It all begun here in Missoula, Montana, USA, 17 years ago when I first came to the University of Montana in the summer of 1994 to pursue my first degree (B.Sc) in wildlife biology. It was here where I met my advisor Dr. Chris Servheen, whom at that time was looking for a Malaysian student to conduct a study on sun bear ecology in Malaysia. The meeting with Chris changed my life thereafter- I conducted the very first ecological study of sun bear for my M.Sc degree and then follow by my PhD study, both under the supervision of Chris. In 2008, because of all the work and love on sun bears, I founded the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. After 17 years studying, training, and working in the field, I finally finished my prolong higher education, and wrapped up my stay in Missoula tonight.
Goodbye Missoula! Tonight is the last night I spend in this little town of Missoula in a mountain valley of the Rocky Mountain. A heavy snow storm hit this part of the Rockies this morning, pouring half a foot of snow, making my final moving and cleaning of the townhouse apartment where my family and I stayed for the last 2.5 years difficult, but did not deter the moving process. It is here in Missoula that I first learn about how friendly and kind people can be to each other. In Missoula, people greed each others; bus drivers greet all passengers when they hop into the bus, and wish them have a very good day when they take off the bus; friends give each other big bear hugs when saying goodbye. It is here in Missoula, my family and I received tremendous helps and supports from many friends from the university, and local church communities. To me, these friends are not just friends; they are my family, my brothers and sisters, my parents, my grandparents, and my children. My family and I would like to thank John and Barbara, Jolinda and Ben, the late Pat and Dick Taber, Ted and Carol, Sam and Tammy, CK and Hui Ling, Mei Hui and Dr. Hao, Vincent and Wai Fong, Jedediah, Rosa, Mei Hua, Emma, Andrew, Sim, Rita and Tyron, Chris, Rebecca and Kate, Dan, Jeanne, Effie, River, and all our friends from International Student Christian Fellowship and Taiwanese Student Association, teachers and friends from Lewis and Clark School, and many more, for their friendship, kinship, kindness, helps and support to me and my family. We will never forget you all!
I had a productive stay in Missoula. In this little town at the foothill of Mt Sentinel, I produced 5 certificates; three certificates from University of Montana- home to the Grizzlies, and two birth certificates of my two lovely daughters Winnie and Evelyn. Missoula is a very special place to me, both my personal life and my professional and academic life. I am considering myself as Missoulian!
Tonight is the last night my family and I spend in Missoula. Tomorrow we will be flying back to Taiwan to spend the Chinese New Year with my wife's family, and then I continue my journey to Malaysia on February 13 to start a new career and new life. Chris Morgan left me a message on my facebook regarding my return to Malaysia two days ago: "America's loss but Borneo's gain." Well said Chris!
However, I think there is no loss or gain. My return to Asia is the way it should be eventually because I am needed most in my country. I can hear she is calling for me. From the first day I came here to Missoula in 1994, I am mean to return home to serve my country once my study is completed. Now, it is the time for me to return after the completion of my doctorate study. Tonight is the last night.
Goodbye Missoula! My family and I had uncountable joyful moments, sweet memories, and happy stories from the 12.5 years of stay in Missoula.
Thank you Missoula! May you always be happy, joyful, well, & at safety & peace!