Category Archives: Borneo

Visiting A Teacher in Borneo

Last week I began visiting classrooms in Winnipeg schools as part of my job as a faculty supervisor for the University of Winnipeg.  Visiting schools here in Canada makes me think of schools I’ve visited other places in the world. A few years ago my husband Dave and I chaperoned a trip for high school students to Malaysian Borneo. In the Muslim village of Bata Puteh we were divided into pairs to spend the night with a local family. Dave and I were assigned to the home of a teacher, thirty -six year old Sanih Nasri and his wife Hanina. They had five children ages thirteen and under.homestay borneo

Their house was located on the schoolyard and set on stilts. It had a corrugated tin roof and wooden walls whose paint had been bleached off by the hot sun. The porch housed multiple clotheslines heavy with drying laundry and a barrel for collecting rainwater. A wire fence around the house prevented the family’s chickens from straying too far. The wooden floor inside had patches of chipped and cracked linoleum.

Sanih's youngest son in his hammock

Sanih’s youngest son in his hammock

Hammocks for sleeping children hung from the ceiling of the main room.

at a school in borneoWe arrived while school was still in session and Sanih, who spoke excellent English, invited us to visit his grade two classroom. brightly painted school in borneoThe school was clean and brightly painted and the children looked happy. The school day is long. Sanih’s wife Hanina goes over to the school kitchen at 4:30 each weekday morning to begin preparing breakfast for the grades 4-6 students who arrive at 6 am.

School boys

School boys

They go to school till noon when the grades 1-3 students arrive to have a lunch that Hanina also prepares, and then begin their classes that run till 5 pm.

Sanih came home from school at 5:30 and after changing out of his pressed khaki pants and white shirt, he donned a sarong and went into a private room to pray. He emerged half an hour later and went to the local market with his wife to buy food for our dinner.

Sanih's daughter at school

Sanih’s daughter at school

When the Nasris don’t have visitors, Sanih heads off after his eleven -hour teaching day ends, for several more hours of work on the small oil palm plantation he operates. This business brings in the extra cash he requires for his growing family.

Sanih's older students head home at the end of the school day

Sanih’s older students head home at the end of the school day

On Fridays after school, Sanih gets in his car and makes a six- hour drive to the capital city. The government of Malaysia is funding college courses for him and he spends all day Saturday in class before making the six- hour drive home. He must maintain good marks in his Saturday classes or his funding will be cut off. Upgrading academically will mean he gets a better pension when he retires.

Sanih's grade two class

Sanih’s grade two class

Sanih is carefully saving his money so in the future he can send his five children to a private Muslim high school in a city about ninety miles from their home. He wants them to get the best education possible. He knows he will never have money to travel so instead he and Hanina open their home to tourists. By visiting with the people from around the world who come to stay with them, Sanih says he gets to travel vicariously.

Dave and Sanih at the dinner table.

Dave and Sanih at the dinner table.

Hanina prepared a delicious meal of rice, grilled fish, squid and vegetables for us. She presented us with a silver teapot that held water to wash our hands before the meal. We ate with our fingers. visiting in a home in borneoThe Nasri children were all very friendly but seven- year old Hana was especially gregarious and wanted to draw pictures for me, read to me and sit on my lap.

Dave with kids at Sanih's school

Dave with kids at Sanih’s school

I asked Sanih how he has the energy to maintain his labor- intensive schedule that includes teaching, farming, parenting, studying and time for daily prayer and entertaining visitors. He says his motivation comes from his passion for his profession. “I love being a teacher”, he said.

Other posts about school visits……

A Place of Happiness

Visiting our Jamaican Kids at their Public School

Visiting Hopi Mission School



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Filed under Borneo, Education, Family, People, Travel

Supporting Each Other

elderly women holding hands on the beachOn one of my trips to Malaysia I noticed these two elderly women strolling along the beach in Kota Kinabalu. They held my attention for a long time. korean ladies in kota kinabuluThey both were very tentative about walking in the ocean, carefully putting one foot in front of the other in the sand and holding hands for support. They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, their lovely surroundings and the beautiful day so much. supporting each other elderly women on the beach in malaysiaIt made me hope  I will have supportive companions in my old age so I can continue to enjoy new experiences. 

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The Paper Garden

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Filed under Borneo, Reflections, Retirement, Travel