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Survival skills

I am presently sitting in front of the TV with MH's laptop on my lap. Life is very comfortable here. But I must take care never to forget that I am a SABAHAN!!! Growing up in Sabah is GREAT... I had a fun, memorable and happy childhood... but life was not always a bed of roses, and I've had my share of gruelling and life-toughening experiences.

What are the two basic modern amenities every household should have? Water and Electricity. Agree? Good. So imagine if these were taken away from you. Sometimes only for a couple of hours. How about a couple of days... even longer at times. This situation equals the basic OBS experience. Heck, I heard even OBS always provide these anyway...

Here is my survival guide for such situations:

Water Cuts
It never fails to happen in Sabah once every few months... sometimes every few weeks even. Dad said it happenes because one of the major water pipes had burst (again). And it seems happens more often during the rainy season. Ironic, eh? I could never understand why it happens so often. But like all Sabahans, our family was equipped with the highly sophisticated skills and tools to cope with this situation.

1. Always install a big metal water tank in the house. This is a must for every household. No questions asked. Some families prefer to elevate it on stilts behind the house... so called easier access when there are problems with the tank... but the disadvantage is that you will have to cart the water each time to do your laundry, cleaning, bathing etc. Sometimes when the mom is too malas to keep carting the water into the house again and again, she will just ask the kids to bathe outside. Can be very embarassing. We could see our neighbour's kids stark naked under the pipe of their water tank during bath time. So malu. Thankfully, our dad was more sensible and spared us such indignity by integrating our water tank with the rest of the house plumbing.

2. During high risk seasons (sometimes rainy season), build up your own stockpile of water. You can keep them in big basins or plastic bins behind your house. It can be very unsightly and messy, but you'll be very thankful one day that you did it. Our granny was very conscientious in this. I can now clearly picture her house, stockpiled with big colourful tacky plastic basins. But I can't complain because I myself have been a recipient of her large stockpile at times of need.

3. Remember to share... kind neighbours or relatives let us go over to their house to bathe and to "borrow" some water to bring back home for doing basic things like cooking or washing. And do the right thing... return the favour when the occasion arises.

4. Maximise club benefits... we were thankful many times for the shower facilities at the local golf club. Bathing during a water cut is a great luxury. It was almost like a familiar routine. After dinner, pack towel, soap, shampoo... drive down to KGC for a nice shower... after shower, sometimes we get to buy pisang goreng for a snack (which is a treat because we usually only eat pisang goreng on Saturdays after swimming) I will always be thankful to KGC for those times when we needed them most.

Power Cuts
Also happens every so often. For this one, I am not entirely sure why it happens. Maybe a major power cable got chewed by ants? Whatever the reason, the SESB will always give reasons more ridiculous than ant-chewing. So just be prepared.

1. Candles. This is basic. And remember to train yourself how to find them in the dark. It should be practiced like a fire drill and be an automatic reflex. Blackout, find candles. Simple.

2. Emergency light. Nowadays, this is also a basic thing every Sabah household should have. It's attached to a power outlet to charge automatically. Then when a blackout hits *ping* it switches on automatically. Brilliant! This is surely one of the greatest inventions in history (for Sabahans at least).

3. Toughen yourself up to take COLD showers. Most houses in Sabah heat up water using electricity. So no electricity = No hot water. If you are really fussy, you can boil some hot water, mix with the cold water for your bath... can be quite leceh as you can see... so just get it over with quickly with a quick cold shower... it builds character anyway (so they say).

4. Learn creative ways to entertain yourself. No electricity also means: No TV. No Radio. No DVD Player. No Astro. (Nightmare for dad). Nothing except your highly sophisticated and creative mind to ward off any insanity. Actually, I have fond memories of some power cuts. After enduring a cold shower, being burnt by a candle, sharing one emergency light with brothers to do homework... we would huddle together in my parent's room and just talk, play simple games, or do shadow puppet plays with the candle. So not everything is bad, you see.

Well, this is just part of Sabah life. Although this demonsrates the tremendous adabtibility of humans, it's also quite sad that people have more or less just "accepted" the situation. Of course, I do hope that this state will progress and invest in upgrading all these amenities. Still, I do look fondly back on the old days and can also proudly boast of my own survival skills...go figure.


  1. Things haven't chsnged much - last week a certain MP asked the whole of Sabah electricity Board top management to resign for failing to solve the problems after all those years - they've run out of excuses. thinking back, the power cuts were a blessing in disguise- otherwise, how did we manage to horn all your creativity ? You kids would be glued to the TV.

  2. Well, that's one of the drawback of staying in sabah. Water cut, power failure. I bet if we have piped gas supply, we will also be having gas cut. Shameful.
    Engineers' solution : More storage capacity in the house. In our old house, we have 200 gallons. Now 900 gallons. So far, when we have water cut, we could survive on the spare !

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