Saturday, 12 January 2008

MNS Members' Day

January 12 was our Malaysian Nature Society Annual Members' Day. We decided to hold it at our headquarters in the city this year, instead of some pastoral getaway. This is to enable everyone, including members of the public, to come and visit our Urban Nature Centre and learn more about the green lungs in our city. Nature is for everyone, not merely for paid-up members.

And so each Special Interest Group (SIG) recruited its volunteers to assist on the Big Day and organised edifying presentations and activity booths to attract visitors. I was put in charge of the event, as our Chairman, Gary, was abroad for the weekend. I didn’t have to do much except coordinate the programme, as I have the great privilege of working with experienced and dedicated volunteers. Mee Hong, Siew Hua and Mohala all offered to help out at the Green Living booth, for which I am very grateful, because I woke up with a wretched headache and cold.

When I had set up my booth and was midway through helping the Secretariat with the schedule of talks, a reporter from Bernama approached me and asked if I would consent to being interviewed as the Chairman had nominated me to stand in for him. I spoke on the objectives of the MNS, the different SIGs, the activities conducted throughout the year and the reason why our HQ was chosen for the event. I explained that Federal Hill is a valuable urban green lung and buffer zone that is habitat to innumerable flora and fauna, and asked the reporters to join in Rhett’s “Fig Walk” to acquaint themselves with the varieties of ficus plants found at Federal Hill. Having relegated the responsibility of babysitting the reporters to Rhett, I went back to my booth and shivered and sweated for a good hour before I was offered an aspirin.

The Nature Guides SIG, under Ashleigh, conducted 3 Bushcraft Firestarting Clinics, but I was unable to join in primarily because I was unwell, but also because there was a fair bit to do at my booth. The ladies were wonderful and taught dozens of children how to make boxes and other useful things from discarded items. Mee Hong even offered to make book holders and all manner of recycled goodies for my booth by March in time for Raptor Watch.

After the preschoolers and their parents had left, the volunteers had less to do and could take turns to attend the talks and presentations. I attended the talk on ‘Monitor Lizards of Malaysia’ and actually had enough time to do rope-climbing and abseiling as well. It was organised by the Cave Group to demonstrate the ways in which cavers could ascend or descend caves and subterranean tunnels and caverns. It felt great to be so high up among the trees. My helmet fell off on my first ascent but I know that I would stay safe as long as I kept my grip on the rope. It wasn’t easy because I was sweating so much and dizzy with fever. My nose streamed like a running tap, but still it was exhilarating to climb so high up and wave to the cars and trucks on the highway. I did the climb twice and am now much tempted to sign up for the Basic Caving Course after the Raptor Watch Week and after I have completed my First Aid course in March.

We packed up and tidied up by 1700 hours after having decided that it has been a successful event and that it would be a worthy idea to hold a Members’ Day in the city each year. I am currently also working on the idea of having a similar event in conjunction with World Earth Day in April. Practicing the Single Rope Technique above ground.

Photos courtesy of Mohala. Note: Pardon my flushed appearance. I was running a high temperature.

To ascend: Hold ascender with both hands without interfering with movement of rope or pulley. Keep feet within belt loop. Sit or squat and bring knees up to chest. Straighten arms to haul your weight up.

To descend:
Companion belays the rope and controls the speed while you abseil or rappel down.

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