If I start describing my recent trip to Bario, Sarawak, Malaysia – I just returned from a three-night stay – I would probably end up with something that looks like a ten-page journal on reflections and thoughts. Then there are my travel buddies, who need no more introduction – one of two: Housemate #1 – but plenty on the ground that they stand for and upon; these are introspective, unassuming, and admirably grounded women. I’m thinking that photos alone won’t suffice too because though they generally describe plenty, in this case it also feels like they would only tell half of the story.
Confession: I actually had unanticipated, surprising conversation on socioeconomic privileges with a colleague-friend two days before I left for Bario – it was the kind of conversation where one would come home with a headache and heavy conscience – but now I’m chewing over that and I’m thinking: -but we’ve to be very (very) careful with our definitions of ‘privilege‘ and ‘wealth‘. What they look like to us may not be others’ view and perspectives …and even if ours are of so-called better qualities – it does not mean they’re necessarily correct or desired. ‘Small‘ and ‘simple‘ aren’t necessarily less because one can indeed have all the gold in the world and it says nothing about whether others want or need them too.
Meaning, in other words: so here I am – back to nights with internet connection; full bar cell phone reception; 24/7 utilities – now trying hard to place and construct my thoughts as I think about a little-known, faraway place in the highlands of northeast Borneo with a population of roughly 1,100 where only kindness overflows.
I do not know where to begin.
Side-note: I also want to be very careful about using the word ‘humbled‘ (or ‘humbling‘) in describing this trip – or to put it generally, “trips like these (to places like Bario)” because no, humility isn’t only found and gained in rural places and sleepy towns. But admittedly, as a true blue city-born-and-bred person – there’s lots to absorb, reflect, and respond to the realization of what’s it like, a ‘lean‘ life. What’s it like too and perhaps more crucially, what ‘opportunity‘ looks like as a result.
This is not necessarily a question of privilege.