30th August. 11:30 at night. I’m supposed to be packing but as always my procrastinating self has other ideas. For what seems like the hundredth time this year, I’ve left all preparation to the last minute. I honestly try and plan, I seriously do; but in typical Wasiliev style I get side-tracked by multiple assignment deadlines, events and whatnot, and by the time I get back to whatever that needs doing I have to kind of accept that I’ve run out of time to plan properly. So I’m pretty screwed.
Nah; I’m not really. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be plain sailing; I go to my last class from eleven till one, aim to be at the airport by six-thirty, and then I’m off three hours later. Plenty of time. Hopefully.
I first got into PACE during Semester 2, 2014. I just saw it during one of my classes. It was the first week, the university always did these kind of promotions. I had no idea what it was about, but I knew that my girlfriend, Megan, was doing it at some point. I signed up anyway, not having any expectation as to whether I would get it or not, not having any mindsets upon where I was going, or any thoughts around what experience I may gain.
Wow, back then it seemed so long ago that I would be flying out. And now, here I am, night before I’m due to leave. Bloody hell!
I have to be kind of frank when I say I don’t know what’s going to happen on this trip. That’s an understatement. One of my subjects, ENVG380, has been totally focused on this PACE activity that we’re doing. Jessie and I (Jessie is one of the other two girls that I’m heading over with, but we share the same class), wouldn’t be kidding ourselves when we say that we have no idea what to expect.
Even after all the preparation, interviews, briefings, and constant reminders of how we’re representing Macquarie University and must continue a prosperous relationship with the PACOS Trust (that’s the organisation we’re going with). I know that we are serious about ensuring this to be a successful trip. But it’s a bit off-putting when we still aren’t 100% sure what we will be doing exactly.
This was what we were told. There was an Earthquake in Sabah province (in the North of Malaysian Borneo, where we will be working), on June 5th this year. Not surprisingly, it severely impacted and traumatised many of the local indigenous groups there. Our job, when we get there, will be examining two indigenous villages, observing their culture, methods of thinking and ways of life that existed prior to the Earthquake happening. This will involve a field trip at one point, out to the villages themselves, which will last a week.
But, aside from that; we don’t know much more in terms of specific details. Will we be conducting interviews? Will we be allowed to examine beyond that specific aim? And, most importantly, with the Earthquake context in mind, are there going to be some things we’ll see that will be hard to stomach? I don’t know.
But then again, that’s the experience isn’t it? That sense to jump without looking, to do something outside of the usual hubbub of contemporary Macquarie University Student life. How many people get to do this? To participate in another culture, even if only for a short time? How lucky are we?!
To be honest, the feeling of travel and going somewhere new is something that I’ve yearned for since the start of this year. I always loved travelling. I hadn’t travelled since my GAP year in 2012 though, so I’m amazed it took me three years to catch the travel bug again and yearn to go someplace new.
Or maybe it was due to how this year has panned out. When you get into second or third year university, you start to get used to a routine, then tire of the routine. Semesters come and go; assignments arise, you do good at some, not so much at others. You get into the swing of things, and there is a point (and I’m not saying everyone has reached this point, but to those you haven’t I seriously envy you lucky buggers), where you really get hit with the ‘can’t-be-bothered-blues’: that point where you just don’t care about finishing your work. It’s a seemingly never-ending rut, born out of genuine boredom, of having to complete work when you’d rather be out having a beer with some mates.
During these last two semesters the rut has been especially bad for me personally. The workload has been constant, and with all my sense of time management going out the window coupled with the impact of other personal events that have happened in my life, I have easily fallen into that rut.
Maybe this trip will be my very own personal kick-in-the-teeth that I need. We need that sometimes, to remind us of how lucky we are to be able to even go to university, but also to reaffirm to ourselves why we study what we study. This might be the time in our lives when our work may seem like the last thing on our minds, but for many of us this uni work will lead to us reaffirming and determining our careers, lead to certain jobs, and change our lives.
Next time I hit you with one of these I’ll be in the hot, sweaty tropics of Sabah province in Borneo, and I’m just as curious to see what I myself write then. Quite frankly, doing this trip might be exactly what I need, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s to the start of the tropic travels!