I survived a month with no wifi. I haven’t developed a nervous twitch or devolved into speaking only in text language; if anything, I’m happier now and more at peace with the world. So to all you oldies out there who say scathingly that the younger generations have become far too dependent on modern technology, just know that for a week I actually lost my phone and didn’t notice. But my phone is not in fact my extra limb, nor is it like a drip sustaining my life. My phone is something I choose to have in my life in order to connect with friends afar and to learn even more about this glorious world around us. Even so, only by disconnecting from the world of wifi have I truly been about to connect to the world directly surrounding me. Without the unnecessary stress of the media, irrational fears that Snapchat stories contain proof that my friends are having fun without inviting me and daily nagging of a mother who cares a great deal about me (love you really, Mum), I have been able to focus on the life that I am actually living. I’ve been able to respond more astutely to the needs of those around me because they actually have my full attention. When playing games, I’m able to concentrate so much better because I’m not simultaneously trying to maintain four conversations on messenger and another three on Snapchat. Face to face interaction by far beats the snatched discussions that the Internet provides us with. If ever I had the burning desire to contact home then I would simply write a postcard with the intention of sometime sending it, but more often than not, my entire mind and energy was too busy having fun in the moment to dwell too much on how Concert Band rehearsals were going or all the McFlurries I should have been eating. During this month I have learnt one of the most important lessons of life so far: I don’t need the Internet to be happy. I’d be much better off reading a book than spending hours scrolling through my news feed only to find festivals and parties and concerts that I could have had so much fun at. Social media isn’t real life and real life is just so much more wonderful. My wish for this trip is that I may be able to take home even the tiniest bit of this strength-without-the-Internet with me. Although I would rather like to use google to check whether it was one of Rudyard Kipling’s poems from the Jungle Book that inspired Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby”. To all my fellow millennials: the Internet isn’t really like water; you can live without the Internet, but please do try to drink your 2 litres of water a day because that is kind of essential.
So what have I been doing with all this extra time that would otherwise have been wasted on wifi? Well, as we’ve been back at Camp Bongkud, I’ve been doing a lot of Zumba and landscaping the new kindergarten which is unfortunately at the top of a rather steep hill. I’ve learnt how to weave a basket and that oil based paint doesn’t come out of clothing. But the best thing about having more time is that there are so many random opportunities that I’ve just said “why not?” to. So I woke up at 5:30am in the morning to climb a horrendously steep hill just to say that I’d done it. On Sunday morning I found myself in my first ever Catholic Church service, conducted entirely in Malay and Dusun. I very much missed all the happy clappy songs from my normal Methodist services. I’ve learnt how to make banana cake and rolled quite a few spring rolls. I’ve mastered (well, almost) the local dance and got so involved in learning a new song that I banged heads with my wonderful Texan friend. I’ve learnt to fish, using bamboo sticks with wire and hooks to catch dinner, an achievement that I’m not too sure how to feel about.
Our last night at Camp Bongkud was a full on party. With all our favourite Zumba ladies invited to celebrate International Woman’s Day we had a final Zumba session before a feast. Tables lain with giant banana leaves and parcels of sticky rice unpacked to form an entirely recyclable plate, we ate fish and mango and peanuts and more carrot cake than was strictly necessary or sensible. At the end of the night we presented Chief with our team board, to be nailed to the wall alongside all the many other boards commemorating the groups who had stayed in the same longhouses as us. The concept we used for the board came in a dream to the only one of us with a degree, the board followed the theme of a film poster. With a simply breathtaking sunset painted in the background (I helped by painting a fairly average sea) we wrote over the top “Camps International Presents… The Borneo Babes”.
Somehow the two months in Borneo are up and it’s almost time to say goodbye to the friends who have been with me since Heathrow. We’ve spent the last two months entirely in each other’s company. We’ve worked together, danced together, laughed together, cried together and nothing can ever take that away. We are a family now. Already we’re making plans for the future, I’ll visit Preston that weekend or attend a life drawing class in that city, but for now, our story is ending. They’ll be no more reading marathons to get through the rain at Tinangol, no more outrageous games of Bullshit or teaching the Cup Song to 10 year olds. This chapter of our lives is closing. But, as is normally the way with books, the end of one chapter is the beginning of the next. With members of The Original Crew heading slowly towards a year in Australia or a trip to Cuba or a birthday in Indonesia, our adventures are anything but over. It’s almost time to start my next journey, this time to Cambodia. And, though I’m ever so slightly scared, I can’t deny that I’m excited. With some incredible friends already made for Cambodia, I know that this will be another life changing experience.
I’ll keep you posted,