Sabah or good ol' misadventures

Unknown to me, my plans were derailing fast as I ran to a new platform and jumped onto the moving train from Varanasi on route to Delhi. After talking to the train ticket examiner on board, I learned that I never received a ticket confirmation. Since my month long Indian SIM card had just expired, I could not have checked beforehand. It was a holiday weekend, and the train was completely full; no last minute seats were available anywhere, general or first class. I stood on board as everyone in the berth passed along the fact that I was ticketless and could not GTFO otherwise I'd miss my flight out of the country. Furthermore, kicking me off now would mean leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere at 10 PM. No one had the heart to do that. The train ride was suppose to be 13 hours long, but further delays resulted in 21 hours smushed next to an Indian man who took pity and offered to share his seat. By the time I made it to the airport, the gate was closed.

On a whim, I took the cheapest flight out of Delhi. It’s funny how I’m *suppose* to be in Nepal in the *real* mountains. Somehow, instead of staring at Mt. Everest, I’m at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu. Instead of hairy yaks there are proboscis monkeys, and orangutans, and “vampire” squirrels outside somewhere. I can’t even bring myself to complain. I asked for alpine tundra and ended up with a typhoon in the rainforest. Here they call Sabah "Negeri Di Bawah Bayu" or "Land Below the Wind" for it's idealistic location south of the typhoon belt away from most, but not all, tropical storms in this region. 

I arrived in Malaysian Borneo just in time to see the tail end of Typhoon Paolo pass through. The torrential downpour here has been ongoing for three days, and the forecast is looking dismally the same for the next week. Jungle Jack didn’t consider window panes, so the house is wide open; only some old screens separate me from the storm. It kind of works. With the wind (a reported 120 kmph sustained) ripping through, the patchwork house sounds like it’ll blow away anytime now, and loose things rattle throughout the day and night. Somehow the majority of the water stays outside. I force myself to not feel the dampness or the cold.

Nine of us spend our days sitting in the bunks. The formalities of getting to know each other, down to our family holiday traditions, has long gone. Now mostly we just grunt, other times we stare at each other and giggle. In various states of repair, they’ve all been away from home longer than I have. Some have enjoyed life out here so much that they’ve been at Jungle Jack’s for months exchanging minimal work for excellent food and some shelter. There’s really nothing to do around here, so we just brew hot water for more kopi (coffee) and teh (tea) when the power is on. The other activity is watching out for Stinky and Rice Wine (the hyperactive family dogs) and hollering when they sink their teeth in the necks of the poor chickens in the adjacent pen. Since no one is going to chase them outside in this weather, the dogs know they can get away with it. We make 10 Ringgit bets on how many chickens are dead.

We are all jolted by the walkie talkie in the corner coughing and sputtering to life. A women’s voice in broken English cheerfully announces that food is ready. One last time, I climb the slippery slope up to the top for 6 O’clock dinner. There’s something satisfying about eating dinner soaking wet, in the dark, under the light of our headlamps. I’ve been laying down for days, but I eat platefuls of rice for the body heat.

Tomorrow, I’ll leave and find a ride somewhere else. My time is precious. I’ve learned, out here in rural areas, if the bus is suppose to come every hour, it really means every three or so; the whole ordeal of getting from one place to the next easily takes up an entire day. The quickest method is to start walking towards the bus stop and throw up a thumb whenever a car passes. Every time, to my amazement, the wait is less than ten minutes.

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