Coming home to a flooded kitchen after spending the day covering the flood in Terengganu was my first flood experience.
It was in 2010, the year I got transferred to Terengganu from Johor.
Coming from a hilly village in Masai, Johor, my only knowledge of floods before that was based on what I saw and read in the news.
Long, my songket-weaver neighbour, was sympathetic, but made it clear that it was nothing compared with what she had seen, and she had seen worse.
The only thing she had never seen before was me feeding the stray hen that had laid eggs in the basket of my motorcycle. The hen could not find food as the front yard had turned into a murky pool with water up to my calves.
Upon hearing that, the flood novice in me immediately looked for a house in a less flood-prone area. I moved to Tok Jembal the following year.
Although the primary school in Tok Jembal was turned into a flood evacuation centre every time floods hit Terengganu, the housing area that I moved to in 2011 was never affected.
The monsoon season is cold and my favourite place to escape the strong, cold winds is the La hot spring in Kampung La, Besut.
The problem is, big floods are a fact of life in Kampung La and the villages around it.
In 2012, I went to Kampung Bukit Payung, a few kilometres from Kampung La, to cover the flood situation there, thinking that I could visit the hot spring after finishing my assignment.
In a matter of hours, all the exit routes were flooded and I ended up staying at a friend’s house there for four days.
It was the first time I saw people being evacuated in boats and I understood why Long said my flooded kitchen was “nothing”.
Being surrounded by floodwater is depressing. It is more so for villagers as they cannot earn a living, not to mention having to think about cleaning up and repair works when the flood subsides.
Luckily, there were no human casualties.
On the other hand, kids and youngsters were having the time of their life.
Youngsters on dirt bikes would go around testing how far their machines could go in a flooded area before the engines get killed by the water, while others would hitch rides on excavators making their rounds helping villagers or rescuing livestock.
I tried riding my 16-year-old motorcycle through a flooded road, but the engine died after the water reached the seat. No, it was not a dangerous stunt as I had a bunch of people around who were also trying to cross the flooded road on motorcycles and excavators.
My motorcycle did not suffer any damage and I was able to restart it after draining the water from the exhaust pipe.
A word of caution: do not try to restart your vehicle while the engine is underwater as the engine could be hydro-locked.
Water, like any liquid, cannot be compressed, and if it gets into the cylinder, the piston will get jammed when you crank it up.
The incompressible quality of water allows it to transfer energy, becoming violent in surging floods or beneficial when applied to hydroelectric dams.
Rumours of dams releasing water that leads to floods are not new.
On my rounds to get comments from villagers who refuse to move to the evacuation centre, an elderly gentleman told me to write about dams releasing water, which he said was the real cause of floods in Terengganu.
“Bakpo set wartawe tokse tulis empange wat nyakyo ko ore kapung, pelepah air ikut dae.” (Why don’t journalists write about the dams making our lives miserable by releasing water as they please?)
Telling him that journalists would surely report on it if there was proof of such things had only convinced him that I was “in cahoots with the belligerent dam people”. I gave up.
So I went to write about people who saw floods as an opportunity to net freshwater fish instead.
The water receded after four days and I was finally able to enjoy a dip at the La hot spring.
The writer is a Kuala Terengganu-based independent journalist