Kuching – Day 2: October 22, 2012

The room was very cold. Turning up the thermostat did not make any difference. Victor had to wrap me up to keep me warm. I did not sleep very well. The unfamiliar mattress and pillows exacerbated the situation. The room also reeked of stale cigarette smoke odour. Why the hotel allowed guests to smoke in the room and stink it up is beyond my comprehension.

Toasts, butter, baked beans and sunny side up
My favourite breakfast.
Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy S III.

At first light, I got up to get ready for breakfast. I am not a breakfast person but I needed the energy and also to ensure that my blood glucose level is maintained. My favourite is a sandwich of toasted bread with a generous spread of butter, scrambled eggs and baked beans. The scrambled eggs did not look appetising. Victor recommended the sunny side up instead which was not a bad choice actually.

By the time I arrived at the seminar room, it was already teeming with participants. I went to check on my slides. Everything was in order. With half an hour more to go, I went back to my room which was on the same floor to catheterise and to put on a jacket. Good thing I decided to don a jacket for this event. Even with that many people, it was still freezing cold in the seminar room.

Peter Tan conducting a Disability Equality Training in Kuching, Sarawak
Peter Tan conducting Disability Equality Training (DET) at the Sarawak Supported Employment Seminar in Kuching.
Photo by Victor Chin.

The session went well with active involvement from the participants. The topic of “What is disability?” focused on the causes of disability, the difference between impairment and disability, the Medical Model of Disability and Social Model of Disability. The 150 participants were from Community-Based Rehabilitation centres and Non-Governmental Organisation all over Sarawak.

Peter Tan conducting a Disability Equality Training session in Kuching, Sarawak
View from the back of the seminar room.
Photo by Victor Chin.

When I was about to conclude, to my horror, the LCD projector lost video signal. My heart skipped several beats as the climax of the entire session hung on the few slides that I had yet to show. I did not realise that the laptop was being powered by battery. It was plugged back to the main power supply and rebooted. Fortunately, everything went on smoothly after that for me to wrap the session up.

Meeting Pierce for the first time
Pierce and I have known each other online for 9 years but this was the first time we met face to face.
Photo by Victor Chin.

The highlight of the day was meeting Pierce. We got acquainted from our blogging days about 9 years ago. He was very vocal in supporting disability rights that I was advocating for. Then Facebook came along and we got better connected via social media. When I had problems with Streamyx, he put me through to the proper channels to resolve those issues. He is one of those angels that is always looking out for me. Thank you, Pierce!

Joanna, who was there to cover the seminar, had a few more interview questions for me. Together with Pierce, we found a quieter spot in the Secretariat Room to continue with our conversation. After Joanna left to follow the other session of the seminar, Pierce and I continued with our conversations right through lunch. And then he offered to drop Victor and I off at the airport as we wanted to get there earlier than the pre-arranged time.

Cemetery along the way to the Kuching International Airport
There were several of such cemeteries along the way to the Kuching International Airport.

Pierce took a longer than usual route to the airport to avoid the traffic jam. It was scenic as it was macabre. There were several cemeteries by the road along the journey. The graves were well maintained though unlike those in Penang that were usually overgrown with lalang. We reached the airport with two hours to spare before boarding. While Pierce went to park the car, Victor and I went to check in my luggage.

We had problem using the the self check-in terminal as my ticket was tagged with special service request. A very helpful Malaysia Airlines counter staff helped check us in and put in a note for an aisle chair at the boarding gate.

With some time to kill still, Pierce, Victor and I lounged at Starbucks for a while. Pierce is a veritable tome of good Kuching food. I hope he will be our guide when I return to the city the next time. I appreciate the fact that he spent his entire day with us, from my early morning session at the seminar, then sending us to the airport and hanging out with us again until we had to get to the boarding lounge. That surely must be Sarawak hospitality at its best!

Waiting to board at the Kuching International Airport
Our ride home at the Kuching International Airport.

The journey back was uneventful. I tried to catch forty winks in the plane but the thought of being able to see Wuan and the cats again kept me awake. My fear of the wheelchair being mishandled was unfounded. The ground crew were very professional in managing it.

Victor must be credited for making this trip possible for me. Without his support, I would have to reject the invitation. He had made it easy for me to do what I was there for while he managed the rest.

I would also like to thank the team from JICA, especially Terumi for the travel arrangements, Swee Lan for the support during the seminar and the officers from the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Negeri Sarawak, namely Puan Hadiah, Penolong Pengarah Seksyen Orang Kurang Upaya, for the hospitality. I will definitely make a trip back to Kuching to enjoy the sights and sounds and savour the food that this city has to offer.