The fujitsu tour itself involved a number of activities and team events. I was made a team leader of 8, and from that moment I was crushed under the expectant weight of responsibility.
Occasionally I would forget to count my team back onto the bus, but a good officer knows that if you invest responsibility in your soldiers, they will always be accountable. I guess it was their loyalty to me that always brought them home ;)
For each event there was also a different randomised group, which maximised our ability to meet new people. Everyone on the tour was great, they were a focused and decent bunch and it's wonderful to meet so many people from around the world.
The first two days were quite gentle, with a trek round Gaya Island, two river cruises, a line census of wildlife, visits to a sustainable palm oil plantation, some orientation and lectures as well as our first bit of hard work, girdling. Non rainforest trees are planted to protect and provide shelter for the rainforest saplings. When those saplings are strong enough to survive without those trees above them we perform girdling, that is to cut away a section of bark all the way around the bigger tree, such that it will die slowly (the flow of nutrients stops when this happens), this means further protection for the sapling, as the tree dies. Using a machete was fun, but I will be working on my upper body strength for next year!
Then on day three, Planting!
This was hard, after our demonstrations (which looked easy when delivered by professionals) we were put in our groups, given our long handled shovels, our saplings and set to work. When the notes accompanying the tour said the slopes would be steep, I didn't realise that meant almost 75 degree inclines at times! The guides cajoled and helped us, with our "soft keyboard hands". Working in that heat (around 36C) and humidity drenches you in sweat in seconds. We had two students from Sabah university in our group, they were amazing. As part of their civil engineering course they had this as as one of their environmental module activities and we had a real camaraderie amongst our Japanese/uk/Malaysian team. I ended up filthy, exhausted, but very happy. Between all the groups we planted 1400 trees out of our 1500 target.
You could argue (rightly) that the professionals could have done this in less than half the time, that we didn't need to fly half way round the globe to support the project. but this isn't the reason for Fujitsu's contribution, it is to build relationships, to show we care but also to take the message back to our own teams, colleagues, families and friends, to try to make a difference. The rainforest is a key eco system to reverse the threat of global warning. There's plenty all of us could do to make a difference.
Some general advice for those thinking of doing this next year - We were warned / advised
1) not to pee in the forest, as your private parts would become swollen
2) not to disrespect the forest as it can hear you and will curse you
3) not to take anything from the forest (curse. Again)
4) to give compliments to the forest
I though I was doing well, but I inadvertently succumbed to no 2). I flung my safety helmet away exclaiming I didn't need it, I was so hot, what could possibly happen? Well, within two minutes I walked into a heavy branch which clumped me just above the left eye. Let that be a warning to all of you!
Another Poem (sorry) (c) Mel melis November 2014
A rainforest in miniature,
babes in arms,
We carry them,
Down steep banks,
and through ravines,
And whilst we are scratched,
We protect them,
The forest is watching,
Making sure our kindness,
Imbues their fortitude,
They are expectant,
Arcing their flexible callow bodies,
So their leaves feel the sun,
Waiting for the chance for their roots,
To unfurl and feed,
We tuck them into their dug earth beds,
Then cover the bed with
blankets of detritus and leaves,
The dead forest nurturing the newly born
With sweat pouring,
The jungle judges us,
on words and intention,
As if it so decided,
It could close in and kill us,
So, a kiss,
Good luck little sapling,
Grow straight, grow true,