Living to the Fullest

Guest article by Angelina Jefary SMK Siburan
When I first met Mr. Andrew Taylor, I asked, “Why are you so tall? Do you drink coconut milk a lot?” Mr. Andrew was my school ETA for 2014. He was also the tallest English Teaching Assistant (ETA) among the Sarawak ETAs.
We were having a debate competition in SMK Semerah Padi when I saw a lady ETA who really looked like an angel when she smiled at me the very first time we met. Her name is Ms. Emily Ruhl. She’s just too humble, beautiful and friendly. She’s PERFECT.
I still remember that I told her she looked like Emma Stone, and The Amazing Spiderman 2 happened to be showing at the time so I asked her if she was free for a movie day out.
After days of planning, we finally decided a day for our movie day. I went to the cinema with Mr. Andrew and also my best friend, Nina. There, we met Ms. Emily and two other ETAs, Ms. Lexx and Ms. Heather. Unfortunately, Ms. Emily’s roommate Ms. Alex Lily couldn’t join us because her family was visiting.

A special day out with ETAs

I called these four lovely ETAs “Kuching Girls” because they lived in the Kuching area. Makes sense, right? Anyway, I was so happy to meet Ms. Emily again! We all had so much fun.
Days after our day out, Mr. Andrew came to my class to meet me and my classmate, Rozanne. It was really rare to see him going to our class because our class was not listed in his schedule. We had no idea what was going to happen but we felt very nervous.
Then, we were so surprised knowing that Mr. Andrew chose the two of us among the 2,800 plus students in our school to join the Click! 4.0 Camp.
Mr. Andrew told us that all 10 Sarawak ETAs would be there. And my first question was, “Will Ms. Emily be there?” It was a “Yes!” I was so pumped up for this camp.
Click! 4.0 Camp is about social entrepreneurship. When Click! Camp finally started, I knew this camp would be completely different from the school camps I had attended before. By that I mean, sleeping in a fancy hotel and learning sessions would be conducted by professional trainers.
I met truly cool people throughout this camp. I was also on a mission to meet all 10 Sarawak ETAs. Mission completed! I was really ebullient to meet Ms. Emily again and again. Oh! I would never get tired of this. Okay, the camp didn’t end here.
Malaysians, do you guys know Fizo Omar? He’s a Malaysian artist, and my four other team members and I got to meet him. On another note, we were very sorry for making Mr. Andrew find and buy snacks in the middle of the night. Mr. Andrew is just so kind. After 11 weeks of the implementation period, my team the Funky Fresh Masters Of The Universe made it to the Click! Camp Grand Finale. For further information about my team, here’s our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/siburanmasters.
We worked so hard on our project and we were selected as one of the Click! Camp Grand Finale finalists. I was so thrilled! My team was the only team from East Malaysia.
The Click! Camp Grand Finale was held at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur from 23 to ­24 September 2014. Before we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we had to prepare for our final presentation and mentoring session with the Boston Consulting Group. We had the best mentor ever, Ms. Cheah Lee Sun.
Yay! We were finally in Kuala Lumpur! Since we were the last to arrive, the other two teams had to wait for us at the airport because all three teams were riding the same bus. Next, we headed to Sunway University. For your information, Sunway is sick (this is slang that basically means super cool)!
There were a lot of memories during Click! Camp Grand Finale but the one I remember the most is that the Funkies were so addicted to taking selfies and wefies. We took them with everyoneeven strangers. Don’t worry, we were harmless. Ha ha ha!
It was awesome and not forgetting our victorious and glorious moment when my team was picked the champion of Click! 4.0 Camp.

The Funky Fresh Masters of the Universe with their winning prize from Click! Camp

Making the win even more memorable, we happened to be the first school from East Malaysia to win the Click! competition. Coming back to my ETA experiences, after roughly four months not meeting other ETAs, I met Ms. Emily again! We were on a night out with a few ETAs and students. We spent the whole evening together by going bowling, watching movies and walking along the waterfront. At the end of the day, I cried because of being afraid of never having the chance to meet her again. I realise and know that even though I’m not her student, but looking at what we’ve been through together is just so much fun.
Before we headed home, we promised each other, “This will not be the last goodbye.”
It so happened that it was not the last goodbye after all! I met Ms. Emily again that same week! It wasn’t just her but all Sarawak ETAs in the Sarawak State English ­In ­Camp. Awesome? I know, right? What was more awesome was that we made plans to go out for dinner. I was just too happy to see Ms. Emily that day. I took a lot of photos which I look through every night and it brings a smile to my lips.
After days went by, it was finally time for our dinner. I was so excited and overwhelmed at the same time. All my best friends and my beloved English teacher were there, not forgetting the other ETAs, Mr. Andrew, Mr. Gordon, Mr. Samuel and Ms. Emily who were there to join us.
We talked, we laughed, and we had so much fun that night. It was hard to face the fact that the night was to end and it would be our last dinner with the ETAs. “We are not promised tomorrow so let us love with all our heart today.”

That same week on Friday, the Serian boys, Mr. James, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Samuel were holding their art exhibition. It was also Mr. Gordon’s birthday, so, Mr. Andrew, two other Funky members and I visited the art exhibition. The art exhibition was from 9 am to 9 pm and we only managed to stay till the afternoon.
Before we drove back to Siburan, I thought of giving a small surprise to Mr. Gordon. Mr. Andrew and the three of us rushed to the nearest bakery. A few minutes later, we got back to the art exhibition venue with a cake. We lit the candles and everyone around us started to sing a birthday song for Mr. Gordon.
Oh! October was just getting better and better when the following Monday was Mr. Andrew’s birthday. A week before Mr. Andrew’s birthday, I got a big banner and brought together the teachers and students of SMK Siburan to write their birthday wishes on it.
I was quite familiar with Mr. Andrew’s schedule. He usually came at 7:30 am. With that in mind, my lovely English teacherwho was also his mentorand I hung the banner in front of his room at 6:30 am. Yup, way early.

Angelina with her banner for ETA Andrew’s birthday

During recess time, my classmates and I gathered in front of his office. His mentor, Ms. Sed Sei Fong brought the cake and as soon as he stepped out of his room, we all sang the birthday song. After, we brought him into our classroom where we held a small party for him. With the help of my classmates who could play guitar and piano, we also sang some other songs together.
It was so sad to know the ETAs would be leaving in October. Of course, there are a lot more stories to share but again I’m so lucky because I got to bid farewell to the Sarawak ETAs at the Kuching airport.
I tried not to cry but it was harder than I thought. But a day like this really keeps me going. I hugged each and everyone of them tight, not wanting to let them go.
One of the ETAs, Ms. Alex, told me, “Saying goodbye is so much better than never meeting at all,” and “Sometimes we need to realize that some people can stay in our heart but not our lives.” She’s super good with words and it brought more tears to my eyes.
ETAs have taught me a lot throughout the 10 months they have been here. They reminded me to always believe in myself. They lifted me up when I was down. Their encouragement will never fade. Also, they brought me to a whole new level when we were crowned the Click! Camp champion.
My communication skills, especially with foreigners, have improved tremendously. Whenever I felt bad about my English, they would say, “Hey, you’re good enough. Can’t you see, you’re talking to an American?”

Angelina with her Sarawak ETA friends

And I’m impressed with their spirit and commitment to what they were doing. They traveled so far away from their families to come here and spread goodness. They were not afraid of trying something new. They were in a whole new country totally different from theirs in terms of religion and culture, yet they adapted so well and coped with the surroundings with ease. From them, I have learnt to live life to the fullest.
I would like to dedicate all my love and gratitude to all the ETAs, especially the Sarawak ETAs, Alexandra Mills, Emily Ruhl, Heather Ayvazian, Alex Lilly Watson, Samuel Pang, James Greisler, Gordon Crabtree, Chelsi Sparti, Acacia Hori and especially our ETA, Andrew Taylor, for being the best first batch of ETAs in Sarawak and being part of my life.
Thank you, US Embassy KL. Thank you, Fulbright. Thank you, MACEE.

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