It was to me. Five of my former students (I was in Sarawak 1971 - 1972, so it has been 40 years) have become my facebook friends, and tell me they appreciate my efforts.
I am the only person in my county who has a traditional Sea Dayak tattoo.
There's a scar just above my knee where my machete slipped and dug a piece of meat as big as a chickpea out of my leg. Some machetes have points, in Sarawak.
I passed an 18-inch intestinal parasite once.
I can still say "You are surprised I speak your language, isn't it?" in Hokkien, and "My grandparents live upriver in a longhouse" in Iban.
Yes, I had to work 60 hours a week during the school year, but you can't buy memories like that!
When I was in high school, back in the 1960's, I belonged to the AFS club, which was partly a support group for our annual exchange student and partly a club for people who were interested in foreign countries. We met every week at lunch. Usually we had a speaker. Once it was one of our classmates, whose family had gone to Europe on a tour. They saw 7 countries in 6 days or 6 in 7; I've forgotten which. They saw BeNeLux from the bus window in one day, although they stopped in the Netherlands for lunch. They stayed in Hiltons and our classmate bragged he'd had a hamburger for dinner three nights out of seven. Even then I knew there were different ways to see a country.
I was in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo for the whole 27 months, except for 5 days in West Malaysia and Singapore at the start of training. I ate what the locals ate, with rare exceptions, and learned to cook Chinese food.
On my mid-term vacation I flew into the highlands and walked for 8 days through the jungle, usually spending the night in longhouses, then bummed a ride on a longboat for another three. One night in the jungle the fellow who was my guide for that leg of the trip had to make a shelter for the night, because I wasn't a fast walking through the jungle as he was, and we were not going to get to a longhouse by dark. So, he cut saplings as thick as my thumb and his wife, who had come along, made a roof from some kind of huge leaves. It took them about 45 minutes; four uprights, cross-pieces about a foot above the ground, a floor laid on those, and a roof. We slept pretty well, but, since I was 6 feet tall and he 5, and he'd used his dimensions out of habit, my feet stuck out over the edge.
Leeches every day of the trip; they have faded, but for years when my feet got wet the little round scars would show up in the hollow place between my ankle bone and Achilles tendon.
Somewhere in that trip I saw a creature like a centipede, but nine inches long, glossy black, with bright yellow legs. It was scuttling under some leaves, and I didn't try to touch it; that color combination is nature's way of saying "Mess with me, Jack, and your entire arm will swell up like a balloon."
No bus, no Hilton, no hamburgers. I didn't see as many countries as Bob did, but I saw mine a lot closer than he did.
Answered By: Ted Pack - 6/6/2011