Saturday, February 28, 2009

From One Edge To Another

Current Location: Kuantan, Malaysia 3°49′00.00″N - 103°20′00.00″E
Photo (Top): Crossing a stream in the Malaysian Rain forest
Photo (bottom): Blood soaked pants from blood sucking leeches

It occurred to me today, while awake at 3am, that my job is not normal. But I guess that's what you get when you hoist a camera for a daily wage--a lifetime of intrigue, confusion, and the occasional moment of terror.

As of late, sleep is hard to come by. I've managed to get a few hours through the night, but for some reason, my mind will not rest. Maybe it's the constant change of environments or the sheer fact that I've traveled through 18 cities, 5 countries, and have boarded over 14 planes in the last three weeks. I've lost track of time. I have no idea what day it is, nor do I have any clue as to what's happening in the outside world. At times like this, maybe it's best not to know.

Lately, I've been filming deep in the Malaysian Rain forest, documenting the indigenous people and their fight to save their land. Their stories are compelling, to say the least. But for me, shooting in such an environment has put a toll on my body, my mind, and my spirit. I have a fight of my own--that is, to survive.

Traversing through mountainous terrain on foot, we hike for hours upon hours, looking for endangered species of plant and wildlife. Going up a 75 degree slope, at times, my body would shut down--totally dis-engaging every muscle and joint I have left. While resting, we'd fight off insects, lizards and snakes that roam the area. Feeling a pinch on my leg, leeches the size of human fingers would crawl up my legs, into my pants and fill their bodies with my blood. In a desperate attempt to get them off, we'd take turns rolling up our pant legs and torching them with lighters. It's the only way they'll let go of your skin.

By mid-afternoon, the sun is directly above us. We cross a flowing stream, climb on rocks covered in slime and eat our lunch consisting of a banana and granola bar under a gushing water fall. Purified water filled my stomach to quench my hunger. It was either that--or we'd have to kill an animal for lunch. I wasn't in the mood for snake on a stick. With my stomach churning, I knew I was getting weaker by the minute. I made the decision to call it a day and head back.

Making our way to base-camp, the sun quickly disappeared as rain began to fall. An orchestra of thunder echoed through the jungle while lightning danced above us. Covering the camera under my poncho, my body would sway left to right, right to left, in a desperate attempt to maintain balance--jumping from one rock to another. In retrospect, I don't know how I did it.

Sitting in my hotel room, I'm now suffering from a major bout with diarrhea, a loss of appetite and feeling extremely weak. I'll be recouping for the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow before heading out again.

From the northern coast of Kuantan, Malaysia.


Anonymous said...

Rest well... although your work is very important, it's also important to look after your health and wellbeing too.


Hillbilly Duhn said...

Ugh. Just think, when you are old and gray, when you're sitting quietly in a chair, on your front porch, absorbing the sun set and the day gone by, you'll remember all the good you did, all the places you went, and all those will out weigh the bad.

(I always look to the greener side)

Sorry about the poopies. No fun.
And I so shuddered at the leeches. BLECH!

floreta said...

very tough and demanding, always intriguing job you have there... i must say i don't think that i could do it. :) but it is truly fascinating!

Dan Denardo said...

Oh, man....

Hang in there, friend. I feel your pain.

Do you know the salt shaker trick? Leeches hate salt. It kills them. I realize a lighter may be more handy than a salt-shaker in the jungle.....

Sorry to hear of your "challenges". If it's any consolation, you'll be stronger as a result. Easy for me to say. Try to get some rest, man.

Ron said...

Carol: I'll be resting well tonight and tomorrow. Heck, I might even try to sleep in :)

HillyBilly: You know what, I constantly think about my senior years ahead of me...and that's why I'm I have a digital record. LOL. Hope blogs are still around by that time.

Floreta: I think if we're placed in the situation, there's no other option than to survive. So, YES, you can do it, too! But you're smarter than I don't have to do it for a living :)

Dan: Ahh, the salt shaker trick...yes, it works too! The hardest part is finding them once they crawl up your legs. I litterally stripped naked when we got back. And yes, you're right, I shall be stronger...

Small Footprints said...

Some of us choose careers that are nice and safe ... that perhaps make us some money. Other people, like you, do something that can change the world.

Perhaps your digital documentation of the indigenous people ... and endangered plants and wildlife ... will go far in preserving something precious. And I, for one, thank you for that!

Take care of yourself!

Small Footprints

Bon Don said...

Aww Ron, that's insane! Ok the leeches made me shiver, you poor thing I hope your tummy feels better!

SearchingSoul said...

Dear Ron,

I love watching National Geographics and Discovery Channel especially on topics about indigenous people, rain forests, endangered species and vanishing culture. In all those times I watch these stories, I always wondered how much sacrifice these people behind the camera have undergone just so that people like me sit in the comforts of our rooms and watch it with pop corn and soda.

I am indeed so lucky because I don't have to be the staple of leeches nor be the BFF of diarrhea just to know all the stark facts of nature.

I am more lucky that I came to know one of those unsung heroes who sacrificed so much just to let the world know the plight of our mother earth and its less fortunate citizens.

Thanks a lot, my friend. I am so greateful for professionals like you who chose to make a living so that others may live better.

Be well. Hang on. "What won't kill you will make you strong."

Buddhaphish said...

For about eight years my work was similar to yours (well, except for the camera - I was armed with binoculars instead) in the rainforests. Tried out a 'normal' desk job for about a year plus - hated it although money was good. Now I'm back doing what I truly love (alas, it's a promotion which means more desk time than fieldwork but at least I'm in a rural town rather than a big city). I'll take waking up at ungodly hours to trek on a leech-infested trail over the drone commute to work any day!!

p/s I am curious who you are working with in Malaysia, re: local ngos. Do share if you can! :)

Desert Rat said...

WOW! the leeches are so scary and the photos to prove it. But if you need a personal assistant I'm here. It's amazing what you are doing and a part of! Ah but you would get sick of me becuase I have a habit of constantly noteing how beautiful everything is, even things others think is ugly and the other part of the time I'd be crying and hugging people, maybe not a good PA for you after all.

Ron said...

Footprings: Thank you for your kind words. It's people like you that make me want to keep going. Sometimes I do wish I had become the lawyer or the engineer my parents wanted me to become, but when I think of all the journey's I've been through and the good I might be serving society, I never regret it one bit. Thank you!

Bon Don: Tummy feels a lot better today after takin it easy and resting. Also drank lots and lots of water and rehydration salt.

Searching Soul: Thank you so so much for your kind words! Although, I don't consider myself to be a hero of any sorts...not even close!

Buddhaphish: Thakns for droping by my blog. I'm with you on choosing the field over the office. I'm lucky to have a bit of both in my line of work. It's almost a 60/50 split for me between travel and I love it! It's a great balance. I'm working with the Malaysian Nature Society in the remote village of Ulu Geroh. If you want more information, please feel free to send me an email and I promise to respond.

Desert Rat: You're more than welcome to join me anytime...just remember that sometimes, I sleep in the wild, deficate in the jungle and urinate in the woods.

Julie said...

Hi Ron,

Hope the rest of the trip goes better. Sorry to hear about the leeches. I hope they didn't give you any diseases...

I did update my blog just for you though :) It's not nearly as cool as yours but it seemed completely in tune with the theme of my blog. Happy reading!


Adam M. said...

Stay safe man!

We're with you. . .

The Demigoddess said...

I fainted for a few minutes after reading about the leeches in the post and in the comments. (Jk!)

Hang in there, buddy! Chat to you soon.

Javier said...

the blood on your trousers just reminded me of the leeches in Stand By Me... you know the movie directed by Rob Reiner where a group of kids take a journey into the forest to find a corpse??

lol dunno why i just thought of that movie...


TheChicGeek said...

Those blood sucking leeches sound really terrible.
I hope you feel restored soon :)

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