Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Letter to the Editor: Halt Logging In The Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve

The Pahang Menteri Besar’s statement disavowing responsibility for logging in the Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve (VFR) in Kuala Lipis defies logic and the principles of accountability and transparency.
If, as the MB stated, no logging permits have been issued for the Terenggun VFR, then the tree-felling activities must necessarily be illegal, whether the logging is for the purpose of the timber industry or for road construction, as claimed in his statement dated 20th August 2016.
Based on observable facts and basic civil engineering practices, there are no instances in which timber is utilised in modern-day road construction in Malaysia. It follows therefore that the trees were felled to clear the way for road construction and the timber became just another source of income.
Either possibility is an alarming one, as neither logging nor road construction should be permitted in a forest reserve, especially one with such high biodiversity as the Terenggun VFR. Logging and road construction in Terenggun would affect air and water quality, destroy vital watersheds leading to the increased risk of flash floods, landslides and drought, fragmentise and annihilate wildlife habitats and hasten the extinction of wildlife.
There is no environmental or traffic impact assessment report to indicate that there is a necessity for a road to be constructed through the Terenggun VFR. Opening up a road in a forest reserve would simply create access for illegal loggers, hunters and wildlife poachers. Constructing a road through this ecologically-sensitive area would not alleviate any traffic problems or improve the quality of life of Pahang citizens in any way. It would instead cause both human and animal populations to suffer adverse effects from the reduced air and water quality and increased carbon emissions, human-wildlife conflicts and traffic fatalities.
It is clear from the ambiguous response of the authorities on the issue of logging in the Terenggun VFR that the forest-clearing was carried out in a highly irregular manner without complying with proper procedures or without any proper assessments or reports.
As a concerned citizen, I therefore urge the Pahang State Government and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) to put an immediate stop to logging in the Terenggun VFR and other forest reserves, and take steps to protect forests and wildlife.
Tropical rainforests have more economic value intact than degraded, due to the ecological and sociocultural services they provide. Pahang stands to gain more economic benefits from keeping its forests intact and biologically diverse, than from issuing permits for logging, mining and road construction in forested areas. Pahang is well-known for, among others, its national parks and great ecotourism potential, and therefore there are economic and cultural incentives for conserving its forest reserves and promoting sustainable use of its forest resources. 
The state forestry authorities are entrusted with the honoured duty of monitoring and protecting forest reserves and gazetted areas. There are no defensible reasons why the state forestry department would condone or be ignorant of any intrusions of such degree.
There are countless concerned and civic-minded citizens and environmental organisations who are willing to assist the government and forestry authorities in monitoring and protecting our rainforests and wildlife, should the need arise. Civil society’s readiness to play its part in conservation efforts must now be matched by political will on the part of state and federal authorities and enforcement agencies to protect and conserve forest reserves.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A Half-Assed Runner's Diary

I make no secret of the fact that I am lazy when it comes to exercise. I love outdoor activities and hard physical labour (housework, gardening, hands-on volunteering and home improvement/DIY projects), but running for running's sake just seems like such a mindless, tedious activity to me. I can't for the life of me see why I loved it so much in my schooldays.
This is probably how my friends (who are serious runners) prepare for marathons and road races:
Mon: Slow long distance run
Tues: Speed work
Wed: Recovery run
Thurs: Slow long distance run
Fri: Speed work
Sat: Social / group run
Sun: Sunrise hike up some hill or mountain or the other, where they will take fantastic photos of Broga Hill / Tabur East / Bukit Kutu / Gunung Nuang / Gunung Datuk and post it on Facebook with inspirational quotes about goal-setting.
Repeat every week until the week of the Race. Build up weekly base mileage over a period of 6 months.
Race Week: Carbo-load. Daily tempo run and strength-building exercises.
Night before a race: Get race gear ready, eat well, get plenty of sleep.
And this is how I prepare for half-marathons and road races:
Mon: Play silly buggers. 
Tues: Play silly buggers.
Wed: Play silly buggers.
Thurs: Play silly buggers.
Fri: Play silly buggers.
Repeat each day and each week until the week of the Race.
Night before the race: Go through collection of sneakers to locate pair with lowest number of duct tape patches. Download exciting audiobooks into MP3 player to listen to while running. Go to bed 4 hours before the race.
In spite of my lack of self-discipline and disinclination for training, however, I signed up to run a half-marathon (21km) for Hospis Malaysia in the Run For A Reason category of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon this year. I am a better fundraiser than I am an athlete, and thanks to the generosity of my friends, I managed to raise RM1,400.00 for Hospis Malaysia.
I participated in two road races in July and August, which means I have reached my personal target of running in 3 road races this year (the first one was the Turtle Conservation Run in March). It should have been 3 road races in 3 weeks, but I busted my left ankle during the Standard Chartered KL Marathon and could not participate in the Wild Tiger Run the following Sunday.
On 31st July, I participated in the Blood Donor Fun Run, which I had registered for during my last blood donation on 14th May.
This photo collage was made after my last whole blood donation at the National Blood Bank on 14th May. I had spent the morning observing and making notes on the SPCA's Pet Care Programme, and then went to donate blood during lunch hour. The National Blood Bank has a certain allocation of meatless meals for vegetarian blood donors these days, for which I am grateful. On that particular day, I was given fried kuay teow, a doughnut, an apple and a hot beverage. I then picked up a race form and signed up for the race on my way out of the blood bank.
I completed the Blood Donor Fun Run and picked up my Finisher's Medal despite arriving late (couldn't find a parking spot) and getting distracted several times by a flock of Painted Storks, a Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo and some Black-Naped Orioles.
Painted Storks around the lake at the Bukit Jalil Recreational Park.
Painted Storks ignoring me while I ignored the fact that I had a run to complete.
Completed the run and picked up my Finisher's Medal. What a way to reward and celebrate mediocrity. I get a medal for my half-assed effort. You get a medal, I get a medal, she gets a medal, everybody gets a medal. Wheeee.
Chilling out with Scar the Cat at the SPCA shelter after my run.
The following Sunday, I ran 21km in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon without getting distracted by birds or wildlife, because we ran in the middle of the city.
Truthfully, I hardly felt the boredom or fatigue of running for over 3 hours, since I had some good audiobooks on my little MP3 to keep my mind occupied.
I felt quite pleased with my Finisher's Medal, although my finishing time was less than stellar, because I managed to raise quite a tidy sum for a good cause.
I took the opportunity to have my photo taken at Hospis Malaysia's booth...
 ... and I received a special souvenir t-shirt for succeeding in raising more than RM500 for my chosen charity. I took this photo at home for the benefit of a friend who wanted to know what our souvenir shirts look like. The scowl, gun show and boxing glove are, of course, gratuitous.
I  had also registered for the Wild Tiger Run for tiger conservation, which took place last Sunday, 14th August, but found that I was still unable to put any weight on my left ankle on the morning of the run, and sadly had to bail out.
However, my ankle wasn't bad enough to stop me from going to the SPCA shelter to bathe and tickwash dogs.
 And as is my usual fashion, I made myself a lunchbox of little vegan medals on Monday, as a nod to the 2016 Summer Olympics, flawed though it may be, and to my recent small haul of finisher's medals in road races, mediocre though my performance may be.
I will probably never win any medals for speed and outstanding performance, but that won't stop me from participating in future road races and running for good causes. I may be a half-assed athlete but at least I know I am all heart when it comes to fundraising and volunteering.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Bento Shoutout to Elephants on World Elephant Day

My bento for World Elephant Day 2016.
• Keep habitats intact and biologically diverse.
• Develop better ways of reducing human-elephant conflict, esp in agricultural zones.
(Top left: Fuji apple and baby carrots.
Top right: Starfruit slices, pear slices and elephants cut out of mango.
Main compartment: Panzanella containing red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, kyuri, flaxseed, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, sliced mushrooms, black olives and bread cubes, contained in a garlic-flavoured wrap. Elephant silhouette cut out of nori seaweed and attached to the wrap using peanut butter.
All ingredients are vegan and conflict palm-oil free, and all fresh vegetables used in the panzanella are organic.)

Monday, 1 August 2016

A Roar of Support for Tigers

This is my vegan Tiger Bento in honour of International Tiger Day.
(Top left: Celery and carrots.
Top right: Apples, starfruit, orange slice and mango pugmark.
Main compartment: Curry-flavoured wraps filled with Ikea veggieballs scrambled with vegan sambal belacan. Nori stripes affixed to wraps using dabs of palm oil-free organic peanut butter.)
Here are a few things we can do to protect tigers and stop wildlife crimes:
1. Do not consume or purchase wildlife or wildlife products.
Deer and wild boars are the favoured prey of tigers. Consuming these species means less food for wild tigers and increased risk of human-tiger conflict.
2. Stay away from tourist attractions that exploit wildlife.
'Tiger selfies' encourage the speed-breeding and abuse of tigers.
3. Report wildlife crimes (in Malaysia) to the 24-hour Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019 356 4194.
4. Learn more about tiger conservation work in Malaysia and sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/no-more-dead-tigers/u/16361189.

To Boldly Go...

Star Trek: Beyond is probably the best movie I have watched so far this year.
And so I felt I had to honour it with a bento.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Kicking It In Phnom Penh

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."
~ Tryon Edwards

After one of my best friends Amanda moved away to Phnom Penh together with her feline bosses Crumpet and Maneki, we stayed in touch via social media and e-mail, and Amanda would make occasional return visits to KL. Nic and I made a short trip to Phnom Penh over a week ago to spend time with Amanda and the cats.

Our plans were to have a relaxing trip, spend time with our beloved friends, visit some local tourist attractions and support local NGOs. I was not emotionally ready to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek genocide memorial centre, and expressed my intention to both friends. Nic agreed. We had both read up on Cambodian history and the Khmer Rouge, and appreciate fully well that terrible things had happened. I was very badly affected watching The Killing Fields and am self-aware enough to know that I would not be able to deal with visiting the genocide memorial centres emotionally. Nic agreed, and we both believed that there are other ways of honouring the people of Cambodia, for example, by learning about their culture and supporting local communities, artisans and NGOs. So that was that. The genocide museum and Killing Fields were out of our itinerary.

I had a trying week trying to get my national ID and passport renewed just days before the flight, and Nic and I both had to arrange for petsitters, housesitters and boarding services for our canine and feline children. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and pretty much slept on the entire flight to Phnom Penh.
Taking a tuktuk from the airport to Amanda's place.
Rambutan Resort, one of the few LGBT-friendly resorts in the country. We stopped by for tea here.
Reunited and it feels so good.

Rambutan pie with coconut ice cream for tea at Rambutan Resort. Pretty incredible combination.
Lotus flowers and palm fronds at Rambutan Resort.
Amanda's awesome bamboo bicycle.
We were thrilled by all the healthy plants and fishes in Amanda's garden, managed and maintained by the landlady's son.
Amanda's sizeable balcony, where we had a lovely dinner of tortilla chips, homemade guacamole and white wine.
Maneki and The Crumps -- Yin and Yang. So good to be reunited with them.

The Central Market. Loving all its Art Deco architectural features!

Pastries and traditional cakes at the market.
Doing the touristy thing in front of random monuments and bridges.
Not sure what she's selling. I think it's palm sugar. Took a photo because it looks fascinating.
Typical Cambodian street scene. Some colonial architectural features there. And again, those crazy wires. Bunches and bunches of untidy telephone/electrical cables overhead. Everywhere.
"Friends 'N' Stuff": A great shop selling goods that help local communities and non-profits.
Friends Café at Street 13 serves tex-mex cuisine to raise funds for community projects and provide job opportunities and on-the-job business and culinary skills training to former street children.
Trunkh at Street 13 sells gorgeous artsy stuff, as well as Lucky Iron Fish.
Gorgeous folk art pieces at Trunkh.
For USD25, you get to bring home one Lucky Iron Fish, and another will be donated to a rural Cambodian family. This Canadian NGO does praiseworthy work to improve the health of rural families. I bought two online in the past, to be donated to Cambodian families in honour of Serina​ and Aravind​'s birthdays, so this is my third purchase of a Lucky Iron Fish.

Taken at the courtyard of the National Museum.
Getting USD1 Cambodian Ice Coffee from a street cart. It was served in what seems to be strong ziploc bags.
Outside the Royal Palace, while the Queen Mother stares at us with consternation.
The sign says 'Ministry of Cult and Religion'.
Gee, they actually have a government ministry overseeing the running and management of cults here. Where I come from, they'd just declare cults illegal and shut em all down!
Pyramids of lotus pods for sale everywhere.
At the Monument to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk. Spot the mynah on the head of the King Father!
The Independence Monument, situated at the Traffic Roundabout Of Death, Where Nobody Observes Traffic Rules or The Traffic Flow, And Where Nic and CovertOps78 Narrowly Escaped Getting Run Over By Homicidal Tuk-Tuk Drivers.
Cocktail hour at Che Culo! with my two besties!

A Halal vegetarian Chinese Indian Cambodian restaurant.
This, my friends, is globalisation.
I had to take a picture of 'Arthur & Paul', an gay bar and hotel, even though we didn't enter it, because it has a Mondrian wall. OMG, guys. A Mondrian wall. This makes me so, so, happy. Can you sorta kinda tell I sorta kinda LOVE Piet Mondrian?
Managed to arrange for a meetup with my friend Julia who happened to be in Phnom Penh the same week! What serendipity!
Great lunch and a nice long chat, and plans to meet up again in KL.
Russian Market, Phnom Penh -- a very fascinating place.
Leatherworker at the Russian Market.
The whole population of Cambodia seemed to be out at the riverside of Tonle Sap on Saturday night.
Trying to decide where to go for dinner.
Bohr's Bookshop in Phnom Penh. Had to tear ourselves away to go have dinner.
Tapas at Friends Café. It was a busy night for them so service wasn't excellent, but the food was good and our support helps street children learn business and cooking skills.
Whole street of Happy Pizza places. We took away one from Pink Elephant.
Goodbye, my dear friends, until we meet again.