Monday, September 07, 2009

Back on the saddle again

It's been awhile since my last post and in some instances, too much has happened; and in others, things never seem to change.

I can't bring myself to start commenting or blogging about the political situation in my beloved country. After all, what else can you say when you have lost total faith. A friend says and I echo, "I love this country, but I don't necessarily have to like the people who rules her." Aye!

So, I'll focus on life itself. How time flies and now, we are at the brink of yet another milestone. How often have I heard friends ruminating about what next for us. After all, we are Gen X babies and we are no longer the "in" generation. Many see that the best years have already passed them by. But have they?

I guess I don't blame "them". After all, in marketing, we are always trying to reach the younger audiences. We always try to remain relevant to the younger set. After all, no brands want to be considered an ageing brand. The younger audiences you reach, the more you can milk loyalty and transactions from them.

But marketers aren't the only one concerned with reaching younger audiences. How many columns have you read about youths in their 20s trying to make sense of life? What about jobs like journalism, news casting, etc. Again, it seems that the younger you are, the more opportunities are opened to you.

So I guess when my Gen X friends start looking at life in that manner, one can hardly blame them. But ... is this really all to life?

I find it difficult to accept. We are still hale and healthy. Many of us are, in our own ways, successful. Yes! We've experienced life but ... there's so much more to explore, so much more to live for. Yes, to some it may be about their kids ... but hey, you need time for yourself as well. We shouldn't stop living our dreams, just because we have to start fulfilling others' dreams.

After all, you only pass through this way but once. Why not make the most of it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Name at least 10 weird/amazing experiences/things about your life.

I was tagged to do this on facebook. Unfortunately, my facebook "skills" are not so fantastic. So here we are, back to my trusted blog.

Strangely when I sat down and started thinking about all the weird and amazing experiences I had in my life, it became an endless string of events ... good and bad, humourous and sad.

Here it goes ... beware it is not limited to 10. Then again, it's written up there "at least 10", not limited to 10. :p

1. Representing my school for badminton girls doubles at the age of 12, I stood frozen unable to hit a single shot during my first major tournament in a rival school. Imagine my mortification!

2. When I was 14, I jumped off a 10-foot high dive board as part of my swimming lessons. It didn’t help much that I am acrophobic and there was a bunch of hyper-active 6-8 year-olds queuing at the back of me eagerly awaiting their turns to jump. I never jump again. :p

3. At the age of 16, my friends and I took part in a cycling competition to raise funds for the building of the Velodrome Rakyat in Ipoh. We raced on huge grandfather’s bicycles for 20kms around major roads in Ipoh under the hot, sweltering sun. Who needs 10-speed bikes? :p

4. In Form 5, my friends and I conned a number of students and teachers into ordering perfume named “ty cus mer ty” and ly pas mer ty” during an April Fool’s Day joke. In actual fact, these French-like perfume names were derived from “tikus mati” and “lipas mati”. :p Yeap. We were incorrigible.

5. I was once conned into downing a glass of Long Island Ice Tea which I was told was similar to Ice Lemon Tea. Duh! No wonder the world was spinning on its axis when I finally stood up.

6. Despite strong objections from my parents, I backpacked Western Europe on my own in 1996 and never looked back since. Guess that started the entire crazy roller coaster adventure holidays thingy.

7. In 1997, during a scuba dive session around Sipadan Island, dangerous currents pushed me down way past the 100 feet mark advised for recreational divers. I kept diving downwards unaware of the situation as I was following fellow divers from the boat ... or so I thought. I was told later that no one was ahead of me and that I experienced hallucination caused by nitrogen narcosis. I did not realise how dangerous it was until I overheard that this story has been retold many times years later as “what not to do” within the scuba diving community. Hmm … my unknown “5-sec fame”.

8. I took a 9-month hiatus from work in 1999 to find myself … whatever that means.

9. I trekked up my first glacier i.e. Franz Josef glacier in that same year. That was a most spectacular trek despite my acrophobia acting up every now and again.

10. Still in the same year, I had a close encounter with “death”. I was involved in a jet boating accident in Queenstown where a passenger was smashed to death against the canyon walls when our jet boat “pilot” lost control. I had deep muscle trauma that made me limped for more than 3 months.

11. To escape “Armageddon”, my friends and I celebrated the millennium deep in the tropical rainforest of Belum National Park with bamboo cups as wine glasses and leeches as companions. Urgh!

12. I mistook a micro-lite for a sea plane and signed up for a half hour flight across Victoria Falls in 2002. See point no. 2 on my acrophobia. Gritting my teeth, I ended up going for the micro-lite as I had already paid US$100 for that. For the uninitiated, a micro-lite is like a motorcycle with wings. There is no barrier between you and the wind or you and the ground … way, way, way down below. Gulp!

13. I climbed Mount Kinabalu twice (once in 2003 and once in 2006) and had explored both the Timpohon and Mersilau trails. I would have climbed again if the cost of climbing had not shot up sky-high.

14. My friends and I walked over 100kms in 10 days when we trekked up to the Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal in 2003. This trek remains one of the highlights of my life although my more sedate friends thought that I was “nuts” to pay and suffer for a holiday.

15. In 2004, my friends and I took a public bus trip down from Nairobi, Kenya to Arusha, Tanzania. Till this day, the experience at the Nairobi bus station remains one of the scariest in my life. We were the only “foreigners” in that part of town. Imagine tiny 5-foot Asians versus above 6-foot, fierce-looking Kenyans.

16. I had severe AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) on my climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in the same year i.e. vomiting and having severe diarrhea. At 4,800 m above sea level, a friend told me that it’s ok to quit. My stubbornness pushed me forward for several more metres as the peak was “so near, yet so far”. In the end, I made the smart decision. It was a blow to the ego of course but I am still alive to tell the tale.

17. I once took a shot (photo shoot lah) of real-life lions that were a mere 3 metres awav from my jeep. Woohoo!

18. My second close encounter with “death” happened in 2005 while I was doing a solo kayaking down the Soca River in Slovenia. My kayak overturned at the rapids and I was trapped for more than a few seconds under water. Luckily I was calm and methodical when I tried to free myself from under the kayak. I was told later by friends that they were so worried when I did not come up for air after a minute.

19. My friends and I made the most amazing discovery in Sarawak when we trekked across the Kelabit Highlands; leaving Bario in Malaysia, trekking over Indonesian territory and onwards back to Malaysia soil at Bakelalan. It’s a world in its own and simply quite spectacular.

20. I once helped my sales team win the beer sculling contest by downing a huge mug of beer in 2 gulps. Promptly after wining, I rushed off to the toilet to unload. This is not an experience I would try a second time. :P

21. We trekked the Pinnacles Trail in Mulu in 2006. After a heavy rainfall the night before, the limestone trek became extremely slippery. It was most bruising to my derrière and other unmentionable parts of the anatomy. I would never recommend anyone to do that trek. For once, the end did not justify the means.

22. In early 2007, a friend and I were caught in a terrible storm in East Java just the night before our exploration of Kawah Ijen, a volcanic crater lake. Due to fallen trees, our jeep could not take us past the route to the foot of the volcano. We paid a heavy price for a local to fetch 2 of us (yes, mind you two grown up lady pillion riders which makes 3 adults on a motorbike) up the long stretch of road to the foot of the volcano. It was a hair-raising ride.

23. Borobudur had been a wonderful experience. The tranquility and peace one experienced there is not easily forgettable.

24. The highest point I’ve trekked is up to 4,950 metres on the Goechala Trek in Sikkim, India. Braving AMS, the rain and the chilling cold weather, we scaled the mountain trek to reach both view points on Goechala. It was a beautiful moment when we finally reached the top.

25. In May 2008, I had my first pillion ride on a Harley; traveling at more than 100kms an hour. It was a most exhilarating experience!

26. Late last year, my friends and I made our way to the highest paved international road in the world i.e. Karakoram Highway (at 4,693 metres). We literally laid ourselves across the highway, getting our guide to take photos of us as proof that we had been there! Hehehe …

27. We were caught in a mini sandstorm around Karakul Lake and literally “ate” sand. Not something I wish to have on my menu. :p

28. Over the New Year, I climbed 4,865 steps (yep … someone counted) on my journey up Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka to embrace the dawn of 1st January 2009. (In comparison, Batu Caves has 272 steps only. :p)

29. I spent 3-whole days scrambling around the ruins of Angkor Wat, posturing as Angelina Jolie (ahem!) at Ta Phrom, taking endless pictures of the ruins, going without lunch and getting back to the backpackers dusty, tired but extremely satisfied with my photography haul. :)

30. I had gone several days without “showering” while on high altitude treks. This, I was told, was to prevent AMS. Personally, it’s just the cold factor … like it is freezing cold up there! :p My first experience was at Kilimanjaro, my second at Goechala and my latest one was on the trek up to Muztagh Ata Base Camp. You can say that dirt/dust and I are pretty comfortable bedfellows during these trips. :p

31. I have been mistaken for a Japanese girl, a Thai girl, a China girl … and finally a Darjeeling girl during my travels! Yeah Darjeeling girl … go figure!

So there .. I believe the weird and amazing experiences will continue. That's how I wish to live that "dash" in my life.

Have a happy day you all!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why can't they count?

It's been almost 6 long months since I last blogged ... i.e. about the length of time since the historical political tsunami that befell Malaysian politics. Yet, what have been done since then? Nothing much really to improve our lot in life except to create further disillusionment.

Truly, it's been a political circus (or perhaps I should say disaster) with every trick in the book thrown in for good measure. We've been deluged with plenty of sandiwara; witless, thoughtless, vindictive remarks/comments; irrational decisions; irresponsible actions; the list goes on. Does one think the rakyat believes anymore? Oh puhlease ... do not insult our intelligence. Like the fabled 'shepherd that cried wolf', there has just been one too many of these.

And while the politicians bicker and struggle for power, the economy is slowly but surely heading southwards. FDIs are pulling (or have pulled) out of the country, the US banking & finance industry looks like it's heading for disaster (which of course would eventually affect our economy if not sooner), the quantum hike in fuel prices has bitten into the pockets of the every day man, the Ringgit is weakening against major currencies, the stock market is spiraling downwards and we're moving many steps towards the precipice of an economic downturn.

Who is really paying attention to the country's economy and the rakyat's future?

The funny thing is while the politicians 'fight' for how many % rights belong to the different races, they have forgotten the fundamental rule of mathematics. 100% of zero is still zero; whilst even 10% of RM1 mil would yield RM100k. The focus should be in making the pie bigger so that everyone can share the pie; not in arguing about whose slice of the pie is bigger ~ and to do that, they have to clean up their act and keep their eyeballs on the economy. Bring in the "smarts" who knows what is what about economics and economic policies ~ not those who act first (implement fuel increases) and think later (only to realise they have forgotten the repercussions and scramble to come up with alternative policies for businesses).

There is no better time than NOW for the government to act and vindicate themselves. To do that, it would mean that they would have to work with the opposition states to bring up the country's economy so that all could share the wealth.

But wait, perhaps they have miscalculated ... or perhaps I am giving them more credit than is deserved.

After all, if you can't count and you refuse to learn to count, the only way to go is to continue being the fabled shepherd.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Britain's Got Talent

Something smart or something frivolous?

Looking at the hour, I'll blog about something frivolous.

If you have had too much of American reality shows lately, check out "Britain's Got Talent". Unfortunately I don't think this has reached our shores yet. I found it on youtube and it's fabulous. :)

"Britain's Got Talent" is the creation of .... (drum rolls) ... yup! no other than American Idol's Simon Cowell. He is one of the judges in this show and is equally nasty. It's a British reality show in search of the next best amateur talent act ... which is NOT limited to singing only.

The winner will receive 100k British pounds and get to perform for the Queen and the Royal Family at the Royal Variety Performance.

Now on to the interesting bits. I managed to "dig" out 3 interesting videos from youtube. Watch Simon's expression in all 3 videos!

I have been watching this video a few times and it has not failed to make me laugh every single time. Hope you enjoy it. Did you catch the judges' facial expressions? At first Simon looked real bored ... but then he perked up ... and laughed! That's incredible. I don't think I've seen him caught by surprise like that! Check out the other judge's reaction and the audiences as well.

This is another good one. Even I was taken by surprise. Without divulging much, check this video out! Again check out Simon's expression. Total disinterest at first and then ... Russel Watson's gonna get a run for his money!

This is a winner. Imagine a 6 year old singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" acapella. Listen to Simon's remarks.

Yup! Britain's sure got talent!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dr. Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

Here's the latest update.

Below is the 10 minute version.

And here's the long 76 minute version.


Let's take a moment away from the Malaysian political scene and watch this video. It will only take 10 minutes of your time but I assure you it's worth it.

It speaks of realising your childhood dreams and quote, "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Three-Ring Circus in Perak

I started naming this blog "'Dallas' in the Silver State", especially with the amount of drama in the last few days worthy of a popular soap opera. Then thought better of it. Perhaps "Too many cooks spoil the broth" is more apt. Then again, "The clowns are in Town" has a nice ring to it. Though this is no clowning matter, the whole fiasco is fast turning into a huge joke. After all, I'd rather laugh than cry in frustration.

But I finally settled for "A Three-Ring Circus in Perak". For the uninitiated, a three-ring circus is an idiom that means "a lot of noisy or confused activity".

Really! That's what this is all about.

Frankly, after reading through several blogs today, I can only conclude that the Perak fiasco should not be solely laid upon DAP/Uncle Lim's shoulders. PAS and PKR too should share some responsibility.

Consider the summary of events below - parts of which are taken from RPK's blog "Yellow card for the opposition" and the remainder from the Malaysiakini article, "PKR threatens to pull out of Perak state admin":-

1. As the DAP-PKR-PAS coalition could not come to an agreement as to who should be the new MB of Perak, three names (representing each party) were submitted to the Sultan of Perak. The three parties agreed to abide by the decision of the Sultan of Perak.

2. But before the Sultan could decide, PAS jumped the gun and announced that the MB will be from PAS in the hope that the 'early announcement' would leave DAP and PKR no more room for negotiations.

3. Then DAP decided to oppose the new Perak MB by boycotting the swearing-in of the new MB.

4. After much censure from both the public and the bloggers alike (although my cousin, Chris, believed the entire boycott was a political ploy - more on this in another blog), DAP decided to lift the boycott.

5. However, before the rakyat could heave a sigh of relief, PKR threatened to pull out from the Perak state administration on hearing that eight of the 10 executive council posts will go to DAP while the remaining two will go to other parties. PKR claimed that this agreement was made between PAS and DAP.

Now if this is not a three-ring circus, what would you call it?

Getting their act together

No wonder the Regent of Perak refused to swear-in the new MB today and had asked the three parties to go back to the drawing board to find a workable solution. Meanwhile, you can bet your bottom dollar (or Ringgit in this case) that BN is happily sitting back and giving enough rope to the coalition to hang themselves. And that's what will happen if DAP, PKR and PAS do not get their act together.

However, before things go any further, I believe DAP have to decide internally to what extent the individual state branch/representative is at liberty to make decisions on behalf of the party during negotiations. Case in point is the agreement made by DAP State Chairman, Ngeh, with his counterparts in PAS and PKR to present the three names to the Sultan and to accept the Sultan's decision; whilst DAP CEC claimed that they were only in agreement to hand in the two names from DAP and PKR.

I have no idea what transpired in these close door meetings between DAP, PKR and PAS, but could only speculate based on my experience in negotiations in the corporate world. It is necessary for the person involved in these high powered negotiations to be empowered to make final decisions in the event that the original proposal hit a snag/ stalemate. This is especially crucial when time is of the essence. Perhaps Ngeh faced such a situation and had to renegotiate. If the DAP CEC could not decentralised the decision making, then they should send someone from the CEC who is empowered to negotiate.

At PAS end, due to its party structure of decentralised decision making, some ground rules need to be set by PAS central leadership. Too much leeway given to the state branch leadership could cause PAS its credibility in the eyes of the rakyat and its coalition partners. Case in point the above "early announcement" made by the Perak rep and the statement made by the PAS central leadership to give a Kedah exco seat to DAP but none was given by PAS Kedah branch when it came to the crunch.

A little faith goes a long way but obviously DAP, PKR and PAS have not reached that stage in their alliance. Case in point of PKR's threat to pull out of the Perak state administration upon hearing the decision on the division of seats of the state exco. Instead of talking to the press, engagement and talks should have been made between the three parties to clear the air. Airing dirty laundry in public is not going to endear the coalition to the rakyat. In fact, it provides BN with new ammunition to attack the coalition!

Preventing BN its two thirds majority is the easy part and is only the beginning. The drama in the last few days are minor skirmishes at best. The war has yet to be fought. Does the coalition possess enough faith, passion and staying power to last the entire war? Or do they want to be relegated back to the position of backbenchers?

I confess my hopes have started to wan. Please prove me wrong!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Uncle Lim's Myopia

my·o·pi·a (n.) (source: American Heritage Dictionary)
- Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning

Originally I was going to blog about the Perak Dilemma, but since I heard about DAP's intention to boycott the new Perak MB's (Perak PAS secretary Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin) swearing-in, my anger and frustration know no bounds.

Is this the decision of the DAP CEC or is this the decision of Uncle Lim himself? And if it was indeed the DAP CEC that mooted this ridiculous boycott, I would have expected Lim Kit Siang, in his capacity of advisor, to talk the DAP CEC out of such a move.

What in the world was Uncle Lim thinking?

Firstly, it was agreed by all three parties of the DAP-PKR-PAS coalition to abide by the decision of the Regent of Perak.

“All parties within the coalition have jointly agreed on the submission of the three names for his decision. We would like to impress upon the people that all three parties have unanimously agreed to fully endorse whichever candidate is chosen,” state DAP chief Ngeh Koo Ham said at the Perak DAP headquarters. Read here for more.

To boycott the swearing-in now would call into question DAP's sincerity and credibility in the coalition. It would also reflect upon the rakyat that DAP's words are as fickle as BN's.

Secondly, does it matter who is the MB of Perak? After all, as Ngeh pointed out in the same article:

"The post of Mentri Besar is just to lead the state government and state executive council. Whatever decisions to be made will be done in full consultation with all three parties."

And since DAP will have more people sitting on the state exco, what is there to fear?

Thirdly, all eyes are on Perak now for if the coalition prove to be a success in Perak, then there is hope for the other Malay states. The uniquesness of Perak, unlike Selangor or Penang or Kedah/Kelantan for that matter, is that there is a huge population of both rural Malays and rural-semi urban non-Malays.

Whilst both groups live in harmony and tolerance, their thoughts and ideologies are polls apart. It is for the coalition to prove to the non-Malays that they have nothing to fear over PAS and to prove to the Malay population that they too have nothing to fear over DAP. There is a larger objective at stake here than the rights/needs of individual parties.

Instead of boycotting the swearing-in, I would have expected DAP (together with PKR and PAS) to hold ceramahs for the non-Malay population to explain and ease their fears over the choice of the MB.

Finally, the non-Malays have so long fought for meritocracy, this is the time to put our money where our mouth is. In all the articles that I read, Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin has been singled out as the most qualified person to take over the Perak MB's seat. And if meritocracy is to rule the day, why should he be denied the Perak MB's seat just because he is a PAS member and not a DAP or PKR member?

I have utmost respect for the Sultan and the Regent of Perak. I believe that they would have taken the rakyat's best interest at heart when making this decision.

So please Uncle Lim and fellow DAP assemblymen, do not disappoint the rakyat. Do not destroy our hopes just when it has just taken flight.

Do you really want to pass the state government back to BN?
Do you really want to provide BN with ammunition to shoot down the coalition?
Do you really want to destroy your chance at fulfilling the rakyat's mandate?

Think before you act for the repercussions could be dire. It would not only impact the governance of the state of Perak, it would also impact the governance of the other coalition states. But beyond that, it would also impact the rakyat's confidence and trust in you. The RAKYAT ... that is made up of Chinese, Indians, Malays and others ... who voted against the BN and brought to power the coalition.

Uncle Lim and fellow DAP assemblymen, please see the bigger picture!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Malaysia has voted ...

What do you live for?

What do you die for?

What do you fight for?

What do you stand for?

These were difficult questions asked in the movie, Lions for Lambs. These were the same difficult questions Malaysians asked themselves at the dawn of Malaysia's 12th General Elections.

To quote a statement from the same movie:
If you don't stand for something, you might fall for anything!

Truer words have never been spoken.

And on 8th of March 2008,
Malaysia voted for

Malaysia voted

I never thought I would live to see this day! And I have never been prouder nor happier to be a Malaysian.

Was it only days before that I sat with a group of friends at a mamak stall; lamenting at the state of affairs in the country. We argued and debated over the importance to exercise our right to vote. Many felt the futility in doing so. After all, what can stop BN from achieving two thirds majority? And even if it was only a message the rakyat wish to send by denying BN two thirds majority, what would really change? What could the opposition really do?

Many believe things would remain the same or even take a turn for the worse after the elections. After all, did the rakyat not give BN over 90% majority vote just 4 years ago and pin our hopes on a new leadership to initiate change? But where did that get us? More obvious corruption, higher crime rate, rising prices, and the overuse of the racial card to make the errant rakyat tow the line. So much for "a government of the people, by the people, for the people, ..." And through it all, the rakyat felt frustrated, impotent and angry.

Despite the negative sentiments among the rakyat, despite the overwhelming need to send a strong message of our dissatisfaction with the government through the election, not many believe that BN could be denied the two thirds majority. After all, when it comes to the crunch, "better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

But on that fateful 8th March night, the results trickled in. One by one, the parliamentary and state seats started falling to the opposition.

It was unbelievable!
It was unprecedented!
It was bloody scary!
Yet it was exhilarating!

Here we were watching and living through the moments that will go down the annals of Malaysian politics. And it was because of the RAKYAT ~ the RAKYAT that had voted with ONE voice; irrespective of race, colour and creed.

In the final analysis, it was not so much of the rakyat voting for the Opposition. Rather it was the rakyat voting against the ruling party.

Whilst BN scrambles to understand what went wrong, they need not look far for the answers (if indeed they really want to know at all instead of living in a state of denial). All they need do is check out views and sentiments from bloggers and/or armchair political analysts. A few of the interesting analysis/write-ups can be found at the following links:
* Making sense of the political tsunami
* MCA drowns in ocean of disgust
* Election 2008 - the morning after (2)
* The Rakyat has spoken


I have only one thing more to add to these. TRUST! It was all a matter of trust.

Contradictory statements were made to different language newspapers to address different ethnic groups. But the ruling party forgot that we are a multiracial society who speaks, understands and reads multi languages.

Say one thing but do another. "Cakap tak serupa bikin."

Threats on one day. Promises on another.

Read this: Vote for a voice in the Government, says Abdullah

"Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reminded the Chinese community that if they gave the DAP their votes, they will end up not having any representation in the Government."

"He said if the Chinese did not have representation in the Cabinet, their requests would not be heard."

And read this: Malaysia PM: Lessons to be learned

"And despite having fewer ethnic Indian and Chinese representatives in government, Abdullah reiterated his 2004 election promise to be the 'PM for all Malaysians'."

Yeah. Singing the same old song from 2004. A PM for all Malaysians but yet could threaten one ethnic group that their requests would not be heard if there is no representation of that ethnic group in the Cabinet.

Can the rakyat be blamed then for our lack of trust? Like in any marriage, once trust is broken, it takes ages and a lot of effort to mend. That is a huge and daunting task that the ruling party need to undertake. Regain the rakyat's trust.

For the Opposition: A matter of delivering on their promises

The dust are beginning to settle and reality is sinking in. For the Opposition who has been voted into office, beyond the euphoria, the work has only just begun.

It is time to make good on their promises. It is a delicate balance to manage between the voices of three parties and the needs of the various ethnic groups. The learning curve will be high and fast.

I don't envy their position.

The ruling party will be watching. And they will be brutal. Probably as brutal as the Opposition were about them.

The rakyat is watching. And we will be critical because with the Opposition lies the hope of a nation looking for change. With the Oppostion lies the hope of a nation looking for a stronger alternative party/ voice to provide checks and balances.

And with this election lies my fervent hope that the rakyat will stay strong and will not be drawn into racial debates. It is my hope that the rakyat will continue to act as one voice.

Power to the People.

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Good morning Malaysia! You fill me with hope.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Citizen of the World

After a 2-month plus hiatus, I have returned to the blogosphere. Guess I had better start blogging after the numerous complaints I received from friends & "fans" (hehe ... I wish) that my blog has not been updated in ages.

Where to start when so much has happened? The world moved on ... and so did I.

Guess one of the key things I experienced during all these years of travel either backpacking for pleasure or 5-star travelling for work, one common thing remains. More times than not, I have been mistaken to be a citizen of a country other than my own!

During the heydays (in the 90s) when I used to backpack alone, I have always been mistaken for a Japanese. I could rationalise away that perhaps because in those days, one rarely find Asian ladies backpacking on their own except for Japanese ladies. One of the most funny/exasperating experience was in Bali. I got "hit" on so many times by the local "toyboys" as they thought I was a rich Japanese lady looking for sex. (I was warned beforehand that it is quite the thing for Japanese women to look for sex in Bali.)

Then there was this trip to South Africa where almost every caucasian or African that I met would wish me "Konbanwa". My friend insisted that because of my "Japanese" appearance, we had probably been overcharged for a lot of things. Till today, I place the entire blame on the red bandanna that I wore during my trip. Perhaps that made me look a little like a Japanese lady. *shrugs*

But then, I had to view myself slightly differently when on a business trip in Tokyo, an old lady stopped my Japanese colleague by the roadside (we were walking and chatting while on our way to the train station) and asked him what nationality am I. She said that at first she thought I was Japanese until she overheard our conversation in English. It seemed that no Japanese spoke English the way I do. So, I was mistaken for a Japanese by a Japanese. Hmmm ...

During my backpacking trip in New Zealand in 1999, I met and travelled with a group of Europeans on this "hop-on, hop-off" bus service. Although we met a lot of Japanese backpackers throughout our journey, I never befriended any of them due to language breakdown. They spoke no word of English. Neither do I ( speak a word of Japanese). In any case, my travelling European companions commented that if they were to close their eyes and listen to me speak, they would think that they were speaking to a European. Moi? With a European accent? Huh?

Recently, during my trip to Sikkim, India last month, I had another weirder experience. Sikkim is a state of India but is unlike the India we expect. It is located at the northeast of India, bordering Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Majority of the population is made up of Sherpa, Lepcha and Gorkha. Most of the population looked more Tibetan than Indians. In any case, one morning while I was out and about the mountains taking photographs, I was stopped by a man speaking in Nepali (or Hindi). He was looking in my general direction and I thought he was talking to someone behind me. When I looked behind, there was no one.

I said, "Are you talking to me? I'm sorry, I don't understand you."

And his reply, "Oh! I am sorry. I thought that you are a Darjeeling girl."

Me, a Darjeeling girl? Huh?

Then, just last week, I was in Bangkok for a meeting. The folks at the hotel and at the night market all thought that I was Thai and spoke to me in Thai until I kindly corrected them.

Am I a citizen of the world or what?

Now, this final experience take the cake. Upon my arrival at KLIA from Bangkok, and as I was walking out of the arrival hall, one of the taxi touts started hassling me. The first word out of his mouth was, "Konnichiwa! Taxi?" What??!!

On my homeground, with my own people, I am still mistaken for a citizen of another country!

Go figure!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who says US cornered the market on conspiracy theories?

Before I proceed with my post, allow me to set the context right ...

I am a fan of stories on political espionage and conspiracy theories. In my hey days (read teenage to young adult years), I would lock myself in my room for hours on end, voraciously devouring books by Robert Ludlum (The Parsifal Mosaic, The Materese Circle, The Acquitaine Progression, the Bourne trilogy: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy & The Bourne Ultimatum, and many, many more) and Jeffrey Archer (A Matter of Honour, Honour Among Thieves).

These days, I'd rather sit in front of the idiot box or the silver screen and allow the story to unfold. It's a quicker process than reading the whole darn book; although watching takes the fun out of unravelling the mystery and the clues at every turn of the events. :) That was what kept me glued to the books previously. But then, I had more patience then. Talk about the MTV generation and having short attention span. Bet Cordy will agree that I have been vastly influenced by this generation.

I have digressed enough. Allow me to get on with my post. I came across this article "Malaysia's axis mysteriously shifting" on Asia Times Online and it got me thinking of all the possible conspiracy theories that could be built from this ... and then some. So I did some googling and voila! I found lots of stuff. True or false, ... guilty or innocent, ... I leave that to you to decide, my wise readers.

1. "... The 2004 proliferation case involving Scomi, a company owned by Abdullah's son Kamaluddin, which was allegedly involved in supplying dual-use technology to Libya's clandestine nuclear-weapons program. ..." Summary of the case and the outcome can be read here and here. The question is, IS there more here than meets the eye?

2. U.N Oil for Food Scandal. "New York - It began as a U.N. humanitarian aid program called "Oil-for-Food," but it ended up with Saddam Hussein (search) pocketing billions to become the biggest graft-generating machine ever and enriching some of America's most forceful opponents at the United Nations (search). ... " Read more here and here. And Malaysia's involvement in this? Read Raja Petra's account here.

3. The Altantunya Murder Trial. I confessed I haven't been following the trial but even a blind man could see that there is more here than meets the eye. Want to check out more premises for conspiracy theories? Read here. Although it was written almost two months ago, the blogger asked some interesting questions. Not enough to raise more flags? How about the following article written by Raja Petra.

It does make one pause and think, doesn't it? I remember an old idiom that goes, "there's no smoke without fire". Then again, a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Truth or lies? Guilt or innocence? Perhaps we will never know.

But these are surely great fodder for conspiracy theories. Time to write a book on one and earn millions. Perhaps be another Dan Brown in the making. All we need is one darn great book (ala Da Vinci Code) that creates enough interests and controversies that it becomes the talk-of-town. But make sure it's written under the "fiction" category so that you don't get sued (or hauled into ISA in this case).

Anyone up to the challenge of becoming the first Malaysian Dan Brown? :)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

50 years of Merdeka but what have we really learned?

Did you notice the recent spate of endless speeches from politicians (and the powers that be) and the frequent propaganda on TV, radio and print about how Malaysians are a tolerant society that lives in peace and harmony? Have you ever wondered how much truth is there in these statements? Are we really living in peace, harmony and racial tolerance? Have you ever questioned the sincerity of these statements? Are the people making such statements merely paying lip service?

Some of you might be laughing now. Questions like these are tantamount to asking oneself, "Is my mother a woman?"

Here are some recent statements made by our politicians:

An excerpt on the "keris issue" as written by Farish A. Noor:

" Former UMNO leader Mohamad Rahmat was among the first off the starting post when he uttered the dreaded A-word: “Don’t test the Malays, they know ‘amok’”. Melaka delegate Hasnoor Sidang Hussein added more blood to the feast when he bluntly stated that “UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood in defence of race and religion”. UMNO Youth Exco member Azimi Daim added that “when tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins”. (Prompting the obvious question: What happens when there is no tension? Whose blood is running in their veins then?) But the first prize for grandstanding has to go to Perlis delegate Hashim Suboh who directed his question to UMNO leader Hishamuddin Onn: “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham: when is he going to use it?” ... "

An excerpt from International Herald Tribune:

" Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said Wednesday that frayed relations between the country's religious and racial groups had reached a "worrying" level and warned that the government would not hesitate to crack down to preserve peace between them. ... "

Does the above reflect a society living in peace, harmony and racial tolerance? Have we considered that statements made by certain powers that be could incite discontent which could potentially lead to violence? But that is another matter altogether and not the subject of this post.

As we approach our 50th year of Independence, instead of progressing in terms of tolerating each other, we seem to have digressed.

Why does it seem so easy for me to have close Malay friends in my younger days?

Why are so many issues and topics so sensitive these days, unlike say 15-20 years back?

Why is it that as the country progress, the fabric of unity within our society seem to disintegrate?

And as I ponder these questions, a few statements I overheard in recent months came to mind.


"I pay ridiculous amount in taxes and they dare question my loyalty to the country?"

"I did not say I dislike my country. In fact, I love my country. I just dislike the people who rules her."

"Why is every issue about race and religion these days?"

"Loving something doesn't mean I agree with all their policies."

"Shhh! Don't say that so loudly. Walls have ears and you might end up under ISA detention."


As long as the powers that be continues to be an ostrich, discontent will continue to simmer. Whether this will erupt into a full blown conflagration will depend on how far the spark is left to linger and nurtured.

I came across this post while surfing, and I believe this young man said it best here.


"We are reaching our 50th year of independence. But ask yourself, how far have we progressed socially? Do people have genuine friends from other races nowadays? Do people feel safe when they live as a minority in certain areas? What do people tell you if you get into a car accident at a kampung area?

If given a choice, would people of different races make the conscious effort to get together, other than for the purpose of politics?"


Check out the Southpark video clip on that blog. It's hilarious (that is if you have a sense of humour where these matters are concerned). But the clip, funny as it is, has quite a huge dose of truth in it.

One radio station has been zealously advertising and encouraging the good citizens of Malaysia to purchase a unity band. I laughed when I heard this over the airwaves. Do we believe that wearing a unity band would make us more tolerant? more united?

Something happened the other night that gave me some hope, however.

I was out having supper with a couple of friends. We were having a fine time jesting and poking fun at things ... when suddenly I realised I said "something" that might be taken the wrong way by my Malay friend.

Looking sheepish, I apologised, "I'm sorry, sometimes I forget that you are a Malay."

He replied, "It's ok. Sometimes I forget that you are a Chinese too."

We looked at each other and just grinned at our silliness. Now, that came from the heart. Nothing more was said. But yet, a subtle acknowledgement of friendship was made beyond racial boundaries.

Now, if only we could replicate this brief moment in time, a million times over, perhaps then there would be hope.

Happy 50th Merdeka to all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Badminton - more, more, tell/show me more

Fresh from the BWF championships last weekend, we were pretty inspired last night at our weekly badminton game (despite Malaysia suffering heavy losses at the BWF). It was a great night. I had some good double matches and a particularly tough single match. I have not played singles with any of these guys before but was dragged into a match yesterday. It was particularly tiring and by the ninth point, I was "punctured" ~ out of breath & out of energy. I was sending easy shots out and giving weak returns. I was also running less so my opponent took the opportunity and came from behind to finish off the game. All in all, we got a lot of exercise done and I thought my back would ache like crazy today BUT all's well thus far. It ain't too bad after all.

In any case, the purpose of this blog is not to yak so much but to post pictures of the Proton-BWF World Championship 2007. After all, a picture says a thousand words. For those who can't get enough of it, feast on ...

Lin Dan - man of the match
Lin Dan @ the semis - man of the match

Bao Chunlai - the struggling opponent
Bao Chunlai - the struggling opponent

Let the play begin
Our "senior citizens" - putting up a fight

The crowd came in droves to support our "senior citizens"

A moment of respite with Rexy
A moment of respite (or not) with Rexy

More advice from Kim Hock & Rexy
More advice - how much trouble are we really in?

KKK - One half of the dethroned pair
KKK - one half of the dethroned pair

Sony - the "giant" killer
Sony - the "giant" killer

Sony & Lin Dan
Sony & Lin Dan @ the finals. The "giant" killer tried hard. The "man of the match" denied him the victory.

Women sports wear has come a long way
Lady badminton attire - how far we have come ...

Doubles in action
Men Doubles Finals - the Koreans played below par, the Indonesians didn't give an inch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Proton-BWF World Championships 2007

Venue: Stadium Putra – Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur
Period: August 13 – 19

My excitement over the World Championships this time round was understandable. After all, this would be my first time watching so many seeded players “live” as me and a couple of friends bought tickets for the semis and the finals matches. Prior to this, my first and last “live” badminton tournament was at the Commonwealth Games at Bukit Jalil. But that was totally different. No badminton tournament is complete without the presence of China and Indonesia.

Most memorable moments:

1. Lin Dan in action.

It was pure pleasure watching Lin Dan in action. Although I was rooting for the underdogs i.e. Bao Chunlai and Sony Dwi Kuncoro on both days, nothing could take away Lin Dan’s supremacy in the game.

During the semis, I felt that he was toying with Bao. Twice he dived for Bao’s shots and both times, he made a huge production of sprawling on the ground. But we knew it was faked as his eyes were not even looking at the shuttle. Besides, he stayed so much longer on the ground, posing for the cameras.

He was more serious when playing against Sony since he knew what was at stake. Despite Sony’s comeback in the second set, Lin Dan was clearly in a class of his own. He was simply too fast for Sony. His movements were fast and economical compared to Sony. It’s amazing how fast Lin Dan could get behind a shuttle for seemingly impossible shots and sent it back with careful, precise placements. Many a time Sony was left struggling to keep up with Lin Dan’s shots.

The way I look at it, no player could possibly beat Lin Dan on his good day. As a friend put it, “Lin Dan is the ‘Roger Federer’ of badminton.”

2. Men’s doubles semi final match between Korea and Japan.

Two young doubles players with lots of energy and the single objective to “kill the shuttle” as fast as possible. The game was so fast with smashes upon smashes, drives upon drives. It was a really exhilarating watch. Do not blink or you will miss the next point.

3. Baseline jumping smashes.

Dang! Can these players jump?! The final men’s doubles game between Markis Kido - Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia) and Jung Jae-sung - Lee Yong-dae (Korea) was unforgettable. They might be short but boy! can they jump?! What’s more, they can jump and smash from the baseline! That was what was missing from Choong Tan Fook – Lee Wan Wah’s game. They simply couldn’t jump and kill the shuttle.

4. Random comment from a spectator.

“I was shouting ‘Malaysia Boleh’ the other day and guess what. This Indonesian interrupted me and said, ‘Ya, Malaysia Boleh. Tapi Indonesia Lebih Boleh!’”

Eh, eh … ya tak ya jugak!

Major gripes and disappointments:

1. No live telecast of crucial matches on FTA (free to air)TV.

No live telecast for the quarterfinal matches between Koo Kien Keat - Tan Boon Heong and Shuichi Sakamoto - Shintaro Ikeda (Japan); and between Wong Mew Choo and Xie Xingfang (China). There was no delayed telecast of these matches either nor for the matches between Choong Tan Fook – Lee Wan Wah and Fu Haifeng – Cai Yun (China); and between Lee Chong Wei and Sony Dwi Kuncoro (Indonesia).

For a country that’s crazy over badminton and has world ranking players (although that’s debatable after this tournament), this oversight is unforgivable. Not everyone has Astro you know. Besides, if NTV7 can air the Football Champions Youth Cup Highlights, other FTA could at least show the Proton-BWF World Championships highlights.

Besides, not to be disrespectful, but how many TV stations are needed to air the live telecast of the 50 year Merdeka celebration? We can talk to death about a nation’s unity but if one wants to see unity in action, go to a badminton game and you will see Malaysians of all races rooting for one team, the Malaysian team! Now, that’s true unity!

2. Pea brain tournament organiser.

We paid good money for “what we thought were” great seats for the finals. We expected to watch the matches at centre court but some “smart aleck” decided to hold the matches at the other end of the stadium! Thus, the seats went to waste as we had to go to the higher levels (cheaper tickets with free seating) but closer to the court to watch the matches. Blardy hell! One wonders why the matches can’t be held on the centre court!

3. Selfish mentality of KL drivers.

Haphazard parking on non legitimate parking areas i.e. road shoulders, pavements, etc. whilst legitimate parking were available but located slightly further away. For the life of me, I could not understand the mentality of “supposedly educated” people. When they get behind the wheel, whatever good upbringing and education they received fly out of the window. Most act like “selfish b*****ds”!

4. Dismal performances.

Rexy was right when he slammed our shuttlers for failing to reach the world championship finals. This was our best chance with home ground support. Not only did our players NOT reach the finals, our hopefuls namely Lee Chong Wei and the Koo-Tan partnership did not even reach the semis! To add insult to injury, Lee had the cheek to blame chief coach Yap Kim Hock for his own failure to deliver. What happened to maturity, professionalism and taking blame of one’s own mistakes?

And THAT is my take on the Proton-BWF World Championships. May there be more interesting tournaments in future and hopefully, we (Malaysia) make it to the finals.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tunku the Musical


"Leanne, are you in KL?"

"Yes. Wassup?"

"Would you be interested in watching Tunku the Musical tonight? I have two free tickets!"

"Yes! Yes! Yes!"

And that was how I ended up at KLPAC last Saturday, watching Tunku the Musical ~ on opening night, no less!

The Story - as I see it

Contrary to the title, Tunku did not make an appearance in the entire musical. The focus of the musical was on events that occurred during the reign of Tunku Abdul Rahman as first Prime Minister. The musical started off with the celebration of Independence, followed by the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, and culminated to the events on May the 13th 1969.

Interwoven within these key historical events was the story of Syed, an aide of Tunku, aptly played by Tony Eusoff. Syed was portrayed as an ambitious political aide and a racist to boot. He despised the Chinese so much that he disapproved of his son, Malik's romance with Fauzia, who was of Chinese descent but was adopted by a Malay laksa seller.

Syed was among the vocal supporters urging Tunku to kick out Singapore from Malaysia due to PAP's shenanigans. While Tunku believed that the country was big enough for everyone, Syed believed otherwise. The musical also implied that Syed was instrumental in sanctioning the riots of May the 13th, after DAP won the election. Despite all these, Syed had a deep, dark secret ~ his mistress was not of Malay descent.

Jumping into this cauldron of power, deception and dark exposé was Paul, a hardcore political journalist. The role was played with "glee" (I can't think of any other word to use except that) by Douglas Lim. It was a joy to watch Douglas unleashed himself in that role and at times, he reminded me of a young Robert Redford in his role in All the President's Men, except that Douglas was just more rotund. :) Paul was always at Syed's tail, chasing him for comments as events unfolded and playing the devil's advocate. Paul never let up on Syed ~ pushing and pushing and pushing him. One wonders if perhaps it was partly Paul's needling of Syed's failure to foresee DAP's success in the election that drove Syed to sanction the riot.

As the story unfolded, after the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, Syed pushed his son Malik to study law in UK, thus separating Malik from Fausia. His argument was that Malik was meant for better things than getting stuck with a Chinese girl. Malik went along with Dad's wish but promised Fauzia that he would return for her.

Events heated up while Malik was away. Elections came and Syed thought he had played his cards well enough to win. But alas! DAP won instead. The public has spoken. But Syed could not accept that. Syed could not fathom his loss. And as DAP prepared for their parade in the city, Syed prepared for his own "parade".

Meanwhile, Malik was due home during that period. Fausia waited anxiously for his return.

As DAP gathered in the streets to celebrate their victory, gangs gathered in the streets to vent their anger. There were riots on the streets. Houses were burnt down. It was total chaos. Amidst the confusion, Fausia was attacked and raped by a Malay gang. Malik appeared too late, only in time to find Fausia's battered body. As Malik held on to Fausia, a Chinese gang appeared, seeking vengeance. They saw Malik with Fausia's body and assumed the worst. The Chinese gang then attacked Malik and stabbed him.

Meanwhile, at the aftermath of the riot, Syed was back on the streets with a group of journalists. His attitude was almost condescending, superior. To him, such destruction was a lesson learnt. If the opposition wins, the people suffer. He carried that attitude until he came upon a body. To his horror and grief, it was Malik's.

The scene ended and we were brought forward to present day Malaysia.

The Review

Malaysia is brimming with talent which we should continue to grow and nurture. I confess that I did not know what to expect and I came out pleasantly surprised.

Much had been said about Tony and Douglas and their characters above. I would not want to sound like a broken record here. Just an additional thought ~ the two leads have great chemistry. Watching the interaction between Tony and Douglas on stage was a pleasure. Special mention has to be made with regards to the three lady leads; namely Doreen Tang (who played Fausia), Evelyn Toh (Cik Tan) and Maria Yasmin (Maria). Blessed with beautiful voices, each of them is perfect in her role. I enjoyed Zamil Idris' (Malik) baritone and was shocked to discover that he was one of the finalist for Malaysian Idol. One wonders why he did not win the competition! The rest of the cast held their own.

There was one particular scene that warrants a special mention ~ the rape of Fausia. Truly it was an uncomfortable scene for me to watch but it must have been more uncomfortable for the cast to act. The acrobatics for that scene must have been extremely taxing. And the amount of choreography that went into that should be applauded. Watching Fausia being flung all over made me dizzy. Kudos to Doreen, the Malay gang and the choreographer for making this work.

I love the music and lyrics. The fact that they could hold my attention for the entire duration and enabled me to write the story above, speaks volumes of the writers' talents. The tunes were catchy and the lyrics were able to tell the story well without the need for extra dialogue. Among my favourite tunes are "Front Page News", "With One Stroke of Your Pen" and "One Moment Ago". "Laksa" was a memorable piece as it brought home the thought that we are truly one nation. Our lives are so intertwined that we could no longer tell if laksa is malay or chinese food.

Since I know nothing much about dance and orchestra, all I can say is that everything jived. The dance choreography went well with the music. The dance elements flowed well with the story. And to my untrained ear, the orchestra sounded wonderful. :)

The staging was simple but effective. It was a clever move to show original footages of our little piece of history on the big screens, and to intertwine that with footages of the musical, shown in black and white. That added authenticity to the acts on stage. Also, the choice of wardrobe in bland colours ~ i.e. white, black, grey, etc ~ during the historical scenes, and in full technicolour for present day Malaysia worked well.

Bloops and blunders

I guess it is no surprise that the best laid plans of mice and men will fail when it comes to computers. They are such temperamental "electrical circuit boards" - the bits and the bytes, the RAM and the ROM! In the midst of the show after intermission, the screens showed "error" although the footages were still running. Some technician came to the rescue and luckily for the musical, the problem was resolved without a further hitch.

Here's my two cents worth of feedback. When showing the "dead body" of Malik, my advice is NOT to pan the camera too close to his body. We could clearly see that Malik was breathing. That kind of "killed" the grieving mood.

The Ending

I found the ending to be rather abrupt. The story had build us up for a climax ~ the rape of Fausia, the death of Malik, the discovery by Syed. Then ... nothing! The scene changed to present day Malaysia. That was truly anti climatic. I am not sure what could have been done at the end but I expected more. A closure for Syed perhaps?

However, THAT should not, in any way, reduce the wonderful performances in the musical. Kudos to Joe Hasham and his cast & crew for pulling all this together.

One thing else this musical has brought home to me besides its entertainment value is the interest to read more about that time period. How could we have lost our unity (witness the tongue-in-cheek song of "laksa") and forsake that for suspicion, self interest and destruction? With recent events coming to a head in the last two years, one wonders if we did indeed learn anything in the last 50 years of independence. The last song about being "colour blind" remains perhaps a wish? an ideal?

Go watch the musical, if you have yet to do so. Check out the following site for more information.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Should bloggers join politics?

Yes, I have finally surfaced on the blogosphere. This news is just too disturbing to let it pass.

When I first heard the news that Jeff Ooi is joining DAP, my reaction was negative.


Because I felt a teensy weensy bit betrayed.

Because his voice would now no longer be an "impartial" voice of the people. He would no longer be a regular Joe ... like you and me.

(I am using the word "impartial" here rather losely as no matter who we are, we can never be totally "impartial" as we would somehow be influenced by our environment and upbringing.)

Because by crossing over to politics, his say would no longer be his opinion. Party politics will come into play.

And yes, I would assume there would be conflict of interest.

And yes, I believe there would be political agenda behind his words.

As a friend said during a conversation on this, "Jeff Ooi would no longer be credible."

If I had wanted to know what DAP thought, I would have read Lim Kit Siang's blog.

At least that is what both of us felt.

What about you? Do you think bloggers should join politics?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just Follow Law

If you are tired of watching comic superheroes, retro movies, American propaganda, Hong Kong slapstick, et. al., give this Singapore movie a shot.

If you have spent years working in conglomerates or the civil service, you are sure to identify with some, if not most, of the corporate, political shenanigans in this movie.

And if you are being sucked into the quagmire of corporate or governmental bureaucracy, you will definitely feel for the characters in this movie.

Check out the movie review here. I'm sure you will love this.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Break ~ Mulu National Park

Finally I managed to take a much needed break at Mulu National Park. Didn't think my boss was too happy about that but ... how else to clear my accumulated 43 days of leave if I don't start clearing 1, 2 and 3 now? Besides, I don't think I was all that effective at work with all the "issues" hovering in my mind.

I digress. Back to Mulu National Park. The last time I went to Mulu was in 1994. Goodness! That sounds like a whole century ago ... :P I was supposed to climb the Pinnacles Trail then but alas! we were prevented from doing so by the forest ranger then due to heavy downpour at the mountains the night before.

This time round, I did not hold out much hope that I could climb the Pinnacles Trail. In fact, it was not in my original itinerary to Mulu as I had planned to do the show caves plus some adventure caving. Besides, I was wholly unfit due to my workload and I had more than a few trepidations about making the climb. After all, I am more than a decade older (although not a century :P). I had yet to recover from a knee injury sustained a couple of months back and my fear of heights resurfaced at the thought of doing vertical climbs on steel/aluminium ladders.

But my friends seemed to have more confidence in my fitness level than I. After a few feeble attempts to convince Val to do the caves only, I gave in. Truth be told, despite worry over my knee, it was also a matter of pride and challenge to complete the trail.

And boy! was I glad we did it, although I would never do it again!

As this was a budget trip, I figured that we could latch on to other individual travellers to hire a guide and share the boat fees. Thus, with day packs on our backs (we left our larger backpacks at the Mulu Headquarters), we set out for the 3 days Pinnacles Trail. Well, the trail to Pinnacles itself does not take 3 days.

Day 1 we took an hour's boat ride to the beginning of the trail to Camp 5. (Three hours if the water level is low and if we end up pushing the boat.)

Boat ride to Camp 5

From there, we made another 3-hour trek on flat land to Camp 5. Needless to say, we were feeling the toll of carrying our own backpack as the hours dragged on, especially with my weak knee and the muddy ground. Val swore that she will not carry her own backpack again! "Luxury trekking trip!" I could almost visualise the chant inside her head. :p We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Camp 5 because it was not just a campsite but a nice wooden building equipped with a very basic kitchen and clean public bathrooms for "he" and "she". Accomodations were also basic but decent and clean. Located next to a stream and amidst the tropical jungle and mountains, the surrounding area was really pretty.

Our humble accomodations @ Camp 5

But alas! by 3+pm, the sky suddenly opened up its heavens and started raining cats and dogs. My heart plummeted. Not again! I thought I'd never get to climb the Pinnacles Trail at this rate. It was still raining when we went to bed.

The morning dawned bright and dry on Day 2. What a surprise! Again, I was filled with trepidation at the thought of climbing vertical, steel ladders. The incline sloped immediately once we started on the trail. The first two half hours were tough. There was no "give" in the climb. We were trekking up at 60-70 deg incline for the first 2000 m. And it was up, up, up and up! Every time I thought I had overcome the toughest parts, I was proven wrong again. The trail just got tougher and tougher. At some point, I looked down the steep incline and wondered how I would manage the descent. But one barrier at a time, I thought. First, focus on the climb, then worry about the descent.

After the 2000 m mark, the trail flattened and I thought, "Gosh! Finally ... time to catch my breath and ease my wobbly legs." But not a few metres away, I came upon what looked like the end of the trail. By then, I had lost sight of the Belgian and Scandinavian folks who were slightly ahead of me earlier. And I could not see Val, our guide or any of the Singaporean and Canadian trekkers who were behind me.

Now what? Then I noticed the "red & white" paint (which marked the trail) on the rock surface beside me, and lo & behold! I caught sight of the vertical steel ladder indicating the start of the 400 m vertical climb. And beside the ladder, there was a signboard warning climbers not to climb that part of the trail after 11am as they might end up reaching ground level at nightfall on very treacherous trails.

Val and our guide arrived while I was still building up my courage to climb the blardy ladder. After coming so far, there was no way I would call it quits. Height phobia be damned! "What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve." Blah blah blah .... "Alrighty! Time to move my butt instead of staring at the ladder," I thought.

From then onwards, it was kind of a blur for me. The vertical climb continued for the rest of the way. Sometimes, I could not even see where the trail led. Soon I lost sight of Val and the guide again. But I continued to climb. When I hit a snag or seemed to have lost my way, I looked for the "red & white" marks again. And always, it would lead on to more treacherous steel ladders or planks or crevices on rock surfaces or steel rings or ropes. It was endless. I did not allow myself time to stop for long and contemplate, as I feared I might lose my nerve once reality sank in.

After climbing almost an hour with no end in sight, I finally paused for a longer rest. Reality did sink in then. I had long ago lost sight and sound of any human. The eerie silence of the mountains began to seep in and suddenly it sank on me that I was totally alone in the mountains. Anything could have happened while I was climbing. Feeling lost and alone, doubts asailed me. I started calling out to Val, "On! On!" (that was our code in the jungle) but to no avail.

Suddenly I heard rustling above me. A caucasian head jutted out from above the huge mountain rock and one Hungarian appeared. They had set off much earlier that morning and reached the peak ahead of our group.

"Hello there!" The mat salleh called out.

"How far more to go?" I asked.

"Not far. You're very close ~ about five minutes away," was his reply. Then one by one his group (the Hungarians) clambered down from the rock.

Just when I thought everyone had descended, Bjorn ~ our new Scandanavian friend ~ called out to me from above, "Hey you! Not very far to go!"

I looked up and saw Bjorn making his way down, followed by June (his girlfriend) and Derrick (the fireman from Belgium) who were all part of our group.

"You guys on the way down so soon?" I asked.

"Yup. Nothing much there. Half hour is enough. We want to get down for a dip in the river," was his reply.

"What time did you guys reach?"

"About 5 past 10."

A look at my watch indicated that it was 10.30 am then. Hmmm ... not too bad. We were not that far behind.

Then I heard Val's voice from the back. Yay!! My troop was finally here. Hehehe ...

After everyone clambered down, we made our way up quickly with renewed energy. In a few short minutes, we arrived at the peak ~ tired and drenched with sweat, but very elated!

WE DID IT!!! And we were the first Asians to reach the peak that day! Woo Hoo!

At the peak and looking at the Pinnacles

And yet another look at the Pinnacles and the ladies who managed to reach the top! :D

OK. So it didn't look as impressive as we expected. But heck! this was still quite amazing. (That's what we kept telling ourselves.)

We did not linger though and started the descent at 11 am. The vertical downward climb was tough at first but we got the hang of it soon enough. Progress was slow but much easier (in hindsight) compared to the descent after the vertical part.

We "collected" Ing (one of the Singaporean ladies) at the last steel ladder (she did not make it to the top due to her weak knees) and continued our downward journey. The second phase of the descent was so much tougher. Walking down 60-70 deg incline was much worse than climbing down 80-90 deg incline!

I slipped and fell so many times that I lost count. Once again, I lost sight of Val, Ing and the guide. But I could not stop. I worried that if I do stop, I might not walk another step forward! By then, my legs were trembling so badly. Every step was pure agony. I was very careful in deciding which part of the ground to step on to prevent further slips.

However, I had collected numerous bruises by then. After one exceptionally nasty fall, I just sat on the ground and contemplated what idiocy had made me do this climb! :P

Despite the knee guard, my injured right knee felt bad. My good left knee started throbbing. I was placing way too much pressure on that leg. Goodness, I was physically falling apart! Drama a bit la! hehehe ...

In any case, it was an incredibly tough descent. But I wanted to get it over and done with fast! My aim was to reach camp and shelter before 3pm to avoid the downpour which had occured for 2 consecutive days at around those times. Lucky for all climbers, the dry weather held. I managed to arrive at 2.50 pm. It had taken me 3 hours 50 mins to descent.

Back at camp, I quickly gulped down cupfuls of water. Most of us were almost dehydrated as we tried to take minimal water up the climb to lighten our load. It seemed that poor Bjorn vomitted on the way down as he was very close to dehydration. Thank god for June who helped him along the way. Next on the agenda was food! Once I satisfied these basic needs, it was time to jump into the stream to cool off. Gosh! That was heavenly. By late eve, all the climbers had returned to the campsite. We were all vying for equal share of voice to talk about our experiences and to compare bruises.

Day 3 dawned and despite aching limbs, we had to make the three hour trek back to the river. Strangely enough, despite our tiredness and injuries, the trek back was much faster. We made it in 2 and the half hours. And it took us another hour by boat to reach camp.

Woo Hoo! Back to civilisation!

Despite the original plan of going adventure caving, our injured legs couldn't take in more abuse. Thus, we decided to rest and enjoy the Park going to show caves instead. Even so, the trails on wooden platform were quite a challenge. By then, I had also contracted allergy to something. I was scratching and scratching and scratching. As usual, hypochondriac Val also felt like scratching after watching me! Thank god for my ever ready supply of "minyak angin".

We took it real easy the next few days. We went to visit the Lang and Deer Caves. I love both caves as they were more interesting than the Wind and the Clearwater Caves (which we visited earlier on the way to the Pinnacles Trail). Lang Cave was the smallest but it was real pretty. Deer Cave was huge, smelly and different. But the sight of water falling amidst the dark interior, illuminated by streaks of sunlight at the mouth of the cave was incredible and beyond words. At the end of the walk, a most incredible sight greeted us. The sight was aptly called Garden of Eden.

We also went for the longest Canopy Walk (480m) which cost us 30 bucks. It was really not worth the money though. Our final morning, we went to Moonmilk Cave on our own. Although there was no entrance fee, it was really not worth the walk either ~ which included a climb of 425 steps (or so it said in the brochure).

What was worth waiting for was the swarm of bats hunting for food in the eve. We took the 3.8km walk to the Bat Observation area for two days in a row to catch this incredible natural phenomenon. The first eve was a disaster. No bats were in sight and we got caught in the downpour on our return trip.

On the second eve, we all waited in anticipation. 5pm came and went. Then 5.30pm and then it was almost 6pm. We thought it would be another "no show" eve. Suddenly, we noted activity at the mouth of the cave high above ground.

And then .... the most amazing sight! I have never seen anything like this before apart from the "whirlwind" barracudas at the Sipadan dive site.

Bats out on a hunt for food

Another look at the bats during dusk

For a photo travelogue of this trip, check out this link.

And there you have it! A wonderful break away. Granted, my troubles did not go away. But for those few days, different things took priorities in life other than work.

Mulu ~ I'll always treasure thee!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Something gotta give soon!

I am ...
* mentally exhausted,
* physically drained,
* emotionally repressed.

My infrequent postings tell all.

Time ~ where has that all gone?

Work ~ how can something I enjoy turn into an endless nightmare?

Play ~ why does the thought of going out to workout or socialise fill me with reluctance?

Something gotta give soon!

Or I will go "crazy" ....

How does one deal with global managment that do not trust?

How does one deal with a management that insists on micro managing?

How does one deal with different bosses with different agendas? I feel like the proverbial "deer" that was caught in the middle of the fight between the elephants. (Gajah sama gajah berlawan, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah!)

How does one deal with arrogant, a** s**kers whose main aim in life is to climb the corporate ladder by any means ~ fair and foul?

How does one deal with inconsiderate, jealous b****es/b******s whose sole purpose in life is to stab anyone and everyone in the back so that the said b****es/b******s will look good in the eyes of greater authority?

How does one deal with an environment where "fighting" internal battles is more exhausting than "fighting" competitors at the market place? Or perhaps there is just no time left to fight competitors after all the internal bickering.

How does one deal with endless processes and templates to be filled and ridiculous internal bureaucracy that is worthy of a GLC?

I am so tired. I feel like I am balancing on a very thin/ fine red line. Something gotta give soon!

Is there a light at the end of this tunnel? Or is this just my exhaustion speaking?

I am looking forward to the coming holidays. Perhaps I can put some perspective back into my life and the job I "used" to like.

Goodnight Malaysia whoever you are.

Friday, March 30, 2007

It’s a matter of Mind over Matter

Ever wondered that perhaps the things we think we could not do could actually be accomplished if only we put some positive thoughts behind them? And many a time our failure to do so is compounded by our own “defeatist” thoughts and the disapproval from the people we seek support and/or approval from i.e. our parents and society at large?

It’s hard to fault our parents because they believe they have our best interest at heart. And it’s hard to fault society for its whimsies, for after all; we could ignore them and just get right on ahead with what we want to do.

Yet, how often are we caught within this mire of needing approval from our parents and society alike?

If you had asked me ten years ago if I could trek for more than ten consecutive days, 5-6 hours a day on the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trail, I would have said, “No. That is impossible.” I would never even dream of attempting such a feat.

Why? Well, because it never crossed my mind that I could. After all, the easiest and most effortless answer is No. I would most likely be the first person to volunteer to drink up the sight of the Himalayas from the “safe harbour” of Pokhara. Secondly, my parents would be most discouraging as they would be worried for my health and safety going to such a country. Thirdly, it was not the “thing to do” in society’s eyes as young ladies should be genteel and not go traipsing around third world countries on their own.

Isn’t it strange that we are so easily influenced by the need for others’ approval and support?

The longer I live and the more experiences I garner in life, I realise that we need to balance what we want to do against outside influences. We are our best judge as to our own capabilities and limitations. I have also learned that if we could break huge goals into smaller ones, slowly but surely we will be able to break one record at a time. And soon, we would hit the larger ones.

Interestingly enough, the things that I thought I could never do, I actually did after I hit 30. People say that with age, we should realise our mortality and therefore, taper off doing crazy stuff. My take on this is; it is when we realise our mortality that we should treasure our ability to do something. And just do it! Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!

Just last week, fresh from my personal victory in the 10km run, I made an attempt to run non-stop from start to end at the Kiara Hill trail within half an hour. For many people, it’s an easy feat. For me, I was never able to do so. Thus, on that fresh Sunday evening, I donned on my gear and then, it was me against the hill and against time. And … yes, this time, I did it! It was exhilarating! Next, perhaps a half marathon? Hmm ...

It’s truly a matter of Mind over Matter! And as the Adidas slogan goes, “Impossible is Nothing!” when you put your mind to it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

KL International Marathon

Warning! Long post ahead. Read at your own "peril"!

Yup! It’s been that kind of week. Read “Damsel in Distress” if you have yet to do so.

Remember the blog Cardio! Cardio! Cardio!, where our Siau Club President (SCP) signed us up for the KL International Marathon? Thank God he registered most of us under the 10km category instead of the half or full marathon. Only SCP and Manny, the Hill Rabbit got the honours of registering for the half and full marathon respectively

Well 18th March, the D-Day, finally arrived. And six out of the 12 registered did not turn up! Notably, our SCP was missing. He had a last minute training. Sister Mary had a RPM class at 11.30am and PW had to attend a last minute company function at 8.00am. The rest were Derek, Shane didi and Ming (former SCP), who for various reasons, could not make it for the run either. That left Manny, Sir Kyle, Viv, LK, Val and yours truly to uphold the Siau Club flag on that fateful day.

Ok. I admit I slacked terribly in my training after our initial registration. In fact, I had absolutely no training at all except for a wee bit of cardio from my weekly badminton game and my off-and-on whenever-we-can-wake-up weekend trekking trips up Gasing Hill.

Thus, on Saturday (the day before the run), Val and I decided that we REALLY must make a valiant attempt at the race. So, off we went to the gym for my first and also last training for our first 10km outdoor run. I managed to do a 30 minute run on the treadmill but that would have to suffice. Both Val and I reckoned that if we could not run all the way during the race, we could at least walk. We could also rely on the miracle liquid drink (Power Gel) discovered by sister Mary during our adventure up Mount Kinabalu. She swore by that now and after witnessing the effect on her (she literally had a spurt of energy and zoomed ahead of us after taking the drink!), we decided we had nothing to lose using that stuff. Back to matters at hand, we figured that no matter what happened we must complete the race.

As Manny was the only one who signed up for the full marathon, he had to arrive at Dataran Merdeka at 3.30am for registration as his run would start at 4.00am, whilst the rest of us (the 10km category) were required to register at 6.30am as our run would start at 7.00am. Kyle volunteered to fetch Manny down whilst the rest of us would arrive later. We all thought that it was really sweet of Kyle to do so, as he not only had to wake up blardy early, he also had to wait a good three hours before his race began. I am not quite sure if I’d have done that for my best friends were I put to the test.

In any case, the ladies arrived in time for the race. There was no sign of Kyle but we expected as much, as the crowd was tremendous. We all brought our handphones with us and decided on a place to meet up after the race should we part during the race.

The gun went off and so did we. The initial 100 meters were slow going as we had to weave our way through the thick crowd. In any case, I felt a burst of energy (which was natural and had nothing to do with Power Gel! :p) and was itching to capitalise on that and cover as much ground as possible. But I was torn between staying at my friends’ pace and going off on my own. But after a couple of minutes, and with them sensing my “impatience”/”energy”, they urged me to go ahead.

Off I went! And it was exhilarating ~ overtaking participant after participant. I knew my burst of energy would deplete soon but my plan was to run 30 minutes without stopping, then take a five minute walk, and run the rest of the way! At the 20 minute mark, I was getting thirsty and my pace had slowed. I ran on, determined to hit the 30 minute mark before I gave in. Everything was a blur as I paced myself against time. Minutes ticked by slowly. My steps ate the ground slowly but surely. Yet no drink stops were in sight.

The moment the minute hand hit the 30 minute mark, I slowed down to a fast walking pace. Barely five minutes later, I spotted the drink stop. I grabbed two cups each of water and 100 Plus, and gulped them down one by one. With my thirst finally quenched, I started my run again. But this time, I couldn’t quite get back my running rhythm. I was running and walking and running and walking. At one point, my right calf muscle and instep were giving me a lot of problems. I could feel my muscle getting stiff but I needed to complete the race and preferably well within the time stipulated. My competitive spirit asked it. My pride demanded it.

A look at the watch and I noted that 50 minutes had lapsed and I was still on Jalan Sultan Ismail. I saw Sheraton Imperial and thought we were headed for the highway. My heart plummeted as I realised that there was no way in hell I could finish the race within the stipulated 1hour and 30 minutes if we took that route. I had no idea how many kilometres I had already covered. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of taking the Power Gel. But I decided against it as I felt I was close enough to complete without the added help. Besides, I wanted to complete the race on my own steam if I could.

I ran on, still determined. Suddenly, a participant stopped in the middle of the road and groaned. He had pulled his muscle quite badly. I watched in empathy as an official came to his aid. Fearing for my right leg, I continued my run but took care to slow down a bit more. I’d rather be slow than to end up not finishing the race due to muscle injury.

To my surprise and joy, the route took a left turn into Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and on towards Dataran Merdeka! I was in with a chance. I picked up my pace and ran, hopped, walked all the way to the finishing line! I managed to finish in 1 hour and 10 minutes, and got a medal and certificate for the run in the process. That was way cool!

Val came in merely five minutes after me, whilst Viv and LK came in a mere five minutes after Val! We all made it within the stipulated time and I was mightily impressed that the ladies actually ran all the way. Hip Hip Hurray for all of them!

We then hunted for the boys. We sent them smses, but did not receive any reply. We called them to no avail as we only reached their voicemails. Half an hour later, we received a call from Kyle. It seemed that he ran the half marathon instead of the 10km run (taking over SCP’s place). We were all very impressed that he actually completed the race, … and in 2 hours and 35 minutes no less! That was blardy fantastic although I refused to tell Kyle then (just in case it went up to his head)! Hehehehe …

We had great fun during the run. But it went down hill from then on … from a planning perspective, that is. Is it a man thing not to plan ahead on where to meet after a race? Especially since one party did not have his handphone with him during the race and he ran a different distance from the other party? And the other party actually moved his car away from the original parking space where the first party knew he parked?

In any case, we thought we lost Hill Rabbit. We could not find him. We called him but remembered that his handphone was in Kyle’s car. We then called another fellow gym member who was running with him and had his handphone with him. Unfortunately, we reached his voicemail. I attempted to get the officials to make a missing person’s announcement but to no avail. Finally, we thought that Hill Rabbit would be resourceful enough to find his way home. The only thing was, he just had to wait for Kyle to find him to hand him his condo keys.

Next on the agenda was breakfast. We were famished and as Kyle did not think he could drive, I took over his car while LK went back for hers with the rest of the ladies. Enroute back to PJ, we received a call from the fellow gym member who was with Hill Rabbit but alas! Kyle’s phone went flat. (Why have a handphone if one doesn't plan to charge 'em batteries? grrr ...) Then we received a call from LK. The good news was, they found Hill Rabbit and friend. The bad news was, her car and several others, were blocked by two inconsiderate drivers who parked at both the entrance and exit of the parking area! It’s Murphy’s Law ~ everything that could go wrong went wrong!

In any case, Kyle and I decided to shower at my place first before meeting the rest at the restaurant ~ seeing as how it could take awhile as the authorities had just called a tow truck to tow ‘em cars away. Midway through the journey, I remembered my keys were in LK’s car! Dang! What did I just say about Murphy’s Law? Then I remembered Dad was in town and he had a spare set of my keys. I managed to catch hold of him, got the keys and then drove back to my place. Finally, something right came about!

We managed to get ourselves all cleaned up in no time at all. Then came the call from Hill Rabbit. He would leave first via public transport and would stop at the Kelana Jaya LRT station. We would then pick him up, pass him his keys and fetch him home. We then received another call from the ladies. They were finally on their way to the restaurant. Strangely enough, they arrived much earlier than Hill Rabbit. Kyle decided he would take Hill Rabbit home and forego breakfast with us, whilst I drove straight to the restaurant to meet the rest of the ladies!

What a dramatic end! Success! Chaos! Adventure! What else can we ask for? : )

A big thank you goes to SCP for registering the race for us and helping us get our T-shirts and running numbers despite not being able to go for the race himself in the end. Three cheers to SCP!

And three more cheers to all my running partners! You go girl! Boys included … : )

P.S. Just found the online published results. Kyle, you did it in 2:37:29 official time and 2:36:58 chip time. Check this link and look for Alex's full name. Way to go!!! Woo hoo!