Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme: Giants Beneath the Waves
The Article That Created Teja
It was an incredible two weeks, learning about the great work that they do, with the nicest people both in the program, and on the island. We saw a whale shark up close on our very first day!
Near the end, the wonderful people at MWSRP asked some of us to contribute an article each to their blog.
I had not written for recreation for a long time. It was not easy to write recreationally, with a full time job in the sciences and in a corporation. The two require two very different modes of thinking that are difficult to switch between, and there was just too little spare time for me to do that. After a while I simply never thought of it again. Not even when I became lucky enough to eventually have that spare time, many years later.
I simply didn’t think I could, anymore. I felt reluctant. Surely, any one of us could write something decent. What would I write about? What was my writing voice now? So I didn’t put my hand up.
But representation matters.
“What about your language, Nuraini?” Alex had asked then. “We don’t have an article on the site in Malay so far. You can write it in both languages.”
That made me stop short, and re-think. I thought about Neil and Sabi, and how difficult it was to call more than a handful of my people’s youth from the rural mainstream into conservation work. Even though, conservation needed them to be the primary custodians, far more than the urbanites far away.
And I knew why. I knew it was because such work was seen to be ‘stuff that white people do’, or ‘stuff that city slickers care about’. I was the first local Malaysian who volunteered with Ecoteer in the Perhentian Islands.
It’s unlikely that my article on the MWSRP website would be read by many Malaysians who habitually think and converse in Malay. But suppose there was one odd, intrepid soul? What would it mean to her/him to see that someone had gone before, to see the evidence clear as day – an article beautifully written in Malay, as only a native speaker could write?
If I had not written for years, it was even longer than that since I wrote creatively in Malay. But I had to do it.
So I said yes.
Do more of what you love.
It was writing this article for MWSRP that reminded me how much fun it is to write. Hopefully it is also fun to read!
And, Teja on the Horizon was eventually the result.
Feature image credit: Clara Perez