A group of weary-eyed R.E.A.L International School students gathered at the crack of dawn on Friday, 14 March 2014. As they arrived they were handed a facemask. This was a safety precaution against the smog that had descended upon Kuala Lumpur from forest fires in Indonesia. It was indeed a surreal start to the trip.
Safely tucked away in our air-conditioned buses we trooped off across the Malaysian countryside. The trees we passed along the highway looked eerie in the fog and smoke. But after an hour or two the bus safely arrived at its first destination, the Sekinchan Rice Processing Factory. Like the students, I had never been to a rice factory before. And just like them, I was keen to learn more.
On arrival we were separated into groups and began the activities. It started with a presentation from one of the factory’s marketing staff about the life cycle of rice. This was accompanied by a promotional video which explained where the rice was sourced (Taiwan) and how it is packaged and distributed around the world. The students were then led into a mini museum to learn about rice production and were handed a worksheet to complete. Once this was done we were off to our lunch destination. We were lucky enough to go to the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club for lunch, where a sumptuous banquet was savoured and appreciated by all.
The next stop was Beryl’s Chocolate Factory. Like little OompaLoompas from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the RISS students trudged into the factory excited to find out more. In a mini theatre hall began a short visual presentation on how chocolate is made. The film explained how the chocolate business operates, the secrets to making good chocolate, and how the products are packaged and distributed. The students then walked through parts of the factory to see first-hand, some of the machines making the chocolate. Once through the chocolate rooms the students completed their questionnaires. Students also bought their own chocolate along the tour, presumably as gifts for their hardworking teachers and loving parents. Then it was back onto the bus to go home.
Despite returning a little bit late the students had loads of fun. We hope that seeing things outside of the classroom has stimulated their interests and helped them to learn more about themselves. Perhaps for some it has sparked an interest in the agricultural industry and food sector. Who knows, perhaps the trip has inspired a new Willy Wonka to run his own chocolate factory? I certainly hope so.
Report by Jon Corry