“Guests are like our window to the outside world”

Nozirawati Rohim

Nozirawati Rohim

General worker , Terrapuri Heritage Village

Nozirawati Rohim is a general worker at Terrapuri Heritage Village, a resort that doubles as a conservation project to rescue and restore centuries-old Terengganu houses.

“I have been working at Terrapuri since August 2015. After my divorce, I was looking for a job and asked the cook here whether Terrapuri was hiring. I was worried because I had not worked for a while, but she told me to just come here the next day. 

For me, the work here is not difficult because it’s like our housework at home. We prepare breakfast for the guests, clean the rooms, keep the surroundings tidy. The only difference is, we have to communicate frequently with foreigners using a language that’s not our mother tongue. 

Initially, I felt rendah diri (Bahasa Melayu for ‘inferior') because I am not good at speaking English. If it’s local guests, I can handle. The other kakak (local ladies) told me they too were raw and inexperienced in hospitality when they arrived. They told me, ‘Don’t worry, you can learn on the job.’ 

I had a strong desire to try and learn. If I could excel at my job, then I can provide a good livelihood for my child. 

When I started, I made a lot of mistakes. People say ‘tea time’. I say, ‘time tea’! I could understand what they wanted when they spoke to me, but when I wanted to answer, I didn’t know how to put the words in the proper order. 

It took time, but my English has improved tremendously. Now I enjoy getting to know our guests and comparing their lives to ours. They are like our window to the outside world. 

With stable finances, I’ve been able to gradually upgrade my lifestyle. I’ve bought a new washing machine and TV for my home. I am thankful to Mr Lee for employing locals from nearby villages to improve their economy. At Terrapuri, all the staff are locals, unlike big hotels that employ foreigners. 

When I first saw Terrapuri, I was shocked. I had never seen any place like this. Here, you really get a kampung atmosphere and lifestyle. 

When people come here, we are excited to promote our traditional food. What’s the use of flying thousands of miles from the West only to eat spaghetti? They can get it in their countries. When visitors come, we must introduce them to our heritage food like ayam hikayat. 

I hope this resort will stand strong. You need a place like this to let the next generation know about the arts and crafts of Malay culture. Nowadays, children typically stay in big cities; they only know apartments and stone houses. Where else in Malaysia can you find beautiful traditional houses like these [in one location]?”

Read more about Terrapuri here

Meet Alex Lee of Terrapuri here

Photographer and Writer
  •  Alexandra Wong 

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