23.04.2020 - This article is written by Jim Tully, Adjunct Associate Professor School of Languages, Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury and Senior Tutor, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University.
I left Christchurch for Sarawak in 1965 as a white, middle-class 18 year old planning for a career in the law. I returned a year later with a deep appreciation of other cultures, a realisation of how little I knew about the world, and an abiding concern for social justice. I have always said that I learned far more from the people I lived amongst than they ever learned from me but did I discover a sense of vocation in teaching that 22 years later drew me to the University of Canterbury to be a journalism lecturer.
I came of age that year which was during the Indonesia-Malaysia conflict, Konfrontasi. About 10 alleged communist guerillas were rounded up by British soldiers and handcuffed to the poles of my house overnight after an attack on the local police station. Perhaps it was the bravado of youth but I never felt in danger. Looking back, I realise how remarkably naive I was to be so oblivious to the seriousness of the situation.
I cried myself to sleep on my first night at Simunjan school wondering how I could ever survive the year. As the assignment was about to end, I wrote to VSA asking if I could stay on for another year - and cried when I had to say goodbye.