Biji-biji Volunteer, Meg, USA

From just an ordinary vacation, to an unplanned volunteering at Biji-biji. Here, she managed to learn and really got to know the people and culture! That is what travelling is all about. A priceless experience you can only gain if you come to right place.

M: My name is Meg. I’m from Colorado, U.S, but I’ve been living in Oregon for the last 5 years. I’m 23 years old.

Z: What did you do before you started travelling?

M: I was studying Architecture for 5 years in Oregon. I just graduated in June. I just wanted to take some time to think and figure out what I want to do after graduating before I find a job.

Z: Are there any other reasons for you to start travelling other than that?

M: 2 of my closest friends from college and I wanted like to do a little trip after graduation together and that’s how it started. Initially, I wanted to go to Vietnam for a few weeks with friends and then my brother who lives in Israel said that “if you are still in Southeast Asia in October, I’ll come and visit you”, as he had a couple of weeks holiday. So I bought a 1-way ticket and went off to Vietnam and Thailand and I just stayed there without knowing what to do until my brother came to see me.

I finally met up with my brother and I still didn’t buy my ticket home. He encouraged me not to hurry, so I decided to come to Biji-biji, which I found on “Workaway”, and it sounded really cool. The travel I’d been doing for the most part was just going to cool places, hanging out at the beach and looking at cool things; just an average vacation you know. I wanted to do something more and understand the place and people better.

Z: How long have you been travelling?

M: 4 months.

Z: So you’ve been here 2 months then?

M: Yeah 2 months.

Z: Almost 3 now.

M: Yeah! It is so fast, so crazy. I’m leaving tomorrow!

Z: Have you found a job yet?

M: No, I haven’t even started applying for jobs yet. First I need to update my portfolio; it’s a couple of years old.

Z: Are you going to include what you have done here at Biji-biji in your portfolio?

M: Yeah! I might! I’d put the chair project, It would be cool! If it turns out fine, then I might.

Z: Maybe you can come up with a more Malaysian patterns on the chair when you are doing the weaving.

M: Oh yeah, I didn’t think of that! It would be great to see the Malaysian weaving.

Z: Klang is not really famous in Malaysia apart from having gang members and stuff, but has been fine so far? I grew up in Klang so I don’t really feel like it is a ghetto place. What do you think?

M: No, I’ve never felt unsafe in Klang. It is fun being here. When you are out there in Malaysia, it is fun when they know you live in Klang. They respect you more. First, when they see you, they are like “ oh you’re a tourist, whatever” and then you tell them that you work in Klang, they just like “what???”

Z: Yeah, because it is not somewhere you go as a tourist. What do you think of Klang, compared to other places you’ve been?

M: I think it is a pretty normal place here as it’s not influenced by tourism.

Z: What is the most Malaysian thing that you have done?

M: One night we went to (it is more of a Chinese thing though) Kai’s house, we had a little tea ceremony with his family. He made some different teas and we drank it from little cups. They had a beautiful wooden tablecloth for it. It was really fun to visit someone’s house. Things like that are so fun to do, visiting someone’s house. You might not get to do that if you are just a tourist.

Z: What does Biji-biji mean to you?

M: It is so cool that I get to meet so many different people in one company. It so cool that different people from different fields can come together; i think it’s kind of rare. It would be so much easier to put people who know the same thing together; with different people, it’s definitely harder, but it’s better too! It’s probably because I’m making the comparison with the architecture from back home. Having people from different background here, I just learned so much because everyone has different skills. I guess mostly skills because I’m working in the factory. I didn’t know how to use the metal tools and wood tools. Before I got here, I didn’t know how to use any of the tools I used to make this chair. From everyone here, from hearing everyone’s experiences, I learnt so much.

Z: Is there any past project that you did and you really liked or enjoyed?

M: The foosball table, but everyone was working on it. All the players have lamp heads.

Z: Did you carve them?

M: Yeah we carved them, but not like with our hands, we used the grinder. The first one was really bad but then we got better! It is really cool when you get to do things with other teams, we had to do like 22 players and all of a sudden everything was done. I was like, “ oh when did that happen?”.

Z: Do you have any favourite tool or machine in the factory?

M: Honestly I love using this metal grinder, It is so satisfying when you make the metal really smooth. It’s such a nice feeling, smooth and shiny, or when something is rusty and you grind it all off and make the welding better. The grinder works in combination with the welding machine; it is a necessary combination.

Z: From a scale of 1-10, how good is your welding? Because there a lot of people praising your welding skills.

M: Praising my welding skills? Are there? I don’t know how to answer that!

Z: Is there any local music that you listen to when you work?

M: I like listening to Odessa and Ratatat like more instrumental sort of like a faster pace.

Z: What kind of genre?

M: Odessa is like dance/electronic, Ratatat is more of rock mixed electronica, kind of instrumentalist. I guess generally I like listening to fast pace music.

Z: What is your current favourite band or musician? Maybe you can recommend some.

M: So hard to choose. First place would be The Growlers. Apparently, The Growlers is like Beach Goth or whatever. They pioneer their own genre. Not everyone knows them so I think it is recommendable.

Z: It is kind of hard for me to answer too when someone asks me to recommend music.

M: Also Reach Out, I love them, a little mellow though.

Z: Is there anything you would like to let us know or any messages?

M: I just want to say thank you, and honestly so grateful that this place exists, it is so cool. This is not an opportunity that you normally get. So grateful that people here are willing to take in random people who emailed them.

Z: I have that feeling too, I have been following Biji-biji for quite a while, and always check them out on social media, and only get into it recently and I feel lucky to be a part of the team and you can do anything you want.

M: How did you find out about Biji-biji?

Z: I think it was on the radio, it was like 4 years ago!

Z: Thanks a lot for the interview!

M: Yeah sure!

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