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The second project was to build a Gravity Water Feed System to provide water to the village Kampung Vunui Locos, in one of the poorest regions of Sabah, Kota Marudu. A Gravity Water Feed System has a simple design – our task was to build the dams across two small rivers and the platforms that the storage tanks would sit on. The group after us would complete the project, fitting the piping and taps in the main clusters of houses. We were working alongside a sustainable business called the Asian Forestry Commission (AFC) who run community development projects as well as Coca Cola, who provided the building materials.
The village was very remote; it took a day to arrive there by coach, following on with four-wheel drives after the roads turned to tracks or rivers. It was an adrenaline filled journey – at some points we crossed water that was level with the windows of the car! Once we arrived, we met the person in charge of development for the village. He showed us where the villagers had cleared enough space for us to make a camp, (which we started to build with the help of a local carpenter) with static hammocks under a tarpaulin to sleep in. The locals were incredibly shy, only the children came to speak to us at first – however, it was clear from the beginning that they were glad to have us there: they had given us their market stall for part of our camp. Later, we discovered that the reason for their shyness was because before we had arrived, they had only seen one other non- Malaysian, the project organiser.
For the first few days, we worked with the local carpenter to design the dams and clear the appropriate spaces in preparation. During this time, it seemed we were the village’s entertainment – there was always a group sitting on the bank observing us! It was a little awkward at first, but their wariness was understandable. After those first few days, the locals became progressively more accepting and involved with working on the dams. They even helped us carry materials up the hill to the building site; something we were all grateful for, as lugging bags of cement weighing over fifty kilos up the hill was strenuous to say the least. Having moved most of the materials, we headed up to where the dams would be built, and started mixing concrete by hand. This was a rather arduous task, and it was a relief when we were allowed to rest in the middle of the day when the heat was too much for manual labour, but just perfect for lounging. With the whole team doing what they could, and despite a few hurdles regarding the design, we completed the two dams. One of the biggest problems was working out how to capture as much water as possible all year round, as the rivers flow varied enormously with the season. With water flowing out of the pipe from the dams, we needed to build a large base for water storage tanks. This involved carrying more materials up the hill and further mixing; the manual work was pretty exhausting. However, seeing the villagers’ faces when the water began flowing out the pipes made it far more than worthwhile and, fulfilling as many clichés as possible, it felt great.
Living within the village was an experience like no other. As we gained their trust, they transformed from being shy and reserved to becoming open and friendly, welcoming us into their day-to-day lives. They invited us to a church service they held once a week, in a house that doubled up as the church. It was strange to recognise so many elements of the customs and to realise that Christianity had spread to some of the most remote areas of the globe hundreds of years prior to our visit.
Although it was such a peaceful and welcoming place to live, a difficulty of living in this remote location was the water shortage. Our water came from a river roughly 2km away, meaning there was strict rationing and we could only wash at the river; slightly annoying when we had spent all day working in mud and cement, but certainly allowed us to appreciate a wash! The villagers showed us the way to a much closer river: this made life much easier, as water trips were more frequent and less arduous. In the brief time we stayed at the village, it was incredibly difficult to adjust to not having a water supply – which made our work seem even more valuable, as the inhabitants of the village had lived this way their entire lives. Once again at the end of the phase we travelled back to Kota Kinabalu for changeover and a comfortable bed, whilst we were told what our next phase of the project would be.
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Kayleigh Harper gives her advice on eating vegetarian in Korea, with menu tips!
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Hannah leads this month's Book Club with a book to educate as well as inspire.
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Sarah talks us through China's Ghost towns and why they exist
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Lily Black finds an island haven from the bustling Malaysian metropoles.
Holly Sanders shows intrepid beauties what to take and what to leave behind.
Will Spence relates his battle with an increasingly pandemic affliction.
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Rachael Hogg drinks her way around India's varying relationship with alcohol.
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Halloween has been heading East
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Henrietta Brealey explores the ongoing impact of gender preference in Asia.
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Jeff Oakley explores the incredible phenomenon of musical tribute acts in Japan.
Chloe Walsh gives valuable advice on how to avoid scams in the urban jungle of Bangkok, Thailand.
Leah Eades gives some useful tips for female travellers in Asia.
Erudition's Hong Kong correspondent describes his time in North Korea
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Ed Thomas on the ins and outs of Chinese internet censorship
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Lexie Frost relates the rise and fall of Tokyo’s street fashion mecca.
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Emily Fenlon debates the local takeaway with her experiences of Chinese restaurant etiquette.
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Ed Thomas comments on the uncomfortable mystery surrounding the disappearance of China’s greatest artist
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Adrian Jankowiak gives an invaluable lesson on what to take and what to avoid like the plague when packing for a trip to India.
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Tim Wood makes the journey through the labyrinth of backwater canals in Kerala, India, with useful hints on how to make this famous trip worthwhile.
Chloe Walsh gives an evocative account of the beautiful island of Gilli Trawangan, off the coast of Bali, with recommendations of how to spend your time and how to get around this peaceful paradise.
George Howlett goes deep into the intricate streets of Varanasi, experiencing the life that makes up this diverse city, with things sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, and sometimes terrifying.
Chloe Walsh gives some useful tips to help you make the most out of a trip to Bali.
Jeff Oakley talks about the notorious Lao Lao liquor, the reasons behind its popularity and its role in the traditions of Laos.
Lucy Rowland explores the invasive mode of charity by volunteering, examining the motives of profit-making organisations.
Katie Anderson gives her take on the unavoidable debate of the divide between the poor and wealthy in Mumbai, India.
Emily Booth explores the rise of Vietnam after its war-torn history and complicated past – how has it now become such a flourishing part of South East Asia?
Emily Booth wonders at the booming industry of tourism in South East Asia
Lucy gets more than she bargained for in Surin, Thailand
Chloe Walsh writes about the beauty of ancient Indonesia, through her visit to the Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta, at sunset.
A family holiday with a difference: Becca Hutchinson spends the night with a native tribe in Borneo, experiencing the two different faces of the tribe, and beginning to understand the role of tourism in their daily lives.
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