My Junkie Fix – Scuba Style – Part 3

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

It’s funny about being in the right place at the right time; or is there such a thing? I tend to think it’s just a cliché and if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know that I think everything happens in our life for a reason; to teach us lessons, to guide us down our predestined path. Not to say we cannot and do not make our own choices but as much as we stray from our path I believe there’s a path we’re supposed to follow, some do and some don’t.

All that to say that when I met Ann I felt I was in the right place at the right time. Although I was enjoying Mabul and its diving I was looking for more, and I am always hoping to learn something of substance, something that moves me, something that makes a difference to my life even if it is for the briefest moment.

The interesting thing about diving is that often divers on vacation never go home. Many destinations such as Sipidan attract more advanced divers who choose to do their dive master’s or instructor’s certification much like my dive master Trish from Denmark. She came to Sipidan to dive and then got her dive master’s, is now working for free (in exchange for room and board) and hopes to soon be hired on full-time. Ann and her husband did the same. The two of them came from Britain, him to dive, her to keep him company and they soon found themselves living there. Ann started leading the snorkeling excursions, assisting with the turtle hatchery project and the most interesting, her work with the students at the School of Hope. I told her I’d love to learn more about it and include it in a blog post so she invited me to join her that evening during the school hours of 8-10pm.

Stanley, a native Malaysian from Tawau began the School of Hope in 2010 as a solution for stateless children to receive education. During the war in the 1970s many Philippinos came to Malaysia to find peace and a source of income. The Sultan of Malaysia at that time granted them permission to come and live but many were denied citizenship since they often would come and go between the two countries. It has since changed and some have work visas to work as fishermen, however, the issue of citizenship still exists and many children are born without a birth certificate thereby excluding them from government schools. Enter the School of Hope. 

School in many Malaysian villages is from 8am-10am and then again from 8pm-10pm so the children can be at home during the day caring for their siblings or working with their parents. Children at the School of Hope range between the ages of five and fifteen and many are at the same learning level. Only the stateless children attend from 8am-10am where they learn basic skills such as being introduced to flashlights to assist in their homes at night. And as per Stanley’s wishes, both government school children and stateless children may attend school from 8pm-10pm, finding it the best way to keep peace between the parents of both the government educated and stateless children.

The School relies on donations and the initiative of others in raising funds for the school. Many donating are from people like myself who visit and then return home sending books, toys and money. One of their biggest benevolent gifts warranted a plaque on the school wall resulting from the death of an 18-year-old scuba diver from Dubai whose mother raised money on his behalf. 

Ann wanting to give back to the community then took it upon herself to go on You Tube, find a video of how friendship bracelets are made, bought the materials and now she goes into the school during the evenings makes bracelets with the girls and sells them at Scuba Junkie. Each bracelet sells for RM10 ($3.25CAD) and each girl tags each bracelet with their name on it and a portion of the money from each sale goes to the girl’s family and the other to the school. The program has now been extended to the boys who are now making necklaces with wooden pendants. It was a pleasure to meet the students and talk to Stanley and if anyone is interested in donating please let me know. If we all each donated just $5 we could send over a substantial amount which would buy them more supplies then I imagine they dare to dream of.

The other thing that I must mention is the quality of the food at Scuba Junkie Semporna, it is fabulous. The food at SJ Mabul has a long way to go and yet I hear it’s much better than it used to be. Although, at the same time, for $6 CAD you get a Long Island Iced Tea served in a half litre water bottle that will knock your socks off. I don’t think any of us made it more than halfway through ours. Rory, a chef from New Zealand also came to Scuba Junkie to dive and then was offered the opportunity to open, run and essentially own the restaurant at SJ Semporna. Rory is a trained chef and not only is it great to see him educating native Malaysians in the culinary trade but he’s also opening doors for them, teaching them first class cuisine that rivals some of the better restaurants at home. The lamb was to die for, the thin crust pizzas fantastic, even if with beef pepperoni and not pork. Ha, I think part of the reason I wanted to extend my stay was to eat food that reminded me of home; I love Asian food but every day is a killer.

Definitely haven’t lost weight on this trip but haven’t gained either. Hat’s off to Rory and his team, definitely gets high marks from me. I highly recommend both Scuba Junkie Semporna and Scuba Junkie Mabul for both diving and snorkeling.

Next Brunei, the richest kingdom in the world and diving the depths of the Celebes Sea.

See you soon! Julie

3 Responses to My Junkie Fix – Scuba Style – Part 3

  1. I have to say this…that photo with you in the red sarong/dress- you really are a beautiful woman. I must confess i’ve been attracted to you since we first met but that photo is a killer.

    columbusbloomer November 9, 2011 at 2:01 PM Reply
  2. Great story, Julie.

    Joanne November 10, 2011 at 12:51 PM Reply
  3. Awesome updates Julie. Please keep us up to date on your travels. Well done.

    James Di Fiore November 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM Reply

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