My Sarawak experience
Under the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) Asia Pacific Region (APR) International Student Charette, 135 students of various universities from Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia came together at Sarawak Culture Village from April 25-27 to get a hands-on feel of the jungle as part of their landscape architecture programme.
By Danielle Ringgit
So okay, getting lost in the jungle was not at all part of my plan, but anything can happen. Naturally, when you are stuck in that kind of situation, most people start to freak out or call for help. Some might break down into a hysterical sobs while others may start imagining themselves in an Indiana Jones movie.
For 20-year-old second year student Viemall of Politeknik Nilai, he confessed that he was slightly worried but since there were experienced jungle trackers with us, nothing bad or dramatic happened that day.
On the other hand, third-year student Maryam Adila, 21 of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Perak, was not scared at all. Instead, she was excited and curious about what was going to happen next, probably expecting some sort of adventure out of the jungle trekking experience.
Before setting off to the jungle earlier that day, I met two charming Indonesian students who introduced themselves as Amira Laksmi, 19, and Deah Hasna Isadora, 21, from Bogor Agricultural University in Bogor Indonesia.
Hailing from Indonesia, Amira and Deah noticed some similarities between the ethnic cultures from Sarawak and Indonesia when they, along, with other landscape students of various universities were taught a Bidayuh dance. They said that the steps of the dance were not hard to follow.
“It feels almost like home,” Amira observed during ‘My Sarawak Experience’ organised by Institute of Landscape Architect Malaysia (ILAM).
From April 25-27, 135 students of various universities from Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia under the organisation IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) Asia Pacific Region (APR) International Student Charette gathered together at Sarawak Culture Village for a to get acquainted with the jungle as part of their landscape architecture programme.
Day 2 of their programme started with some morning exercise around 7.30 when the sun was already high up in the sky, before setting off on their jungle trekking adventure along the Penan Nature Trail that starts just outside Sarawak Cultural Village.
Before setting off, the students were divided into seven groups: Laja, Manggeng, Agau Tadun, Totoi, Rentap, Tugau and Apui.
According to one of the Penan jungle trekkers, Stanly Marxtison Leo, these were names of different ethnic legends in Sarawak. Each group was accompanied by a couple of guides and according to Stanly, the Penan Nature Trail would take us about one to two hours to complete.
Second-year landscape architect student from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Perak, Harris Danial, 21, said this was not his first time jungle-trekking as he actively hikes in his hometown Rawang Selangor. He did admit, however, that this was his first time experiencing jungle trekking in Sarawak’s thick jungle and that he was excited about the trip and hoped to have a good experience with his fellow classmates.
Fourth year Australian student Patrick Sim, 21, of University Western Australia who is also the student representative for his program may not be used to the humid weather we have here in Sarawak, but he was looking forward to the adventure. Like Harris, he always goes trekking back in his native home.
When asked about their first time here in Sarawak, Japanese students Yukimari Miura, 19, and Kazuki Matsumoto, 19 of Nishi-Nippon Junior College and Koki Takeachi, 19 and Hiroki Tatsumi, 19 of Tokyo University of Agriculture all had the same thing in mind: our food!
Although they found the food here too spicy compared to what they usually have in their native Japan, they all enjoyed the taste of tour local cuisine.
Second-year Filipino students Katrina Jao, 19 and Jen Hou, 21 of University of the Philippines also had the same thing to say about our local food.
“They are spicy, but spicy’s good,” said Katrina.
Around 8.30am, we finally set off on the Penan Nature Trail which starts at the foot of Mount Santubong. After about 40 minutes walking, the guides stopped us to give us some tips on jungle survival.
When going for a trek in the jungle, it is very important to leave behind some sort of trail or sign where you are heading in case somebody comes looking for you. One of the ways you can leave a trail in the jungle is by breaking a tree branch in the direction you are heading indicating the path you took.
A common native belief is that when one is lost in the jungle you should refrain from yelling out your friends’ names as it is believed that something supernatural disguised as your friend will answer back and lead you elsewhere. Instead, make some animal sounds like a bird to signal your position.
Besides that, it is very important not to make unnecessarily loud noise while you are in the jungle.
A particularly useful tip is that if you are lost, to look for a river and follow it downstream because with any luck, it might lead you out of the jungle or towards a village.
As most of the students were not from Sarawak, most of them were impressed with the thick and pristine jungle at Santubong as most of them had either never been jungle trekking or to Sarawak.
Along the way, our journey was halted by a sudden surprised exclamation from one of the students. I turned to see some students already crowding around what seemed to be a clump of pitcher plant and several already with their phones out and taking pictures of them.
The pitcher plant is called periuk kera which literally translates to ‘monkey pot’. According to our guide, it got its name because monkeys usually drink rainwater that has accumulated inside the plant gourds.
The guide also pointed out that in certain situations where there is no clean water to drink, you could drink from the plant, although you could risk contracting diarrhea. That aside, a bigger pitcher plant may also be used as a container in which to cook rice.
For a native Sarawakian like myself, seeing the pitcher plant was not nearly as amusing as the look of fascination on the students’ faces, but my amusement only lasted for several minutes as we realised that we had been left behind. And so, we were officially lost and I blame it all on the pitcher plant.
Our guide knew his way inside the jungle very well, though, so we managed to get out unscathed.
After lunch, the students assembled at the open hall Dewan Lagenda where they were briefed about the next activity on their agenda with the theme ‘Landscape Box’ where each team was given a 4×4 wooden frame along with design tools like bamboo, thin rattan wood, twigs, leaves, rope, nails and fishing line.
Divided into 12 groups, the project required students to discuss and identify issues and problems about culture and nature that they wished to explore.
Upon identifying the problem, the students would then have to project the problem they managed to relate to in the wooden frame with the design tools that were prepared for them.
Among those problems pointed out by the students was the accelerating rate of development of buildings and skyscrapers that could have negative impact the environment and natural resources of our jungle.
The hands-on project was a great activity as it required the students to be aware of their surroundings and also to be engaged in outdoor activities to generate critical thinking and creative ideas that helps the people in their professions to identify and deal with global issues and the environment.
IFLA or the International Federation of Landscape Architects is an organisation that represents the landscape architecture profession worldwide with the aim to coordinate the activities of member associations when dealing with global issues as well as to allocate leadership and networks to support the expansion of the profession.
To know out more about IFLA, check out their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Federation-of-Landscape-Architects-IFLA/140052269363180 or visit their website at: http://iflaonline.org/