English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Life where Boring doesn't exist

He stared down sullenly at the table, its smooth, cool marble surface devoid of almost everything except a book about animals.

"Boring, boring, boring...." he chanted, almost in a sing-song voice. Over and over.

"Let's play outside", I consoled him. For the last 15 minutes he had been pestering me for the use of a computer. Any computer, just as long as he could play games on it.

"Boring, boring, boring...." he repeated again, with the same sing-song voice.

He's just 7. What does he even know what it means to be bored? I thought silently.

I thought back to my own childhood, where long hours were spent outdoors. Where has those times gone?
But that is how life is today, the consumer-driven life.

I remember spending long hours outside, sometimes with my cousins, sometimes with my neighbours, and sometimes even alone. We ran around, rode on bikes, accidentally smashing pots, splashed around in pools... it was awesome fun.

I was blessed to live in a house a big garden, and playground with equipment such as monkey bars, a swing set and a slide. The top of the slide was my favourite - I pretended it was my 'house' as I busied myself with playing chef with an assortment of shredded leaves and flowers.

Bored? Never! Not a word in our dictionary.

I played outside so much, that my mum made me stay inside with the 'pengait' trick. 'Pengait', if you've lived a sheltered life is a person who walks around with a scythe looking for little kids to behead for the construction of a bridge. Some versions say that he wears springs on his heels (very much like Nike Boing!!) to enable him to leap around and easily catch their prey, but he will leave you alone, if you were doing your toilet business.... Yep, not kidding, bapa told me that version! However, I think the pengait has sort of become extinct over time. I think parents today would rather force their kids out than keep them inside.

As I grew older and more passive, I spent hours reading novels and writing in my journal. Back then, TV didn't play good shows that often, only one hour an evening during the week, sometimes in the weekend. It didn't matter, because life didn't revolve around who kissed who, or who got married, in a life made-up by a scriptwriter.

We've become so addicted to technology that we've forgotten the simple things of life, how to have fun without the aid of high-tech solutions. We've become dependent on material things to make our lives interesting and less humdrum. We do not let our kids live in their own creative world, aside from the numerous extra classes, or virtual games that we tell ourselves our kids need. When the real classroom, is in real experience.

Life has become so revolved in the material - we make big corporations dirty rich, cause more environmental damage, and so many other worldly problems. We scratch our heads thinking of a solution, when the solution is simple.

Come back to the basics. Take a stroll in the park, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, revel in the simple pleasures of reading a book (a real paperback), create something new with your own bare hands. Make a cup of coffee from scratch.

It really is that simple.





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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discovering KK - Petagas War Memorial Garden




I've always wanted to stop by, but somehow I've never actually taken a real effort. Located across the highway from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and just at a foot of a busy flyover to Putatan, AND accessible only via a small road that crosses a railway track, going there is not really the most appetising thing you can think of doing in your free time. 

But the pull was so strong that particular morning, so I just decided to go. I have been to many memorials - all the ones in Labuan, the Double Six monument in Sembulan, the monument at City park, and at Kundasang as well. This memorial reminds me of the Japanese Peace Park in Labuan - forgotten by time, but this one seems especially forgotten with the half-closed gate, lack of parking space and cars whizzing by on the small road nearby.

Instead of my usual ramblings, I have painstakingly typed out the words on the plaques I found, so everyone can read it and understand why this piece of land is important to us. I've deleted some repetitive paragraphs though.

Petagas War Memorial Garden

In Perpetual Memory of those gallant men of all races who, loyal to the cause of freedom, were murdered and buried at this place on 21st January 1944 and also those who met their death in the same cause at Labuan and were later buried here.



History of Commemoration

The Petagas War Memorial Garden is a historical monument erected in remembrance of victims during the World War II in Sabah and in particular those who perished in a brutal massacre by the Japanese on the 21st January 1944. The monument marks the site where the carnage occurred and also where the victims were buried.

In 1949, the remains of the victims who were killed by the Japanese military force and interred in Labuan were reinterred in this memorial garden

The victims of the Japanese Massacre totalling 324 were members of the 'Kinabalu Guerillas'; an anti-Japanese military force headed by Albert Kwok. This group consisted of young men of various races and ethnic groups in Sabah (the North Borneo tributes and a brief account of the patriotic uprising and names of the victims who were buried in this memorial garden has been inscribed in this historical monument.

The marble stone monument and the original garden park were built in 1948 by the West Coast Memorial Fund Residential Committee. The committee also decided to incorporate the site of the massacre and burial to be a permanent memorial site for all those who perished during the World War II in Sabah. An inauguration ceremony was held on 21st January 1948 to commemorate the valiant and heroic sacrifices of the victims. This ceremony would be held annually thereafter.

In 1979 the Kota Kinabalu Municipal Council (KKMC) with State funds, undertook works to uplift and improve the monument and memorial garden.

The KKMC with Government funding will continue to further upgrade and improve this heritage site where necessary in view of its historical significance and tourist attraction with facilities such as car park, public lavatories, and recreational areas for visitors.

Based on my observation, can't tell that there has been any annual ceremony of late. Neither do I know of any tour company that takes their tourists to this place. Car park - nope, and garden was a bit too small for recreational purposes. Perhaps it used to be bigger?


Epitaph for the Kinabalu Guerilla Movement Martyrs (written from information obtained from the survivors of the epic and children of those fallen heroes in Sabah)

Following the fall of Sabah (then North Borneo) in January 1942 to the Japanese Imperial Army, a patriotic youth named Albert Kwok organised an underground guerilla force to which more than 300 young men from various communities in the State were recruited to fight against the barbaric Japanese Military Rule. Albert Kwok took charge as Commander-In-Chief with Kong Su Pui as his deputy and Lim Keng Fatt as his advisor. They established their secret headquarters and training camp at the plantation of Liew Loi Kui in Mansiang, near Menggatal. At one stage, Albert Kwok risked his life when he went to Tawi Tawi in Southern Philippines to contact the United States Armed Forces for military supplies and other aid.

In September 1943, information was obtained that the Japanese Forces at the battle front elsewhere in South-East Asia was badly defeated and they intended to conscript 2,000 youths of Sabah to reinforce their front-line defence. Commander Kwok proposed at this stage to thwart the move and to initiate action to interrupt the rear of the enemy army by adopting a strategy aimed at sapping away the enemy's strength, in an effort to assist the Allied Forces to fight against them. Consequently, he organised a surprise attack on the Japanese police station and military police headquarters in Kota Kinabalu (then Jesselton). The parang-armed detachment slashed to death a few scores of the enemy and burned down the Customs godown on the night of 9th October 1943. The Japanese were greatly discouraged as a result of this and their conscription proposal subsequently failed to materialise.

Soon after this, however, the enemy received reinforcement from Kuching and instituted massive reprisals against all suspected members of the underground guerilla force in an operation which was code-named “Suci-piring”. The Kinabalu Guerillas were forced to retreat to the hills behind Menggatal. Owing to lack of replenishments of supplies and absence of re-inforcement, the guerilla force suffered heavy defeat. Within 2 months, most of its members surrendered to the Japanese Forces especially when the enemy threatened to kill innocent women and children, if they did not do so.

On 21st January 1944, 176 men of the guerillas (including sympathisers, followers and supporters), were transported by railway cargo wagons from 'Batu Tiga' prison to Petagas, where they were brutally executed. Before this, 96 detainees including guerillas and suspected to be guerillas and guerilla sympathisers were tortured and killed at the 'Batu Tiga' prison camp. A further 131 were sent to Labuan to serve their various terms of imprisonment, but 117 of them died from starvation, maltreatment, torture and the inhumane living conditions. Some of the guerilla members were known to have been tortured, killed and buried in other places and at other times.

Soon after the war, a special committee, headed by the few surviving members of the guerilla force and their families, re-buried those who had been killed together with the remains of the dead removed from Labuan, in this common burial ground. A monument was erected over the grave and the surrounding was made into a garden in perpetual memory and in honour of their gallantry and self-less sacrifice for their country.




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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The sun, the sea and new diving experiences



My new manual!

The day had finally arrived! After 7 years, I was finally going to go for my PADI Advanced Open Water certification.

It had been on my to-do lists and my new year resolutions for 2-3 years, but I hadn't been close to achieving it.

Then, all thanks to Majoree, who linked me up to an online blogging competition by dive operator Dive Downbelow, I won myself the package with Blog n Log competition entry I wrote!

Ahhh... nothing feels better than seeing your writing work bearing fruit (or goodies!). I had the biggest grin on my face when after waiting a few weeks after the closing date, I saw this....


If I hadn't been in the office at that time, with the boss in full view.... I might have screamed and started dancing the macarena.

But I settled with the next best thing - retweeting and posting on FB. Such is life today ;-)

****************************************************************

After some communications with their people, a date was set! 6th and 7th of October, a weekend. I was soooo looking forward to immersing my self in the deep blue sea, and seeing the underwater world once again after some few hectic weeks of work and other activities.

I met up with the team and several other divers at Sutera Harbour Marina, before we were taken on a ride to their dive centre located on Pulau Gaya, just a short distance away. After a bit of a briefing, we were taken inside to sign some forms before we embarked on our new adventures!




My first dive of the day

I had initially planned to do my course with the rest of my friends, but seeing that they were busy with other stuff, and I don't always know when I will have another free weekend, I just decided to go ahead. Afterall, being fiercely independent is one of the things I am very proud of about myself. Heck, I even went diving to Sipadan-Mabul all by myself, so what's the fuss about diving on an island just a few minutes away from home?

But it would have been really great to be with friends, I suppose. And I felt in the whole time span I was there, I wasn't really in much of a mood for talking. Too tired, I guess.


The dive centre was awesome! I felt completely at home and relaxed in between dives (no sitting around in boats and getting seasick), and getting hooked on the Khong Guan Marie biscuits they had stored in the tin next to the coffee and tea.

And ooh, they had the cleanest toilets and showers! A big plus for me. And it feels lovely to get back on the boat home all clean and salt-free. Except for the occasional splash of seawater from the waves hitting the boat.

Unlike other dive companies I had experienced around KK, they cook their own meals and serve in a buffet-style. Usually a chicken dish and a veggie dish, with fruits for dessert. Totally yummy.



Where they serve their hot lunches
Anyway, let's talk about the dives....

The first dive was the Underwater Navigation dive - i.e. finding your way underwater so that you are at least fairly certain about your current location, or the location of your destination. One skill was to find the distance you travel per fin-kick cycle, and the other was how to use a compass properly. We practiced first on the field with the compass, before going into the 10m deep water close to the jetty to do our skills. Nothing but sand and silt down there, but I noticed a damselfish that was eyeing me ever so suspiciously and seeming to try to shoo me away by coming up close to my face. Ohhhkayyy...

Second dive was a deep dive where we went down to 21m (3m more than allowed for Open Water certified divers). Apparently colours get duller and everything looks a bit murkier down below 18m due to less penetration of sunlight. We came upon a wreck down there, well something that used to be wreck, anyway. Nothing much left except the skeletal remains of a boat and corals growing all around it. Pipefish, lionfish and blue-spotted stingray were just some of the creatures we met down there. Our instructor, Liz, kept motioning to us to check our pressure gauge. During the debriefing she told us that we use up a lot of air quickly when we are deep diving.

Ready for my mugshot! for the new ID :) perfect timing too, because it seems that I have misplaced my PADI OW card after my last dive in August :-/
For the third dive, we did a Fish Identification dive, one of the electives under the AOW course. Basically a fun dive, we were given slates to draw 4 different families of fish to identify while we were diving. Well, drawing I can do... not so well on land. What more now while hovering over coral beds?


Choosing 4 different families of fishes was a bit of a task, as we had to make sure that they ARE from 4 different families. So the best way to identify them was from their colours, body shape, mouth shape, fins shape... etc. I was hoping that a stingray would come along or a pipefish, that would have been definitely different.

I decided to draw the damselfish, that was again staring at me suspiciously from the bottom of the seabed. slightly pinkish and yellow, with 2 stripes on the side which looks more like 2 dots. Of course at that time I didn't know the name of the fish.

Then I chose to draw a goatfish that was diligently sifting through the sand with 2 bright yellow antennae protuding through its mouth.

It started getting a bit more difficult as I saw many types of fish. Which to choose, which to choose?? They all kind of looked the same, with the body shapes and all, but it would be nice if there was one I could draw that was completely different.

I started seeing fish in a totally different light. Some of them were loners, some of them move in a pair (apparently bannerfishes mate for life, how romantic) and some of them travel in huge clique-like groups, for example barracuda. Not much different from fish are we? ;-) After choosing a lonesome butterflyfish (same family as an angelfish?), I spotted a Moorish Idol and thought, 'Darn! I should have drawn that instead'.

And while I was busily choosing my last fish to draw, my long-time pal (or pest, if you wanna call it that), the remora sneaked up to me and tried to attach itself to me, just like many dives before. Arrrgghhhh!

Well, on a positive note, it apparently thinks I have the characteristics of the stealthy shark, and not a huge, fat dugong ;-) thus its decision to follow me around. So, in honour of my underwater bestie, I decided to draw it on my slate as it was swimming away sulkily after being shooed away one too many times.


On the second day, I had a much more relaxed time as I only had two dives left to complete my certification! Yippeee!!!

So the first half of the morning was spent going through the manual, before going for the Peak Performance Buoyancy elective. It was actually an elective I would have chosen for myself as I often have problems. On this course you learn about how much extra weights you need, depending on what you are wearing, and whether the water was saltwater or freshwater. As for skills, we did a buoyancy check at the surface after entering the water.

Buoyancy check - no problem. But then I had a problem descending. Damn! And the BCD (that was changed overnight) was no help either.... the inflate and deflate buttons were not serving its purpose well. So no, I had a not-so-relaxing dive.

Then it came to the skill sets where I was supposed to hover for 1 minute. Bad bad bad. I couldn't seem to get my balance right. And while I was told again and again to pump in some air into my BCD to help me, it wasn't really working. I kept pumping, and I was still too close to the bottom. I was seriously starting to worry, as I might get too much air in my BCD, and that will cause me to go right up to the surface. BCD deflate button was not working well. Having poor visibility underwater didn't help matters either.

Well, my fears sure came true, because not long after that, while doing a buoyancy game (swimming through a square hoop, float upwards, then come down again) I started to ascend slightly and uncontrollably. Ugh, my most dreaded moment. Luckily the instructor came to my rescue, and since then it was all hunky-dory once again. All was smooth for the rest of the dive. Phew!

Note to self: start buying own dive equipment.

Fifth and final dive at last, was a Boat Dive elective. Basically it was just learning about the parts of a boat, the equipment on board for safety and so on. No biggie.  So I learned new terms such as starboard, port. windward, leeward, bow and stern. Also learned why boats are positioned as such when picking up divers from the water. And what are the procedures of entering a boat after a dive. Interesting, useful stuff that is often overlooked. The rest of the dive was just basically a fun, leisure dive...a great one to cap my Advanced Open Water course!

And oh, forgot to mention that we saw this HUGE hawksbill turtle on the last dive :D

So now that I've gotten my advanced, where do I go from here?

Well, for one, I definitely would want to do a Underwater Photography speciality dive course. Also it would mean I would want to invest in an underwater camera, something I have been hankering over for years.

My diving dream, for the moment, would be to dive in places like Layang-Layang, or on a liveaboard. And do a night dive, and a wreck dive. Of course, if given the chance, I would love to dive the Great Barrier Reef.

But if I have to go local first, i.e. those islands in front of KK, it wouldn't be too bad either. I was talking to the owner of Dive Downbelow - Richard Swann, and he told me about the KK Dive Club for locals to dive at a cheaper rate, and also buy equipment at a discount. So KK divers, check it out!

He was also telling me a lot of great stuff that Dive Downbelow are planning for in the next coming months for Project AWARE. Totally interested to see it for myself.

Can't wait for my next dive adventure!


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BYR hosts BEFF After-Party!


Think 'eco' and the mind wanders to words like... green, natural, reusable, recyclable, waste free. Just to name a few.

That was the theme that the Borneo Youth Revolution team decided to revolve around when they took up the chance to host the Borneo Eco Film Fest after-party on 29th September 2012.

The Borneo Eco Film Festival (BEFF) is a not-for-profit free event held annually to celebrate Borneo's biocultural diversity through showcasing environmental films and nurturing local community filmmaking.
The BYR committee named the after-party - the "Chill Out - Sulap & Tikar style", as they wanted to showcase the unique 'Stail Urang Sabah' concept by bringing in the sulap (a hut made out from bamboo and roofs made of nipah leaves), and tikar (bamboo mats) to sit on while enjoying local snacks such as the amplang (fish cracker balls) and kuih cincin (a crispy, local biscuit).

We even had a sound system set up, blasting music by Sabahan local artists.

To often, we think of being green as a foreign concept that is invented by the Western world, rather than acknowledging that the local traditions itself, practice environmentally-friendly living. The party was a reminder to all, especially the local people of Sabah, to be proud of our culture and that everyone can play a role in living responsibly with Mother Earth.

It was actually by a stroke of luck, that the venue  - Kompleks JKKN, still had a sulap leftover from the Sabah Fest in May. I was so happy, because we had that in our original plan, and I had thought we might had to scrap that because of budget constraints. That, plus the lack of manpower needed to build one from scratch.

So instead we had to use our manpower, and awesome teamwork to move the hut from the auditorium entrance to the party area. Not an entirely uneventful experience as part of the bamboo had started to rot and the whole thing threatened to collapse.

But it stayed... for the entire duration of the party. Phew!

The refreshment table
Amplang with Thai chili sauce

I think we did a pretty good job, if I may say so myself. I know I had a great time! And seeing people literally coming over in droves to drink the fruit punch concoction and eat our snacks was a good feeling

As it was a waste-free event (or as waste-free as we could manage), we used only real mugs, real bowls, real everything.... no styrofoam, paper cups or paper plates, thank you!

And so with using mugs, we also did a little fundraising, and sort of marketing for our little movement, by selling hand designed mugs by a friend and local artist known as Egn. I loved his quirky little messages.

Let me tell you, these mugs were great for ice-breaking, or as conversation starters with strangers ;-)
Egn hard at work....
As usual, it is times like these that makes me feel so proud of my group of people. Successfully pulling off another event, with little planning, simply because everyone pitches in and knows what to do.

Well, it was JUST a little party.... but set with a great ambiance. 



Enjoying some tikar time - trying to lure others to joining in
Personally, I think we get so caught up in the idea of 'Living Green' that we forget about the real things, the real stuff that we can do. Instead of going back to the basics - i.e. reducing waste, and reusing, we get conned into investing in expensive so-called eco-friendly products. There's just too much green-washing going on, and big corporations cashing in into this new market where caring for the environment is now the latest trend.

I've always wanted to do a 'waste-free' picnic, where we can educate the public that it is possible to have a nice outdoor picnic without the use of styrofoam, plastic, and paper cups / plates. And this just might be the first step of making that a reality, now that I know that this waste-free party was doable ;-)


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Monday, October 1, 2012

Coffee Experience Tour at Cap Kuda Coffee Factory

My earliest memories of coffee is of myself as a toddler, standing on the table to drink the remnants of my mum's coffee that she has left on the table. Kopi kampung, I am pretty sure of it, remembering the little grainy bits left at the bottom of the mug.

And I loved it. Yes, strange child. Forget about coffee killing the brain cells. But maybe it was because my mum loved drinking sweet coffee.

Funnily enough, I grew up not drinking so much coffee. I just didn't fancy having it anymore. Except for the occasional ice-blended coffee from Coffee Bean, and coffee-flavoured ice cream.

Then I started work in an office where it was absolutely necessary to drink coffee to stay awake (or to keep occupied when things were slacking off). I drank the most coffee when I was working full-time as a lecturer, because of the free coffee machine that dispenses OldTown white coffee.... ahh, the perks!

Who could ever dispute that the most universal drink is coffee?

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, making the coffee bean very valuable & offering a lot of wealth to many countries though export.

As part of my duties as a Commission Director of Business Development in JCI Intan, I decided to organise a visit for the members to the factory. 



I had been to the cafe at the premises a number of times, called the Santola Bar. I loved the ambience inside, and the cakes and drinks. All reasonably priced. And I believe they are well-positioned to be a real local competitor to the international giants like Coffee Bean and Starbucks.



The tour was priced at just RM25 per person, tour includes includes refreshments - a choice of Latte/chocolate drink + roti kahwin, a local favourite of toasted sandwich of butter and coconut jam.

Upon being shown into the room, we were given little slips of paper to order our drinks with. I decided to go with the iced chocolate.

We were greeted by the General Manager - Mr Yap Cheen Boon,  who kept us entertained with his humour and jokes throughout the session.


We began our session with a little history on the origins of coffee. And what Kopi-O really means.

We learnt that Kopi-O does not really mean kosong, O' means black in Hokkien (interesting tid-bit of info).

We also learnt that there are 3 species of coffee - namely Arabica, Robusta and Liberica, the rarest of which - Liberica (makes up only 1% out of all coffee produced) is found ..... where else, but Sabah. Specifically, Tenom.

It was then that we were told that the tour would be discontinued in November, thus we were the lucky last few to actually experience this tour.



We were then taken around the building to the coffee trees. Mr Yap took one of the fruits, peeled it and showed us the contents before letting us have a taste of the fresh coffee fruit.

It tasted... interestingly sweet. Though there is very little flesh and a lot of seed to actually taste much.


We were then taken inside the factory to see the various processed coffee beans. As we came on a Saturday, there was no actual processing done (except for packing), which was a good thing, according to Mr Yap. As it would be very smelly and smoky. 

We got to see (and taste) samples roasted coffee, caramelization of sugar, cooking of coffee & wheat. By the end of it, all I could taste was the bitterness in my mouth. For being so curious to taste everything. (And particularly because Mr Yap was egging us on with 'you can taste this' now and then)




We ended our session with a little trivia and Q&A session over our ordered drinks and toast.

Did the visit meet my expectations? Well, I would have loved to have a bit more hands-on with coffee making, but I sure did pick up some interesting points about coffee. More than I could have cared to know before. 

I think it makes for a great appreciation of the uniqueness of our own coffee. Again, a local heritage that should not be overlooked or forgotten.

So next time when thinking about going for a coffee.... think local ;-)


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