Adjusting to an Island Village Lifestyle6/18/2012
I just finished my first week at The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia. I must say, it’s been quite an experience adjusting to this new, fast-paced, high-rewarding lifestyle. In the first week my activities included, snorkeling, teaching English, cleaning up trash, painting and a mini-vacation.
Located on the smaller of the two Perhentian Islands, Perhentian Kecil, the village houses about 1200 locals. Most houses are made of wood and elevate a few feet off the ground to prevent flooding. The people are as kind as can be but understand very little English.
Life is tough inside the village. Everything must be imported from the mainland and supplies are expensive. Amenities we take for granted like fresh drinking water, air conditioning, working toilets and WIFI are rare to non-exsitant on the island. The Ecoteer House has WIFI, but no AC or drinkable tap water. Oh yeah, and mosquitos are everywhere! I sleep with a mosquito net every night to prevent myself from unwillingly donating blood to the little vampires.
The Ecoteer House
The Volunteer Rooms. Notice the heavy fortification of mosquito nets.
The island itself is extremely beautiful and filled with life. The beach is peaceful and stocked with coral that houses a wide array of plants and marine life. Waking up to the sound of the ocean everyday is quite an amazing feeling. However, on most nights I am woken up by a rooster at 6AM.
Everyone on the island is Muslim and must abide by strict guidelines. Prayer is 5 times a day and women must wear hair dresses with a lot of clothing. The village is completely dry with beverages only served a short boat ride away to Long Beach or Bubbles. Religion is everything here with the school serving as the educational and recreational center.
My favorite activity so far is snorkeling. Perhentian is a mecca for snorkelers and scuba diving. Loads of marine life such as sea turtles, reef sharks, and squid patrol the shallows while dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays inhabit the depths. In addition, coral watching is one of our jobs at Ecoteer. We monitor the health of the corals on a weekly basis.
Working with the local kids is an awesome experience. They are so inquisitive and want to know as much s they can about you. Communication, however, has been extremely challenging as I do not speak Malay and they know very little English. Seh Ling, the director, does an excellent job of translating and helping out. Memorable experiences include teaching the children the 4 native species of turtles in English, and building games around cleaning trash on the island.
The Ecoteer experience is about working with the community to make it a better place. As such, we help the villagers out by such activities as building signs, gardens and painting houses. Below is a photo I snapped while painting a local’s house on Saturday. We still have a ways to go!
A Vacation within a Vacation
After an exhausting, fun, extremely-enjoyable week, we decided to take a 2 day vacation. We visited Seh Ling’s parent house for a local city experience. Seh Ling’s parents were extremely friendly and showed us around. We enjoyed such amenities like home cooked breakfasts, air conditioning, and hot water.
A local Chinese dinner. Absolutely delicious to the core!
Making a Batik Painting.
The finished product.
After an adventurous first week I am looking forward to adjusting to life on the Perhentian Islands. I will be living here until November and am excited for all the new experiences, challenges, and activities in the coming months!