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My Second Year In Borneo


July 2005
This is the second year I stayed in Borneo. Without felt I had missed my days a year that had felt like in prison for life in a completely limitations. Still remember my  previous post about Borneo? In the village where I lived there was no electricity, we could only enjoy electricity village 5 hours a day (lit at 5 pm extinguished at 10 pm). There was no telephone line of any operator as well. The only means of communication was just a public phone booth located in the village shopping center (sorry not the market) was about 2 kilometers from our house. So when our family from Java needed to contact us, they could only contact the booth guard. Then the booth guard would pick us up so we called back our family who had contacted the booth guard, yet again we had to pay Rp15,000 once shuttle pick-up service, since in our village there was no public transportation.

The temperature in Borneo was very hot, and the water contains a very high acid pH. So do not be surprised if you see people from Java or Sumatra and Sulawesi, their skin will turn dark after a few days stay in Borneo. And their skin will be cleaner when returning to their home land. Not to mention common diseases are toothache. Know why? Because the levels of acidic substances too high in water content in Borneo. Unlike the indigenous tribes: Dayak, Malay, and Banjar, their skin white despite the hot temperature. Even the  Dayaks teeth were good because of their habits are like ‘menginang’. Menginang is chewing ripe pinang and lime paste covered by betel leaf.

The story begins, so after I returned home from Bogor to spend my vacation there, I was surprised to come back to Borneo, my aunt said that while I was away on vacation, our neighbor Mr. Iwan  had several visits to the aunt’s house to look for me. What is it? I thought at that time. Until finally I decided to see him in his home. Shocking news was received from him. “You are being called by Mr. Arif, head of SMA Negeri 1 Balai Riam. He would like to ask you to teach English. Do you mind?” Mr. Iwan said that time. Without thinking, the same day accompanied by my cousin, we went  to Mr. Arif’s house in order to confirm about this vacancy and I would like to apply for the job. But it turns out he was not in his house, no pains we also managed to see him planting acacia trees around the school.

Mr. Arifandi is familiarly called Mr. Arif, a humorous stocky with a rather low height, and sense of humor. In short at the meeting He directly gave me details duties as a faculty member of SMA Negeri 1 Balai Riam, newly opened government school. Its previous status was a private school under the auspices of PGRI (the unity of Indonesian teachers). He asked me to teach literature: English, Indonesian, and Japanese! No half-hearted, not! Was it just a dream? I was just a high school graduate, but I had to teach in high school! Frankly, taught in high school was my dream when I was in senior high school. While still in high school I saw seemed engrossed that I associate English-Japanese literature-and Indonesia to become one! I want to explain to the public variables are inter-related literature. Perhaps by way of being a teacher, I could do it. Unfortunately, my dream of becoming a teacher did not have the support of my mother, “So the teacher salary is not enough for you to live!” She sneered. But she also did not sue me what I should be in the future, all probably because my mother was not able to pay me university tuition fee.

SMA Negeri 1 Balai Riam only had 4 classrooms with the number of students ranges from 128 people. The number of teaching staff at that time there were only 6 persons, among them: Mr. Jahrani, Mrs. Yani, Mr. Yani, Mrs. Wulan, Mrs. Yuli, and I. Each teacher must hold at least 2 subjects. In between us just Mr. Jahrani was the only teacher who was civil servant. But over time every year SMA 1 Balai Riam (well-known as SMANBA) received additional new building plus a new teacher who was placed in charge at our school after a civil servant appointed by the local government. One day, because of a problem, Mrs. Yani resigned. While there was no one who could replace her. So, because my brain was still fresh and lessons in high school was still stuck in my head, I was sorry for my students to miss class, then I ventured to replace Mrs. Yani temporarily until sometime in the future there would be more appropriate for the teaching field. So finally I taught to 9 subjects in SMANBA: English, Bahasa Indonesia, Japanese Language, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Econometrics, Finance and State Administration. Wow! Fortunately it only lasted one semester, because new teachers began to emerge in the next semester.

My life was getting excited as I taught in SMANBA. Perhaps the reader think, I like to teach in high school because in high school many teenagers are soothing eye? Sorry, I never thought there. That sometimes I was a little paranoid if I met students who were local people of Borneo island (Dayak tribe). Even when I entered the Balai Riam region where the majority of the population was ethnic Dayak! I often recalled events Tragedy Sambas and Sampit when met Dayaks. Although I’m not the Madurese, I sometimes feel insecure when I met Dayak inland. Somehow I often feared itself when I thought of two devastating tragedies in Borneo’s land. But there was one event that my fear was dispelled. One day when I was walking alone in the village of Dayaks, I met an old woman who also was walking toward in the opposite direction to me. She was barefoot, in her head tied a basket (buya) made of woven rattan. Her ears were very long and filled with large earrings. Somewhat afraid I greeted the old woman, “Where are you going to, Grandma?” Then the old woman replied in the Dayak language I did not understand at all. I told her that I did not fully understand the Dayak language. Then the old woman suddenly smiled and said, “I’m going home, let’s visit my house! My house is across the river!” See hospitality in the face of the old woman, my fear of the Dayak vanished. To what we fear to others if we do not feel guilty. Never judge others from their appearance, but look at their hearts!


Faced with high school students in SMANBA was a surprise to me. I experienced culture shock was so great, but fits the saying goes “Other another desert locust! Other other bottom fish too!” So I should be able to adapt to local custom. If used during school in Bogor, all students would be subject to and shook their teacher hand politely as they passed in the street. So in different SMANBA no student wanted to shake the hands of the teacher as old as any teacher. Here, the teacher was seen as a friend, not a surrogate parent in the home. Many fellow teachers who courted his own. So no wonder that saw students being disrespectful to the teacher. Once, when I was teaching, one of my students (Dayaks) did not listen to the subject matter that was being explained. He even fun lying on the floor. Spontaneous I was admonished allow him to leave the class, because snoring very distract other students. What did I receive? He was even reluctant to move from where he threatened me, “What’s your right not let me sleep in class? You’re just newcomer, I’m inlander here! Shall I bring mandau for you?” Mandau is a traditional weapon Dayak. At first I was afraid of the threat that my student, frankly scared me not because he was indigenous, but because of the age of my student was a little older than me, funny right? I was afraid he meant by his words. But thankfully, my other students and also fellow Dayaks defended me, “You must learn manners, customs from your village do not be carried around here! That’s what the school for!” They shouted. The bad guy was immediately left the classroom after being reprimanded his friends.

One other thing that is different from SMANBA compared to other schools are myriad accomplishments achieved by way of a lot of practice! Mr. Arif really loves art, especially the art of music and dance. His movements are very graceful when bringing Dayak dances. The funny thing is he had a rule aimed at teachers like this: “If there is a race preparation activities extracurricullar or whatever it is, please sought not to interfere with teaching and learning activities in the classroom! Perform such activities outside school hours!” Then no one else in between our teachers who dared to violate the rules. But you know, what happens if Mr. Arif want SMANBA engage in contests dancing? Three consecutive months of intense dance training carried out regardless of whether the clock is still school hours or not! Dung crunch teng teng nong drum music sound was audible noise to a radius of 2 km. If you have this, the entire school was not able to concentrate on the lesson. Who has violated the rules?

Although I taught in high school did not mean I stopped teaching English in primary school! I still taught at the primary school only one full day! So 5 days I focused in high school. During the first few years I taught in SMANBA, I used to walk back and forth. Though the distance from the village of Balai Riam-Bangun Jaya to approximately 10 km! So every day I traveled 20 km. Still no luck so Oemar Bakri left teaching to ride a bicycle! Yes, this is the life! Life is a chain of struggle that there is never a break!

It seems that in the second year I lived in Borneo (2005) I started to feel like living in Borneo. Mainly because of its natural, cultural, and interesting things that I like is to see a village that slowly began to evolve. Over time I see a lot of changes that have occurred in this remote area. Masts mobile phone towers have been glued, the communication more smoothly. Mobile phone counters increasingly popping up. The streets are paved, access to the city, the better. Houses more feasible, they changed the former board house transmigration into concrete houses like a magnificent palace. Many residents live well, luxury cars, nice bike, plus yield lucrative oil every month. No need to work as an employee, simply waving legs at home! However, unlike me who do not have a palm oil plantation, I can only be a spectator! So I can not wait for the harvest demoted foot arrived! My role is simply advancing education in the realm of the interior of this growing! Although it is now (2015) after 11 years I became a resident of Borneo and my income started to increase as a positive impact on the residents income increased oil yield, I still want to be able to realize my dream of studying in cherry country, Japan! However Kalimantan soil is a bright prospect for my future, but the future will not be in balance if not balanced with science! I can only continue to live with the remnants of which still had the spirit of struggle. Someday maybe I can make it happen, hopefully!


About Sugih

I'm just an ordinary people

5 responses to “My Second Year In Borneo

  1. sushantganeshanbharat ⋅

    Bravo ! 🙂

  2. Congrats on your 2nd year in Borneo. Nice! 🙂

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