our vehicles and radio equipment and are responsible for moving around all this kit to the right places at the right times. As our designated drivers they are also a bit like field base chauffeurs at times but never whinge about driving us about!

Next up is our media ops. team, Maria is our photgrapher and I am the communications officer - Alex.

We have just finished working on the end of expedition T-shirt, a commemorative magazine, photo CD, slide show and music video. Phew! It's been a busy final phase. We also write an expedition newsletter each phase called the Sabah Sun and write the blog. Maria travels round all the sites, capturing images of the whole expedition and I write all about the expeditions goings on and hopefully we get a bit of press coverage for the expedition too. However we couldn't do it without the help of Yo....

She is our media and host country venturer co-ordinator and is a permanent staff member in Borneo. Yo recruits Malaysian participants for our expeditions and endeavours to get Raleigh into the press. She is also a fountain of local knowledge out here in Sabah and a handy translator, often called upon to do more than her job description to help us out.

Mac is a permanent member of staff who lives here all year round and has his home invaded by us volunteers. Mac oversees and organises all the expeditions out in Borneo. He is responsible for the safe delivery of all expeditions and training out here, whilst managing a team of wayward staff and venturers across Borneo and keeping us all happy. Its a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

He does, however, have a right hand woman to help him out and she is Sarah our deputy programme manager who works alongside Mac to plan the programme of the expeditions and support all the groups out in the field. Not only is Sarah a saint in the patience department and a fantastic DPM, she is also a volunteer and does all this out of the goodness of her heart.

Next up is a man who we have seen a little less of than usual this expedition - Jim Clements our country director. Jim is the big boss out here and oversees the whole of Raleigh's work in Borneo. He sets up all the projects each expedition, maintains connections with government bodies, sources sponsors and so on. Jim also works closely with head office in London and is over in the UK at the moment having a meeting of the minds and will be back in time for Endex.

Finally I bring to you a lady who is full of joy and fun every minute of the day and some might say the most important member of FB. Loli who cooks for us twice a day, bakes constantly and greets new arrivals with the words ' hello, I am going to make you fat.' She is, however, so much more than that - she is a 'Sabah Mum' to us all, works far more hours in day than she needs to, is a friendly ear and goes absolutely bonkers when Michael Jackson is on the stereo. However Mac has now bought her a Christmas CD so there's some new tunes kicking out of the kitchen!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Final Loop - 06.12.09

The final loop has drawn to a close with one very dirty landrover and four of our intrepid fieldbase staff returning to KK. The loop visits all our static sites around Sabah, delivers the groups mail, takes a copy of the blog messages,provides some fresh food, takes round a mini Raleigh shop full of treats and resupplies of any extra tools or kit required - boot glue seems a very popular request this expedition! After 4 days on the road visiting remote projects, trekking through the jungle to visit camps and off road driving, they have brought back news from across the expedition.

Seeing a few new faces after the solitude of working on a remote project site always gets everyone excited - especially when they have a car full of goodies and letters from home. A good reason for a celebration, the loop often gets treated to a top class meal and entertainment so we decided to make it into a competition this expedition which conveniently ensures we get a good feed laid on! The theme this phase was 'Come Dine With Me.'

It takes 7 driving hours to get from KK to Imbak Canyon, with a vehicle change for the last leg across the river. The venturers met the team at Rangers camp to accompany them for the hour and half trek up to BBC camp. At Imbak they made garlic bread from scratch and lentil curry and truffles for dessert with some evening games. They also took the loop members for a trip up to the bellion tree, arm to arm it takes 5 people to stretch around the circumference of the tree. The team are doing well with their painting and cleaning of cables - its a repetitive job but essential to the progress of the bridge.The team have encountered problems getting to the work site across the river to start on the second set of foundations because of high water levels, enforcing the reasons for the bridge being built. They are now setting up a second camp across the river to enable them to continue with their work.

Now to the opposite end of Sabah entirely, to Kampung Nibang in the Pitas district, another mammoth drive away. They had prepared jungle style spa treatments and 'The Full Monty' dance that was a bit more like 'The Half Monty' show, with the boys stopping before it all got a bit too embarrassing for all involved! They also made a chinese fare with fried rice and spring rolls - I hear they were a little more like pancakes, but still tasty with chef Richard heading up the kitchen. On the work site they have completely deconstructed the community hall and are well on their way to rebuilding it. They are using a painting system to ensure it all goes back together in the right order.

At Minesuh the loop were treated to sweetcorn fritters, a selection of three flavours of noodles, chocolate and pear tart and a strawberry jam tart. What you can do with tinned food never ceases to amaze! They also played a game of ' Margaret Thatcher's dinner table' and showed them round the work site. They have completed the build and are now on to the creative bit - painting the kindergarten!

Alpha 4 at Sepilok have already had an early loop and news from that can be seen in the last blog. The trekking and diving groups unfortunately don't get a visit as the fieldbase staff are a bit over the hill and can't  keep up with them. However we hear over the radio that they are going strong and one team have even reached the Indonesian border!

There was a special visitor on the loop this time in the form of 'Drake' the bear, inspired by Raleigh's origins, when they ran expeditions out at sea, he has been on tour round the different countries Raleigh is involved with and is here to give Borneo a whirl.