Thursday, June 8, 2017

First 100 Hours: A Sibu Welcome

Its been a whirlwind first few days here in Sibu, the rest of the team arrived late Monday night and I landed early Tuesday morning. Since then, we have been shown where we'll be working this summer and introduced to the people with whom we'll be working.

I left from the airport Tuesday in a cab arranged by our on-site collaborator, Dr. Toh, and was taken to the hospital to start our long orientation day. We were briefed on the hospital guidelines for being in the wards and working here and introduced to various hospital officials. Importantly, we were shown the temporary lab spaces at the hospital we can use while the Clinical Research Center's (CRC's) more permanent space is finished. On Wednesday and Thursday we met with collaborators to discuss the logistics of executing our various summer projects. Needless to say, we are all very excited about getting started on sample collection and analysis!

Among the many impressions that I've had since arriving, the one that stands out to me most is the absolute hospitality we've been shown by everyone here. Our direct supervisor, Dr. Lim, has been incredibly helpful with introducing us to local foods at the hospital canteen. Our favorite was a dish called Laksa which is a spicy soup with rice noodles and protein. He's also taught us the Malay words for common foods. Most importantly, I've already learned how to order black iced coffee in Malay (those of you that know me understand how necessary this is). Dr. Lim has also answered any and all of our questions about local customs and ways we should interact with people in the hospital.

Tea drink (Tae ci beng) served at the hospital canteen, photo credit: Hudson Berkhouse

Tuesday night, Dr. Toh graciously invited us to his home for dinner where we were treated to delicious food and a dish found only in Sarawak: Midin. Midin is stir-fried ferns and is absolutely delicious. Thursday night, we were introduced to local Chinese cuisine and the night market in Sibu by our Airbnb hosts and their family. They have also offered to show us around Sibu and to answer any of our questions about local culture and things to do. Hudson also got the chance to practice his Chinese with their two young daughters!

Dinner on Tuesday, June 6 at Dr. Teck-Hock Toh's home; left to right: Hudson, Laura, Jane, Kerry, Rick, Dr. Lim, Sarah, Dr. Toh; photo credit: Hudson Berkhouse

It is apparent to me that everyone here wants us to feel at home, and it is definitely working. Everyone has been so kind and helpful. Words cannot express how thankful we all are to be in a place with people who are so gracious and welcoming. It seems that the people we have interacted with are just as excited as we are for us to spend our summer in Sibu. I can't wait to get to know them all better and work with them on our projects. 

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