Tuesday, November 12

US navy personnel play games, do cleaning at orphanage

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Bautistarojas

KOTA KINABALU: Residents at Bukit Harapan were ecstatic as 45 United States navy personnel visited the home with toys and board games.

The personnel are part of the 5,500 crew members who arrived in Kota Kinabalu for a four-day visit on USS John C Stennis, a famous United States Navy aircraft carrier.

They were divided into two groups at the home, one group to play games with the residents while another group to do cleaning up work.

Lieutenant Jose Bautistarojas, who led the group yesterday, said it was a custom of the US Navy to serve the community at every port they docked.

Bautistarojas said it was his first time to Sabah and he enjoyed touring the city and visiting the Monsopiad Cultural Village.

“Tomorrow we will be going to the little islands. We have different groups going to different tourist attractions, see different places and try different food,” he said.

He said the 97,000-ton and 1,092-foot ship, which is part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) and one of the 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the US Navy, will be leaving Kota Kinabalu on October 4.

“This is the first place we stopped since we left the US about a month ago.”

The ship will be visiting four to five more countries after Sabah, and Bautistarojas said the destinations could not be disclosed.

A group photo of the residents and the navy.

He liked the spices in Malaysian cuisines here, adding that his favourities were fried talapia, calamari and vegetables which he had tasted.

Bautistarojas, who was born in Mexico and raised in the US, was involved in the war in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.

He also spoke fondly of the friendly people here in Sabah.

“If you ask them questions they (Sabahans) stop and listen to you.

“Sometimes they don’t understand but they listen to you,” he said.

Eighty US Navy personnel will visit St Joseph’s Chapel in Penampang and Seri Mengasih Centre for volunteer work today.