Rural living

I think when I decided to join Teach For Malaysia, it wasn’t really my biggest decision ever. My biggest decision was choosing to opt for a school that is located in the most rural area on the list. It was because I felt like if I’m already gonna do something so crazy, might as well go all out while I’m at it!

It was also because I don’t think I’d feel right serving underprivileged kids, only to drive the few minutes back to my comfortable suburbia house, back to the warmth of my welcoming comfort zone.

But…..barely a week into moving here, I’ve already started regretting it.

This place is perpetually filled with bugs, the water makes me sick and gives me rashes, I can’t sleep at night for fear of being eaten alive by spiders, there is practically NOTHING here but two rows of shops, the nearest civilization (KFC) is 45 minutes away, and the list goes on and on.

My stomach is filled with dread so heavy it sinks the entire universe every time I have to drive back here, so much so that I’ve chosen to just drive back every Monday morning instead (waking up at 4.30a.m has taken its toll on me).

I remember how I kept finding excuses to go back too, despite the crazy tiring drive. Whoops I left my charger at home teehee I guess I have no choice but to go back midweek and leave this horrible place for the night!
Whoops I brought one less baju kurung, time to go home now!! Whoops “accidentally” left my students’ books, must go get them!

And it went on like that for the rest of the year..

Along the way, I’ve completely forgotten why I chose to serve here. I’ve completely forgotten what I came here to see, to experience. And if I keep finding excuses to slide back into my bubble, I would have wasted my two years here.

I was reflecting on this as I was cycling around the paddy field the past few days, and truly for once, loving every moment of it. I came here to see and live the challenges the rest of Malaysia faces and I feel like I’ve failed myself by not gaining enough perspective before the year ends.

I realized that I can’t hate this place because then, it defeats the purpose of me trying to change the lives of the people here. If I can’t understand how they live, if I can’t empathize with them since I don’t try to live like them, then I’m in no position to decide what’s better for these kids.

Never thought the paddy field, the goats, the smiles of the farmers and the laughter of kids running barefoot would give me such a humbling experience.

I came here to teach, and I’m taught so much more in return 🙂


  1. loserkid says:

    Proud of you for making those decision… I grew up in such places (I was born in KL though) with my grandparent… I kinda miss that place every now and then… such simple way of life… though the paddy field that used to dominate my village landscape has now turn into row and row of 2 story shophouses… You are doing great so far… keep it up 🙂

  2. Lokman says:

    Kudos to you for wanting to make a better life for the less fortunate ones. Sometimes when I read articles/blogposts like this, I often think where did my tax money go to if it didn’t serve to upgrade the quality of life in the outskirts 🙁

  3. Nicole says:

    Hello Teacher Sweatlee, this post almost made me tear! You are such an inspiring figure! Though we are around the same age, but I never dreamt that I would make such an adventurous and altruistic move! Seeing you living this dream out is simply so touching! Thank you for all that you have done for Malaysia.

  4. Leanne says:

    I’m 2 semesters into my teaching program. Your courage & love for your students have inspired me so much. Thanks so much for continuing to reflect upon your experiences & sharing them with us!

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