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I spent three weeks living in the heart of the rainforests as part of my school's nature appreciation field trip. It was a fascinating an magical journey through one of the last remaining unexplored regions of the world.

Our exploratory expedition started off from Kuching, which was the largest town in the state of Sarawak. I can still remember the breathtaking sight of an endless expanse of green treetops as our plane flew over Borneo. It was truly awesome to witness one of the last frontiers that had yet to collapse from the onslaught of modernization, which has destroyed much of the beautiful forests in the world. From Kuching, we traveled northwards towards the Rajang River. It was our intention to conduct a riverine expedition of the rainforests as any attempt to explore on foot was bound to fail because of the denseness of the forests.

The bumpy journey to a small river town on the banks of the Rajang took us about one full day to complete. I experienced my first night in the rustic charm of Borneo. As darkness descended, the jungle around the town came alive with strange and terrifying sounds. I peered out the window of my hut, but it was pitch dark outside. Coming from brightly lit Singapore, with all its street lamps, I had never thought that some places did not have such a comfort; it was something I had always taken for granted. There was a soft splash in the river and I saw two faint green lights staring listlessly from the river's surface. That was my first encounter with on of the inhabitants of the jungle -- the crocodile.

Before dawn, we boarded the wooden boat that would carry us through the heart of Borneo. The sun was just beginning to ascend from the tree line and the mist that shrouded the surroundings started to rise slowly. As the boat chugged into the mist, I felt like Alice, entering Wonderland, a mixture of wonder and dread. The first creature that the guide pointed out was a parrot with its bright red body. It was perched on a branch, peeking at a strange-looking fruit that hung above it. As we progressed deeper, down Rajang, the river narrowed and trees from either side of the bank interlocked overhead, creating a tunnel.

As we made our way down the river, I realized that what I had learnt about the forests in movies was more myth than fact. It was virtually impossible to catch sight of any animals easily. Without the trained eye of the guide, who was a Dayak -- the native inhabitants of Borneo -- we would not have been able to spot other creatures like the tapir, the civet cat and wild tusked pig. Our guide was a gentle and kind-hearted person. I realized that the stereotypical view of natives as savages was totally fallacious.

Throughout the journey, we would anchor at a cove and explore the interior of the jungle. it was at one such stop that I saw the native Malayan rhinoceros, which was only rarely sighted. It was drinking at the opposite bank as I stood there transfixed. I never knew that it was so different from its African counterpart ! It was much smaller and its tusk was shorter and more blunt. Another unforgettable encounter was the family of orangutans that were basking on the banks of the river, unaffected by the intrusion into their habitat. In fact, they appeared to be oblivious to the strange contraption, with gawking humans on board.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. What is the author's attitude towards modernization and its effect on the rainforest ? Explain your answer.
  2. How did the nature of the forest affect the mode of exploration ?
  3. Why was the author not accustomed to the conditions in the river town at Rajang ?
  4. What made it possible for the guide to spot the creatures in the forest ?
  5. Why does the author say that the commonly held view of natives is "totally fallacious" ?
  6. Explain why the author was "transfixed" when she saw the Malayan rhinoceros.
  7. Explain the meaning of the term "oblivious".
  Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
  8. The purpose of the reading campaign was to promote an ______ for great literary works.
  9. In the early morning the ______ was so thick that the drivers had to drive their vehicles slowly for they could not see far.
  10. It is a ______ that men are better drivers than women for there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
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Answers
 

1.

The author is critical towards modernization for it has already destroyed many other beautiful forests in the world. This can be seen in her appreciation for the Borneo rainforest, which has yet to feel the effects of modernization.
 

2.

Exploration had be to conducted via boat, which sailed down the river into the interior of Borneo, for the forests were extremely dense and thus, inaccessible on foot.
 

3.

It was because it was the first time she had spent a night in a town surrounded by the jungles. Furthermore, she was from urban Singapore, which had modern facilities like lighting, which the river town lacked.
 

4.

It was because he had a guide's trained eye. This can be attributed to the fact that he was a Dayak, a native inhabitant of Borneo, and thus, familiar with the jungle and its ways.
 

5.

It is because her experience with the Dayak guide, who was gentle and kind-hearted, dispelled the common belief that the native people of Borneo are savage.
  6. She was transfixed because the Malayan rhinoceros is rarely sighted. Furthermore, its appearance is different from its African counterpart, which the author was more familiar with.
  7. It means "unaware of" or "unconscious of".
  8. appreciation
  9. mist
  10. myth
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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