workinginparadise

Malaysian Borneo: Mari Mari Village

I flew in to Kota Kinabalu which is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.  Borneo is occupied by three different countries, Malaysia to the North, Indonesia to the South, and Brunei which is situated right smack in the middle of Sabah on the coast.  If you look at Borneo, KK (as it's called by the locals) is on the northwest side, right on the South China Sea. The city itself is quite modern in comparison, with many American fast food options, as well as British pubs to go along with colossal malls and local food markets.  With so many modern conveniences and city selections I decided to make my first day a step back before the sprawling city was built.  

After scouring the internet and forums I found that a tour of the historic Mari Mari Cultural Village was my best bet.  You can book a tour (which is highly recommended) and you will be picked up right at your hotel or home stay and driven to the entrance.  Once you get to the entrance you will be lead to "registration" which has fresh water, some pet lizards to meet, and a brief waiting period while they assign certain groups to guides.  I was able to secure a discount and tour through the shop I will be working with, but there are numerous tour companies in the city or you can go directly to them at Marimariculturalvillage.com and book a tour which is 180RM ($42 US) per person.  It is well worth the price.  You will be exploring an ancient village that used to house five different tribes and the tour guides are all descendants of these same villagers.  Our guide came here to visit his grandmother as a young child who was still living in their old long house and living off the land.

Once your group is put together you will be greeted by a guide and taken to the entrance of the village and given a brief run down of what you will see, and what to expect.  We were quite lucky as it was cloudy that day, so it wasn't all that hot, although it is quite humid here.  Once your guide has finished his introduction you will follow him into the village.  The guides are incredibly knowledgeable, fun, and all of them provide an English speaking experience.  Don't be afraid to ask them questions or to engage with them whenever you want to, they enjoy answering questions and sharing their heritage with all of us.

The first thing you see is a rope bridge that isn't all that high off the ground for those of you that aren't great with heights, but it is a sight.  It isn't a giant swinging bridge connecting two cliffs but you still need to proceed slowly and with caution.    Taking a picture of my mother on this bridge wasn't easy, you will need both hands to secure your crossing.  There is a rumbling creek below, and beautiful trees and sounds all around.  Once you are over this bridge you will join the rest of your party and proceed down to the first tribes area.

Once you all gather around the first tribal dwelling you will get a glimpse into the simple life that housed these people for generations.  Simple and hand built long houses that protected the entire village all in one domicile.  These villagers lived off of what was around them, so their construction, food, and way of living were unique to this one little area.  You get a nice story explaining how they lived, how they cooked, and more importantly, how they made rice wine.  A tasting is followed after being told how it is made, and you get to take a shot out of cute little bamboo shot glasses!  Rice is so incredibly important here, between the wine and the food, without rice I can't imagine how this tribe would exist, it is that important.  We were brought inside and a local girl was hard at work making the rice wine, getting prepared for all the visitors.  Another fact we were told was how to spot the single ladies, they have no sleeves, so the girl making our wine was available.

After our shots we were lead out of the house to the produce section, where handmade bowls were full of local vegetables.  The villagers go out and pick whatever they can find in the surrounding forest and make eclectic dishes with what they have around them.  Beautiful pottery made specifically for what they hold, all different sizes, and a myriad of designs.  The jungle around is lavish and makes for an easy experiment of different dishes.  Palm leaves are used as a sort of sanitation paper to line the bowls and serving dishes.  Traditionally the women are in charge of the kitchen, the picking, and the making of utensils and dishes.  The men hunt and protect the village, as well as do the heavy lifting and building.  

One of the most fascinating details for me was how the tribe lived in the long house.  The house was just that, long, and housed the entire tribe.  When you walked in there was a long hallway in the middle, bedrooms on the left, and a mildly raised platform on the right with sleeping pads.  The young single girls slept in the same room as the parents, but up high above.  They would climb a ladder to get to their bedroom, then the parents would remove the ladder once they were up there so nobody could reach them (and they couldn't sneak out).  The brothers would sleep outside of the rooms on the raised part on the front of the house to be able to fight if they were invaded.  The homes were all made from bamboo, and raised up off the ground in case of flooding and attack.  A very tricky ladder was used to enter the house which was basically a log with tiny steps carved into it that could be brought up once the whole village was inside.  There was also a kitchen in the house that was a flame grill with logs that could keep food fresh and eatable for a day or longer.  The also had "air-conditioning" which consisted of pushing the roof up and placing a stick strategically to pull in excess air from outside when it was windy and not raining.

One of the things that I was curious about was activities, what do they do for fun?  They have to do something to pass the time, much like we drink and watch Netflix or check Facebook and post cat videos right?  They actually have a bunch of entertainment to pass the time, and their interests are quite interesting.  They make beads and turn them into beautiful bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.  Henna is made for tattoos, musical instruments (especially drums and gongs), pottery, blowguns and darts, tobacco cigarettes (just the plant, no additives or chemicals), armored vests that can protect them from opposing darts, pots for cooking, and clothing.  Their hobbies and fun create functional items for the village.  

Once you have finished up with the history and making your way through the whole village you will go to lunch.  A buffet of local food prepared by the villagers will await you in the bamboo dining hall equipped with a gift shop of course.  Roasted chicken, rice, local vegetables and fruit, a delicious lunch in a tranquil setting before the show.  The main event is what follows the lunch, and it is a traditional dance that has been passed down for generations.  They have a band that consists of different types of drums, and a singer for a few numbers, but all the young ones celebrate with a number of dance routines.  Obviously they have grown a bit and have lighting, speakers, and a microphone to make the experience a bit more modern, but it is still full of tradition and incredible.  They always welcome photography and video, and at the end invite everyone up to try their dance routines with some minimal instruction.  

If you ever make your way to Borneo and find yourself in KK this is #1 on my list of things to do.  There is so much culture, and so much to learn if you are interested in learning about an ancient tribe you would have otherwise never known about.  The people are so nice and accommodating and incredibly happy to share their ancestry with you as you would be them.  I have been to many countries and experienced many cultures but this was an experience I will never forget because of how it was presented.  I know that most of the performers albeit genuine and descendants are just that, performers, and you are likely to see them in jeans and a t-shirt at the bar later, but does that make it any less genuine?  They still dress up in their parents and grandparents garb and perform the same dances, and show us exactly how their family lived not all that long ago, so it is just as palpable.  I left some things out of the experience as I think certain aspects are better experienced firsthand and didn't want to ruin the reality.  This was such an amazing event, and I'm so happy I was able to experience Sabah in this manner, and will recommend this village and tour to everyone every time I speak about KK.

Dive Equipment: What you should rent vs What you should buy

For divers, there is always the issue of what we should own, and what we should just rent once we get to the shop.  Every diver is different of course, but there are certain items you should try and purchase on your own and have with you for every dive.  Other components might not be necessary, and could be troublesome to travel with.  Here I will highlight my thoughts on five items, and whether or not you should purchase or rent them.

1) Regulator - Own

Having your own regulator is important for many reasons.  First and foremost, you are in charge of cleaning it, and only your saliva is going in and out.  One of the weirdest things was using regulators at the shops that had been breathed in by a hundred people, spitting and drooling all the way, yuck.  You also don't know the cleaning procedures of the shops, although I would say most follow proper techniques, its still strange putting your mouth on something hundreds of others have.  With your own regulator, only you are breathing out of it, and you can clean it any way you please.  They roll up nice as well, and if you have a decent case they can be incredibly easy to transport, fitting in a backpack, or taking up a small space in your suitcase.  They aren't cheap, but they are totally worth it if you dive often, or if you just don't want to share a breathing tube with a hundred people.

2) BCD - Rent

Having your own BCD for some is an accomplishment, and it proves that you are a seasoned diver and in turn know what you are doing.  Some are quite particular and want their own custom BCD with their own clips, and get comfortable knowing everything about it.  That is completely understandable, but if you are traveling to dive you might want to consider renting. Most shops carry the same one you will purchase, and it's not very expensive to rent equipment typically.  While having your own is great, it can be bulky and laborious in your luggage, taking up valuable space while flying.  If you have a preference I would just contact the shop and ask if they carry that style or maker, and if not ask what is similar.  Most of them are engineered the same way, and the companies stick to a similar design plan so you won't be terribly uncomfortable.  

3) Mask - Own

Having your own mask is imperative.  Every shop has an assortment of masks available, but you don't know which one isn't going to leak, or fog up.  With your own mask, you can work out the kinks and break it in and know exactly whats's going to happen once you are down below.  Vision is kind of important down there as you can imagine or have experienced, and there is nothing more annoying than a fogged-up and leaky mask. With your own you can burn it, rub toothpaste on it, and make sure it won't fog or leak. It's also very easy to travel with, but keep it in the case as much as possible as it can get scratched easily.

4) Fins - Rent

I actually went back and forth on this, and this one is kind of a combination of the two.  If you are able to dive locally, I would absolutely own your own pair, or even if you aren't traveling far to dive I would own my own.  Fins don't take up a ton of space, but they can be damaged in transit, and the shop might have the exact same pair available upon arrival.  Again, I would ask the shop if they have that make or a pair that is similar. Shops usually have an assortment of fins, but if they have many customers there is a chance that your pick is taken out for the day. I would own your own booties however because they are as small as socks, and then you can take out rental fins but have your own socks which solves any issue.  So for lengthier trips just rent and save the space.

5) Wetsuit - Own

This is a no-brainer, in fact I will double down and say that you should NEVER use a wetsuit from the shop.  Not everyone shares the same etiquette as you might, and as you know it is very hard to get certain "fluids" out of a wetsuit.  Even if you own your own I would highly suggest that you hold it during the dive and never relieve yourself in your suit.  Not only will it fade faster, it will smell and is just not good overall for the suit or you.  Rental suits can carry a lot of bacteria, and have strong odors, especially if they aren't cleaned properly.  So buy your own and keep it clean.

Did you know?  Hypothermia can happen in warm waters, even Caribbean seas that have water temperatures in the eighties.  If the water is cooler than your body temperature (which we all know is 98.6) then your body temperature is lowered and hypothermia can occur.  Wearing a wetsuit is beneficial for a couple of reasons, keeping your body temperature at a stable rate, and skin protection.  In warmer waters a "shorty" suit is more than sufficient. 

SUMMARY

These are just suggestions and based on my personal experiences talking with many divers and traveling for dives.  Dive equipment can be bulky and cumbersome, so that played a large role in what I suggested for rentals, but everybody is different.  The two most important pieces of equipment for me are your regulator and mask because breathing and seeing are essential. Those also happen to be the smallest and easiest to store while abroad, so it just seems automatic that you would own them, along with a wetsuit that is also easy to bring along.  So to recap, spit in your own mask, drool in your own regulator, and don't pee in any wetsuit (especially your own).

Cargo Shorts: Are they okay?

If you are materialistic and only care about how something looks, and not their actual functionality then no they are not okay.  I'm not sure what all the flack has been on them, do they really look that bad?  Do they define your personality and automatically make you immature if you wear them?  I don't think so, the people that are royally against them have never lived outside of a city, and never needed them as a functional piece of their wardrobe based on their every day life like some of us do.  Do you hate backpacks too?  I caught so much slack when I moved back to the city after being abroad because I wore my backpack everywhere, I was made fun of so much and even caught a nickname "backpacks."  Well I worked remotely and needed my laptop on me at all times since I was always on call, what was I supposed to do?  Eventually I switched to a more business laptop bag, but still what's the big difference?  Live abroad, move to a "developing" country and you will need cargo shorts and a backpack every day.  Lets go over why they are not only okay, but necessary when you are traveling.

1. THEY STORE YOUR STUFF

So when I was abroad, I always had to carry my passport (among other things).  It was also hot all the time, so shorts were all I could wear, and I'm not a big jorts guy.  So at any given moment I had my passport, wallet, phone, and usually my mariner credentials or TWIC card as well so I could work.  You can also fit a six pack of cans in those pockets pretty easily, athough they will make your thighs cold.  Tough to store six things in your pockets when wearing your jorts or khaki shorts huh?  I mean if you want to wear a fanny pack for your stuff, your are more than welcome too. People have been trying to come up with a stylish way for dudes to carry their stuff, and have failed miserably.

2. WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

I dunno about you, but this guys seems to be fine in them and he was able to taste a tiny bit of success.  He looks a lot less stressed out now than the last time I saw him, wonder what has changed in his life?  It looks like the weight of the entire world was suddenly lifted off and he is finally free, strange.  Anyway, he looks comfy, what would you wear in their place?  Let's explore!

FANNY PACK

Is this appealing?  I mean I don't know what your type is, but I'm guessing most of you would not date this man.  This character even talked about how unappealing he was, that was his whole persona.  We don't have a lot of options that DON'T get us made fun of to store our things, but we can't put everything in a wallet.  Where are we supposed to store our denture cream, rogaine, and "touch of grey?"  Yes, we need extra pockets!  Now if you have and wear one proudly, and need it for some reason more power to you!  It's just a little bag, who really cares what other people think as long as it serves your purpose. Would I wear one?  No, probably not, it isn't functional for me until they make laptops the size of playing cards.  Again, I just needed a couple of extra pockets, and not something that can get caught on things and potentially cause harm.

SATCHEL

Well there is always a satchel! Yes, while this does serve the purpose of storing all of our things, we don't really want this, we just need some extra pockets.  When I was living abroad I either didn't want to wear or carry anything, or needed to have my laptop handy so this wouldn't qualify for me.  I don't judge anyone that has one of these, it's just not serviceable for me, but to each his/her own.  If you own and wear something that is functional, I will never pass judgement, and you shouldn't either.  You don't know what they may need it for, and I never understood why people made such a big deal over extra pockets on shorts, or a bag someone needed to get through their every day life.  Let people do what they need to do huh?  #Letpeoplenjoythings

PURSE

Now, unfortunately not all of us can be this guy and do whatever we damn well please. He has a day time show about cooking or something correct? If you want to go full in though, you can just get a purse and tell everyone to go kick rocks. If you aren't snoop status however, I'm guessing you will have issues with this in your circle and family.  Do I care what other people think?  No, not at all, but there is a fine line between worrying about what your friends and family will say, and just not wanting to deal with all the vitriol.  People will tear you apart over shoes you wear (or don't wear), a bag you carry, and how many pockets are on your shorts, and it's just not worth it to deal with society and their touchy judgments most of the time, so just skip it and wear what you want.

3. THEY ARE DARN COMFORTABLE

Go ahead, tell me this guy doesn't know anything about style, he is literally a poster boy. Now, he probably has another person carrying all of his things around for him, but not all of us have that luxury do we?  I bet he has a deflated soccer ball in one of those pockets, just in case.  So far there seem to be a lot of interesting people that are enjoying their nice cool pair of shorts!

4. THEY ARE COOL

Those ladies are so impressed with those shorts they can't stop staring at them, plus they are breezy and keep the temperature down.  I would suggest keeping the fly up however unlike this fellow, but he looks to be in a bit of a rush.  Not sure what this guy is so busy doing, maybe there is a boat going down or something, who knows?  The hat, I mean, do as you please, I just don't think I could pull that off, but this guy doesn't seem to care all that much.

5. THEY COME IN MANY COLORS

Even though it may be hard to see these, they still serve whatever purpose this guy is going for.  Maybe it's to hide from that cheetah that is grabbing on him, maybe it's just that he doesn't want to be recognized.  I think I've seen him before, is he Captain America?  Or wait no that's not right, is he a dancer?  Anyway, whatever he does he is free and clear in those invisible shorts, and looking good.

BOTTOM LINE

Wear whatever you want, who cares what other people are going to say.  Is it necessary for you to get through your day?  Than do it, they are probably just jealous that they can't pull off those wonderful, light, stylish, and functional garments as easily as you can.  If everyone is so focused on what you are wearing and you just can't stand them anymore tell them to go to the beach.  Once they are at the beach tell them to kneel down on the sand, and just pound all of it, just pound all of the sand.  I'm going shopping today, there is a sale on cargo shorts and I need another color before I move to Mexico.  Adios!

5 Helpful Hints For Working In Paradise

So you want to move to paradise huh?  That's great!  Hopefully you have already done extensive research on the area you are planning to move to, or even a PMV (Pre-move visit).  If so, then good luck on the move!  Now, once you get there what are you going to do for work?  Most likely it is a touristy area you are moving to, as most paradises on this planet are.  In that case, there will be plenty of work for you to show off what you love in many different areas, but here are some helpful hints to get started.

1. Work on a boat

This is an unbelievable experience, good pay, and a great way to meet people.  You don't need experience right away, but you will need training to become a mate, or eventually a captain!  If it is possible, you can knock out a lot of the required training and have credentials before you leave home.  Look into getting your STCW locally before you move, it will put you above others without the training.  It isn't required right away, but it is within a month or so after receiving a boat job.  It takes about 5 days to complete, so getting this certification before you move makes sense so you don't need to take that time off later.

There are different types of boat jobs, from day charters to lengthy excursions.  It depends on what you are looking for out of the job.  If you like being home every night, look into local charters that do snorkel excursions, eco tours, island hopping, and even SCUBA trips!  If you work on a dive boat though, you will need to be certified as a diver at the very least.  Some companies want you to be a professional diver (Dive master or Instructor) for that, so maybe put that on the back burner.  There are typically sail or motor charters that can hold anywhere from six to over a hundred people.  One company I worked for had twelve different boats, some held forty nine people, some a hundred and fifteen, and they did shorter snorkel and tour excursions for cruise ship passengers.  The other company I worked for had three boats that went to five different islands, had a snorkel stop, and even a nice hike as well as lunch and drinks.  Be prepared to work long hours (twelve+) and possibly weeks at a time during the holiday season.  I once worked ninety five straight days because we were busy, and we had some other mates quit in between.  You also don't typically get a schedule, you call each night to see if you are working the next day.  I'll cover all of this in my next blog post "The life of a mate."

2. Resort/Hotel jobs

Hotels and resorts are great gateways for future careers, in addition to being a temporary paradise job.  They also have many options and departments in which you may or may not be interested.  If you have worked in restaurants before, you can do that here!  You also get discounts, benefits, and a higher wage than a stand alone restaurant (I made $6.50 per hour vs $2.15).  They also have options for a much cooler section.  If you look in the picture above, see those blue chairs?  That was my section as the Pool and Beach Server at the Ritz-Carlton.  This is another great option that allows you to be home everyday, and even greater if you aren't comfortable on a boat or in the water.  If you stay six months you can usually transfer within the resort to another department (based on openings), or to another hotel with the larger companies.  I was a server for eight months, then transferred inside to become a concierge.  Now, there are more rules and stipulations involved when working for a larger company, but it's a great way to get started.  The best way to get hired is to simply walk right into the hotel, ask for the HR department and speak with someone about their openings.  The other great thing about the resorts is they have a lot of turnover, so there are frequent openings, and they also hire couples!

3. Internships

 

Right, not a boring internship in a mail room doing busy work for free, there are OTHER types of internships that most people don't even know about.  I did a Dive master internship, and could've proceeded right into becoming an instructor.  Now, you do have to pay for these internships, but you usually get "free" accommodation, lunches, diving, experience, and training.  If you have a couple of months to kill, and have a little money saved up this is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences you will ever have. If location isn't an issue, it can be much cheaper in places like Thailand, The Gili Islands, Utila, etc. just do a little research on DM internships.  I did a summer internship that took me 2 months and I made lasting friendships with people from all around the world.  If you can afford it I would do a full package (there is typically a discount) and go all the way through and become an instructor.  Most shops or ones close-by will offer you a job right away, some right after your Dive master and you can work your way through the certification levels.  You can then become a digital underwater photographer or videographer, get into marine conservation, MSDT, etc.

4. Work Remotely

This was my work station in Bali at a private villa.  There are many ways to work online these days, and you barely need any tech skills for a lot of them.  Online travel consultant, copywriter, translator, etc.

If you have experience as a travel agent then becoming an online travel consultant would be an excellent opportunity.  All you really need once hired is a laptop (some companies will even give you one) and access to an internet connection.  As long as you are available during business hours (always check time zones while traveling) it is an easy job.  It doesn't pay all that great, but traveling to many countries can actually be cheaper then living at home.  If you do it right, you can easily survive for less than a thousand US dollars a month depending on where you go.

Do you speak more than one language?  You can become a translator, translating web pages, documents, and other kinds of information either into English or from it.  The best part about being a remote translator is that you work as much or as little as you want. You can work 12 straight hours, or take a day off, it's completely up to you which is great while abroad.

There many ways to work remotely these days, you can just research remote jobs and typically find something you might be interested in.

5. House Sitting

Whether it is an apartment in Florence, a condo in Singapore, or a cabin in Norway, people will pay you to live in their house.  There are numerous sites setup to connect sitters and offers.  You have to setup a profile, take a background check, and usually pay a monthly or yearly fee to join the site, but it can be worth it.  If you are good with animals and house chores, this is a great way to stay somewhere for free!  Certain people are unable to rent out their home due to laws, pets, or simply not wanting too, and that's where you could come in!  Sometimes you will have a cat to take care of and water the plants, other times you will have to walk a couple of dogs twice a day.  The tasks will be put into their ad on the site, and you can take it or leave it.  There is some competition for these gigs, however if you aren't picky you will get a chance.  Best thing to do is have a friend write a review about how responsible you were taking care of their place (even if it isn't true).  I cared for a friends cat and watched her place so I had first hand experience doing this, so her review was legit.

Summary:

If you are looking to change your life, take a break, or simply experience something different, look into any of these opportunities.  They are all based on my personal experience, so I'm sure there are other ideas out there, just do some research and maybe you will find yourself somewhere incredible.  Each of my experiences was unique and amazing, and I have built a global network of business contacts and friendships.  You MUST go for it though, dive in with two feet and take off.  You might be wary, a little scared, and nervous just like I was when I first left.  I went to an island I had never visited, knew nobody, had no job, and nowhere to live.  Once I landed I just started figuring it out, asking strangers questions, meeting people, reading the local paper, and researching the area as much as possible.  I even shipped a car down there without ever even knowing how to get it tagged!  If you are tired of a mundane and routine life, quit your job and go somewhere, anywhere!  Don't regret the things you never did, go do the things you've always wanted to.