Thursday, 25 October 2012

A visit to Alpha 1

After a rather freezingly air-conditioned coach journey from Basecamp, and the driver getting lost about three times on along the way to meet the 4x4s, Alpha 1 set off on the track road to Terian. This involves about an hour and a half (if you’re lucky and the road is dry) of rather bumpy driving up and down hills and through three rivers! By the time they had reached the last river they were told it was too high to cross and so they needed to set up camp. So everyone duly started unloading everything off the vehicles... only to be told 10 minutes later that the river was actually okay and that they needed to pack it all up again!

That was not the end of the eventful arrival... one particularly steep hill meant that some of the team had to jump out of their 4X4s again and trek all the way up, while the others had the luxury of still being driven, waving as they went past!
Eventually they arrived at Terian and met Diana from PACOS (our project partner) and were introduced to their plush new home, a church hall on the edge of the village. They were all particularly excited to see lights and fans on the walls; however that appeared to be short lived as they soon discovered they were only there for display rather than any sort of function!

 They then went to Diana’s for a much-welcomed coffee and a proper tour of the village before settling down early after a long day.
Diana played host again a few days later as 13 hungry Venturers and PMs were all invited to her house for supper, where they enjoyed some local delicacies including bambangan, a type of wild mango with brown skin (and pretty pungent at that!) and pickled cucumber. Thanks to some sneaky Venturers and Diana, poor Lisa was tricked into trying a slightly more interesting ‘delicacy’ in the form of a witchetty grub. Thinking it was a rather tasty looking pasta shell, she jumped straight in and got a bit of a shock!
The following day they headed down to the river to collect stones and rocks to use on the work site. Iona had a particularly fun time, with some of the locals coming to help her and then inviting her to join in their picnic! 
 Later they started to dig the 12 holes to eventually insert the belian posts into for the foundations of the kindergarten, before what seemed like 50  extremely over-excited children from all around the village came down to the site to say hello. The whole team were just as excited to meet them, and engaged in lots of games with them and a spot of the Hokey Cokey.

The village was a real hive of activity for a few days, as about 50 Sabah police had also descended on it for their jungle training, which includes lots of helicopter flying. One particular landing seemed a bit hair-raisingly close and indeed raised the work tarpaulin completely up from the ground! They were very apologetic about this and helped them build a new one... they also couldn’t resist posing in a few photos with some of the team.
The next day they carried on with the digging and were very pleased, if not a teeny bit surprised, to see the belian posts arriving (they had been warned to expect them to arrive ‘in their own time’, so were delighted that they could really get on with the hard work). Everyone got stuck in and, in a few days, managed to get all 12 cemented in and upright ahead of schedule – and all this in between rather unpredictable and very heavy rainstorms!

Annebel, Emma and Cornelie also held a few lessons with the children, where it soon emerged that their English was actually really already quite good, so they ended up covering everything from the weather and the time to sports to clothing to food all in an hour... that’s scuppered the lesson plan for the next six weeks!

The next visit to Alpha 1 will be on The Loop, where a team of Fieldbase staff will stay with them overnight, as well as paying a visit to Alphas 2 and 3, so keep an eye on the blog for what happened next!