Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah
Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah is a sincerely authentic account of Neill McKee’s experiences surrounding his pivotal two-year placement in Sabah, North Borneo, as a teacher for Canada’s non-profit development organization, CUSO. McKee submerses himself into the Malay culture, absorbing their language, history, and customs of the community. In doing so, he demonstrates perfectly what is to be gained by a readiness to receive and engage with unfamiliar cultures. However, these two years are only the beginning of his many adventures in Asia that are candidly depicted in this autobiography.
McKee’s cultural experiences are superbly documented with simple yet charming reflections which build powerful images in the reader’s mind, drawing us in and making us feel we are partaking in the author’s experiences. He has an elegant style of writing that is pleasing to read as he strikes a careful balance between imaginatively expressive descriptions and a wakeful frankness that is tempered with an unassuming earnestness, particularly when deeply personal aspects of his experiences are exposed. The overall effect of this delicate balance of narrative approaches is to create a provocative setting where readers simultaneously assimilate with McKee into his vibrant surroundings, whilst mimicking the teacher-student relationship that McKee experiences with his pupils in Kota Belud. The incorporation of the native language of Malay into the narrative adds to this effect and is nothing short of delightful. Numerous Malay terms and phrases are seamlessly integrated mid-sentence and are often translated along with the events as they happen. In addition, there is a concise glossary of terms at the back of the book which allows for the Malay terms to be deciphered throughout. This inclusion of the native Malaysian language quite elegantly gives the readers the impression of being submerged in the exotic surroundings and unfamiliar customs. The incorporation of Malay allows the experience to come alive, but also for the readers to learn a small number of phrases of a new language along with the aspects of the culture that McKee reveals, adding the final sensory layer to the illustration of his adventures.
Unfortunately, there is one criticism that must be made with regards to McKee’s portrayal of his adventures in Sabah. There are numerous moments in the narrative where he fails to sufficiently explain various situations and their chronological significances, if at all. In these instances, McKee alludes to events or skims over them with the assumption that the readers catch his sentiment but ultimately, leaves a little too much to the imagination. It is also worth noting that Finding Myself in Borneo may be considered a text that really needs to be read in a physical book format as the beautiful pictures do not reproduce quite so well on Kindle. There is also a need to flick back and forth to match pictures with events in the narrative and to look up terms, notes, and citations, which means the book really begs to be read in hardback or paperback.
Ultimately, McKee’s book is a delight to read with the wide variety of supporting material that brings his story alive. His ability to draw readers into foreign territories, assimilate us into volatile societies and succinctly depict relevant historical timelines, along with current developments of the landscape, is nothing short of captivating.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Page Count||260 pages|
|Publisher||NBFS Creations LLC|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|