To everyone who reads this blog, yup I've been a slacker. However, I've not been completely unproductive. I've finally updated my download.com music page with a couple new songs. The second submission is still under review (it takes a couple of working days I think), but it should up soon. I mean, I didn't cuss or anything on it. The page is here. The music was recorded in my own bedroom, and the mixing was done using my friend Jason's pirated copy of *AHEM* *AHEM* *AHEM* well, I can't say now can I? Hey, I would've bought in in the states if I knew there was a piece of recording software this good. Considering all I have is a cheap karaoke mike, my laptop, and my bedroom as a studio, I thought the results were pretty sweet (if somewhat lo-fi). To add to the randomness, I noticed the other day I'm actually on the list of download.com's editors' picks under the Folk category. If you bother to download any of the other songs from artistes on that list, you'd understand my confusion :p. I really don't compare very well.
Over the past weekend, I've been roughing it out in the jungle with the SIB young adults. This was a mission trip to an Orang Asli village. 'Orang Asli' refers to the indigenous folk who've been living in this land right from the start. Well they called it a mission trip, but we didn't really do any hard labor... just made friends with the locals and saw what life was like for them. I guess you could call it a practice trip.
It was plenty hard though. The village was located up in the hills somewhere in the state of Pahang, and several kilometres into the jungle. We first had to get to the base camp which was accessible only by hilly dirt roads. City vehicles couldn't make the trip so about 40 of us had to pile into the backs of four 4x4s and hang on for dear life for about 45 minutes before we got to base camp. We had to be dusted at the end of the trip!
After resting at base camp for a bit, we had to leave a bunch of luggage behind and take only what was necessary for one night. Another 20 minutes in the 4x4s and we reached the start of the trail that went up through the hills and the jungle. As one other fella put it, we used up what we ate for lunch that day, what we ate for dinner the day before, and what we ate for lunch the day before just hiking through the hills. That was almost as tough as the time Brent and Matt took me to Cameroon Mountain (not sure if i spelled that right) and didn't tell me it was a 14-mile hike.
When we finally did get there, though, it was absolutely worth it. The Orang Asli village was next to an ice-cold unpolluted river. Jumping in for a bath after three gruelling hours of trucking and hiking was a different feeling for me altogether... it'd never felt so good to be freezing to death!
Living with the Orang Asli, even for a night, was another revelation for me, and a humbling experience. The houses were all made of rotan and tree trunks (with the exception of the roofs, some of which were zinc). The only electricity they had came from a single generator. I didn't dare look in the outhouse! There were quite a few pet dogs running around, and one home had a monkey tied to a post. One thing I saw for the first time was a female boar, which I was told was also a pet. It had better be... it had free reign of the village of the whole time, and I wouldn't want anything wild that big running around outside my doorstep.
The villagers were friendly, though a few of them were quite shy. I did manage to get a few words in, though my Malay was rusty. I asked one of the penghulus (village elders) to let me call him 'Datuk' (a Malay title... probably the equivalent of 'Lord'). He gave me a half-toothless grin and said 'Boleh!' (Which was an affirmative). They definitely had a sense of humor.
These villagers were all Christians. Watching them worship was pretty special. They didn't have any projectors or transparencies or even cheat sheets to help them with the songs... they learned them all by heart. All... um... thirty or so songs it seemed like. They would sing them in succession, not pausing in between, and the guys with the guitar would basically play all the songs in the same key and they segued from one song to the next. The kids sang the loudest, and never missed a beat! It reminded me of how the Israelites did it in ancient times, memorizing whole books of scripture by heart. Those kids (some of them barely above my knee) had a connection to our spiritual ancestors many of the YAs probably didn't have. This kids didn't have access to cars, air-conditioning, or hot showers, but at that moment, it seemed like they had everything. It was written on their faces and it resounded in their voices.
The next day, we bid the villagers adieu and returned to base camp. From then on it was pretty much fun and games. We had a barbeque under the stars, played Mafia (the Malaysian version is a little different, but still entertaining), and had a service the next morning. In a somewhat knuckleheaded move, I volunteered to be gamemaster for the Mafia game. Only after the game started di I realise a few of the rules were different, which lead to quite a few techinical difficulties. The beauty of mafia, though, is that even if the gamemaster screws up, it's the players who make the game fun. Malaysians are nothing if not eager to accuse others of wrongdoing. They do so with gusto, and the accusees defend themselves with just as much determination :p.
They had communion during the service, for which I was very glad. They also had a time of sharing, and an icebreaker game. Jessy told me before the trip that one of the clandestine purposes of these trips was to pair up single YAs, and I saw this nefarious scheme come to fruition during the icebreaker. Basically pairs of guys and girls were chosen (NOT at random) to ask each other three questions and answer them for all to hear. Not too subtle :p. I was in one of the pairs... and I won't say anything else on the matter.
I guess I'll end with some of the lyrics to one of the songs that the Orang Asli sung during worship... this one kinda resonated with the slacker in me :D.
Dalam kerja Tuhan ada susah ada senang
Walaupun susah hatiku senang...
(In God's work there is difficulty and there is ease
Though there is difficulty, my heart is at ease...)