I had no idea what to expect.
When Ria walked in, the first thing that caught most - if not all - of our attention was her insanely contagious laughter. By the end of the talk, I was thoroughly convinced that that not laughing whenever she laughs, is far from the realms of possibility. Moving on to the important bit. Bringing along with her a very cheerful attitude, Ria gave a fantastic presentation of the various kinds of organisms found in Chek Jawa. Simultaneously, she shared countless personal experiences, many of which left us in tears and fits of uncontrollable laughter. One joke stood out for me. "Why does the male fiddler crab have such a large pincer? Well it's the same as human beings. Why do males have large useless things as well - like sports cars?" Roars of laughter followed. In the blink of an eye, the presentation was over. It was entertaining, informational and fun.
I wondered how the following two days would be like.
So there I was, photo bombing Mr Loh's pictures. I'm sure I livened up his photos a lot!
The weather was better than I could possibly wish for. Cooling, refreshing and revitalising. Perfect for a walk around Chek Jawa. In Mr Loh's group, we followed two enthusiastic tour guides into the great green unknown. With heads saturated with knowledge, they led the group through the forage teeming with life, occasionally stopping for photos to be taken, and especially interesting information to be shared. I whipped out my phone to note down as much information as possible. After all, I was going to be a tour guide in a month's time. Along the way, I asked a few questions of my own. Overflowing with passion, sincerity, respect and humility, they shed light onto my many unknowns, occasionally throwing a couple of jokes into the mix - icing on the cake. In the middle of Chek Jawa, surrounded by organisms of all sorts of shapes and sizes - I guess good leaders really exist anywhere, everywhere.
I could not have asked for better guides.
When seen in person, the sights were breathtaking and the creatures were jaw dropping - photos found on the Internet did little justice to them.
Finally, the moment I dreaded/ looked forward to arrived. Butterflies in my stomach, I stood in front of the group of information-hungry people, forcing out a smile - hopefully it didn't came out too awkward. The tour guide introduced himself and yours truly. I vividly recall that just a month back, I watched the two guides step up and here I was. The calm, placid looks on their faces spoke plenty of their experience in the field. Either that, or they were simply fantastic at suppressing the feelings of nervousness at making mistakes. Of course, the current tour guide I was following did amazing at engaging the audience - of all ages. I guess I still have plenty to learn in terms of interpersonal skills. Every now and then, he gladly stepped aside, passing over the audience's attention over to me. Internalizing the information of the 5 stations just the day before, I struggled slightly to share the information. Noticing this, a member of the group patted my shoulder, and said smiling, "I can tell you're working hard". I forced a smile.
Thankfully, they were really nice, driven purely by interest in the environment. A number of times, I engaged in conversations with them, asking whether or not it was their first time here. They replied gleefully every time - throwing in jokes occasionally even - lightening the mood and making my job many times easier. Despite my occasional hiccups, they also remained forgiving and understanding. Guess I was pretty lucky.
Alas, the tour had come to an end. Mentally exhausted, I joined the rest. "So how did Jeremy do?" Mr Loh asked almost immediately. Eyes widened, I looked towards the tour guide. "He was good." came the response.
I guess the EXCEL program really did widen my eyes - pun-intended - to a whole range of new things. From realizing the beauty of nature to honing my interpersonal skills, these two days were indeed well-spent. Now, all that's left is to hone these skills even further and apply them to my daily life.
The future awaits.