Roughly 60 Liters of Light

by Jobbatical February 02, 2016

To take our weekends a few steps beyond the pool and general sightseeing, this past Saturday and Sunday a part of team Jobbatical joined a bunch of inspiring people in making the world a brighter place.

Liter of Light Malaysia and Incitement (check them out and join if you can — you’ll be so inspired you won’t know what hit you) took us along on a journey to put up solar lights in an indigenous village in the spectacularly beautiful Cameron Highlands.

Oh, and when we say we put up lights, we don’t just mean we put them up. We spent most of Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, building somewhere between 50 and 60 solar lights, getting our hands dirty alongside a motley group of volunteers from all around the world. From Canada to Tanzania, from Estonia to Sri Lanka—there didn’t seem to be a single corner of the earth unrepresented. It was actually really moving. But we swear we didn’t cry.

Observe the young lamplings shortly after hatching, queuing politely for their solar panels—such a rare and spectacular sight!

The build was fun enough on its own, but then Sunday happened, pretty much blowing what was still left of our minds.

We arrived — after a 4am wake-up call, roughly three hours in a bus, and 45 exhilarating four-wheel-driven minutes — in a small Orang Asli village near Ringlet.

Hoping that the reassuring skull motif was referring to the dangers of smoking and not to those of the road ahead, we embarked on the final leg of our journey.

The Orang Asli—First Peoples of the Malay Peninsula—represent 0.6 per cent of the Malaysian population. Many of them live without reliable access to electricity, some without any electricity whatsoever. The village we visited did have limited access, but no outdoor lighting to speak of. This, as we soon learned, was kind of a big problem in a place that’s nearly vertical in some parts, with steep hillsides just waiting to trip you up and send you tumbling down towards the riverbed.

As far as we were concerned, this village was like an infinity-tiered cake — just when we thought we’d reached the highest peak, another one appeared above it. The local children didn’t seem to mind this at all, of course, whizzing about the place with the greatest of ease, making us look on in awe as they defied gravity.

The team gathers to set up and perform last-minute fixes on lights damaged on the bumpy mountain roads.

But we weren’t there to admire the majestic scenery and the agility of the locals (although, admittedly, we did plenty of that too). As the dauntless scouting team set off to map where the lights would go, others worked on the lights themselves—screwing in batteries, testing circuits, testing them again, gluing things to other things, accidentally moving things before the glue had set, gluing them again… It was the kind of beautiful chaos that people write songs about. And if they don’t, they probably should.

After an exhausting day of scurrying up and down the winding paths, fighting over the two drills and one saw we’d brought, and affixing the lights to bamboo poles prepared by the villagers, we settled down to wait for the sunset.

Because that was when the magic happened.

Pictured here: actual magic. Not physics, solar energy, hard work, or any of that science stuff. Magic!

There is nothing that quite compares to the feeling of seeing hours of hard work pay off. And when it happens on such a scale, in a place so awe-inspiringly beautiful… Well, you’ll just have to try it yourself.

(No, seriously. You should try it yourself.)

Team Jobbatical returned to KL with varying degrees of sunburn, freshly realigned priorities, and a whole lot of food for thought. Stay tuned as we mine Southeast Asia for more inspiration on our mission to change the future of work.

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