Monday, May 24, 2010

Status: Leaving Taman Negara for good

So I'm leaving Taman Negara. For good.

The place that has been my home away from home the past 2.5 months.

Today is the absolute last day that I will be here.

The boatmen and guides all seem to know my face. "Hello, Joy!" they greet me in the morning. And at the back of my mind, I made a mental note to ask Razak just exactly who that person is.

I am one of maybe 5 Chinese girls in the entire Kuala Tahan.

There was a day when one of the boatmen, Deli, referred to me as Amoi over the walkie talkie. And it was on the same channel that I told him off, that my name is Joy, not Amoi, as he knows.

Needless to say, he never once called me Amoi again.

Every morning, when it's still dark, I take Jamal's boat from Liana Jetty to cross over to Mutiara. Sometimes, Jamal would still be sleeping and I'll have to wake him up. To cross the river each way costs everyone RM1. In the first couple of weeks, I paid Jamal RM1 per trip. I could take up to 12 trips in a day if need be.

After that, I never paid Jamal anymore simply because we both can't be bothered with the receipts. And he'd always give me a weekly bill that includes everyone else that crosses the river on his boat.

Seeing Jamal kinda makes my day. He's not an old man, really. Maybe in his 40s, touching 50. But he has an old face and very few teeth. The best thing about Jamal is his laugh. It's almost like a girl's. Always cracks me up.

I'm usually back on the other side of the river by about 10am or 11am latest. There'll always be breakfast waiting for me at the jetty restaurant, simply because they boatmen knew I'd be hungry by then and had ordered something for me to eat.

Over breakfast, Ameer and I would sometimes have empty conversations with the local people. It's amazing, the sort of stuff you find out from the locals when you sit with them over a cup of tea. Or in my case, a can of Kickapoo.

Some days, when I go to the set, it's always with Lan's Boat 4. That is our VIP boat out of the 11 we used which has all the new life jackets and the best looking boatman in the entire Kuala Tahan. Lan has a very good temperament, and always waits for my go ahead before leaving Mutiara jetty. He's probably the only boatman besides Jamal whom I can say I work closely with.

Being in Kuala Tahan has given me many new experiences that I never in my life thought I would go through.

True, there was a lot of heartache and sleepless nights and extreme fatigue. The problems we had with our health and the drama that came with the published article about us shooting a porn flick in the jungle. We had boars making their great escape and dismissal of team members.

On the other hand, I looked forward to the catching up sessions over dinner with people who return from the set every night. I had even taken a liking to Guinness and developed a habit of having one after dinner. It is perhaps during this time that we had all begun to bond and grow closer as a team and a family.

All these people, some whom I'd never met until I came to Kuala Tahan, they were my support system. They were there with me through the hardest of times and they were there when I was happy.

There is something about taking the last boat back to the jetty blanketed by the stars and untainted night sky. So peaceful, save for the hum of the engine from the back. Everyone lost in their thoughts and relishing in the thought of another hard day gone by. There is something about being in the backseat of a 4x4 and bouncing up and down with every bump and corner as we made our way back to the resort with the logging road. There is something about being caught in a storm and having no choice but to wait it out while you sat in the boat that rocked violently and wonder if you'd make it back safely. There is something about wearing those cheap plastic raincoats with your newfound friends and listening to it rustle with your every move. There is something about holding the tiny Annita Kayango that makes me indescribably happy. There is something about the way Markham or Ben or Robin or Ruthie or anyone of the PNG actors when they greet me with so much gusto at 5am. There is something about the mundane weekend routine of putting my laundry basket in the cue and letting the person behind me know that it's his turn.

When people ask me how life in the jungle is like, I know I can't even begin to describe it.

Goodbye, Taman Negara.

I will miss you, so, so much.

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