It has been a little over one week since I left my former workplace. I took a calculated risk in leaving, but I know I made the right decision for myself. Things have been going well for me as a freelancer. Of course, not everything went swimmingly. There were delays in getting the contract signed and having the assignments emailed to me. But once the initial hiccups are sorted out and I begin receiving a steady stream of work, the advantages of working from home will far outweigh whatever benefits I used to derive from working in a firm. Freelancing suits me, as I only have to concentrate on producing results, and not on office politics, endless bureaucracy and tedious meetings and dinner sessions. Doing away with the daily commute is not only easier on the pocket and on my conscience as an environmentalist, it also means I have an extra 2-3 hours a day just to focus on generating deliverables. I cannot say for certain yet if this will be a long term arrangement, but I will continue to be on the lookout for job opportunities that will capitalise on my passion for humanitarian work and working with people and the community at large. In the meantime, it is good to be able to take a break from the insanity of legal practice in the City.
Friday, 12 June 2009: Green Living Talk at the UNHCR and Blood Donation Day
World Environment Day Message: Use Less!
A UNHCR staff member had contacted the MNS and asked if they could send a representative to the UNHCR office to speak on the topic of recycling to the staff, asylum-seekers and refugees. Since we (Branch volunteers) could not trust the MNS HQ staff to get anything right (especially if there is no payment involved), I volunteered to deliver a presentation on basic environmental responsibility. I shudder each time someone requests that I render a ‘talk on recycling’. The trivia that I will deign to give out on recycling are that it takes more energy to recycle a plastic bag than to make one from scratch, that polystyrene packaging are virtually impossible and needlessly expensive to recycle, and that less than 1% of the plastic you dutifully dump into recycling bins are eventually recycled. I would prefer to deliver a talk, instead, on reducing consumption and waste.
I arrived at the UNHCR office in good time. My good friend and fellow volunteer Pasupathy and her daughter Sumi were already there to see if they could be of assistance. We proceeded to the waiting area where approximately 250 refugees/asylum-seekers and about 15 staff and interpreters were assembled for our presentation. With the help of the interpreters who translated my speech into Burmese for the refugees from Myanmar, I talked about the impact of environmental transgressions on the lives of the people and the importance of being environmentally responsible even in times of adversity and economic uncertainty. I am comfortable with working with marginalised peoples, due to my many years as a legal aid and Pink Triangle outreach volunteer, and so I understood my audience and their background enough not to patronise them. I think this was the key to why my presentation was well-received -- I was not condescending or pedantic.
Later, we met the staff in their office to hand over some Green Living booklets and factsheets, a recycling directory and Green Living’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle checklists. Pasu, Sumi and I then adjourned to the canteen for lunch, where Pasu insisted on buying me lunch. We parted ways after lunch as I wanted to go to the National Blood Centre in Jalan Tun Razak to donate blood before going home.
The cool interior of the Blood Bank was a welcome respite from the heat and haze of the city. My haemoglobin count this time is only 13.2, but it was sufficient for me to donate my usual 350ml of blood, which I accomplished within 2.56 minutes, a personal best. I was given sandwiches, coffee, cake, biscuits, an apple and the usual iron pills after donating. I cleared my own tray since the matron was not around.
My goals for the earlier part of the day accomplished, I returned to the BOQ to attend to other matters.
Saturday, 13th June 2009: SPCA Shenanigans
It was a good day for washing dogs. Wonder Boy was back and was helping Rose groom and wash the dogs when I arrived. I got to work helping them tick-wash the dogs. When I ran out of Tactik EC, I went into the surgery to mix up a fresh batch in my spray bottle. There was a puppy with a severe case of diarrhoea placed under observation in the surgery, and I cleaned out his cage so he wouldn’t feel so miserable. The surgery waste bin was full, and I decided to help clear it.
As I lifted the garbage bag of waste from the surgery, something small, pink and covered with blood fell out of the bag and onto the shelter floor outside the storage cabin.
Muniandy, Samy and I stared at the object with what can best be described as a mixture of reverence and revulsion.
"What's that?" I inquired, pointing with my rubber-gloved hand.
"It's... a chicken heart", ventured Muniandy, who was as mystified as I was.
"No it's not," I countered. "Chicken hearts don't come out of the surgery." I had a moment of epiphany. "It's a dog's testicle!" I blurted out.
"Aaaiiiieeee!" The three of us shrieked in unison.
"What do we do?" asked Muniandy.
"I'm not going to pick it up," I announced with a grimace.
"Why not?" Muniandy wanted to know.
The cogs in my head spun at top speed. I had to come up with a good excuse.
"I can't pick it up because I am not married. If I were to pick it up, I won't be able to find a husband. The men... the men would be able to tell, and they... they would stay away."
I am glad we Asians are a superstitious lot, because Muniandy seemed satisfied with my explanation and proceeded to use a scrap of newspaper to pick the testicle up and dispose of it.
I suppose if I were assisting the vets in the surgery, I would probably not think twice about handling and disposing of animal organs, but I was just too taken aback to want to handle that boldly glistening, bloodied testicle on the shelter floor.
In retrospect, putting biological wastes like animal organs into garbage bags for disposal in landfills probably isn't the best way of dealing with it, but there aren't many waste management options in Malaysia. There are no landfills dealing specifically with organic waste and with sufficient termophilic activity to promote the rapid decomposition of organic matter such as animal parts. There are no incinerators, and in any case, incinerators are constructed not to deal with potential biohazards, but to reduce the mass of garbage by 70% in land-scarce countries. The toxic ash generated by incinerators is highly polluting and presents problems of its own.
What should we do, then, with animal parts that are removed from living animals? I do not think that animals would have a practical use for preserved body parts in jars like humans do. This is not to say that my former office tea lady Katherine had any use for the appendix the hospital removed from her either, except to keep it at her bedside to scare us with when we went to visit.
I went back to washing dogs and cleaning kennels after our little scare. Wonder Boy led the dogs back in from the Dogs’ Playground while I scrubbed and washed the enclosures. I cleaned out the cats’ litter trays and baskets, repaired scratching posts and scrubbed water bowls and troughs. I cleaned and disinfected the Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Puppy Kennels, Front Office/ Reception/Admin area and Hospital while Sugendran cleaned the Kennels, Sick Bay and Central Area. We finished cleaning the entire shelter around 1930 hrs. I showered and changed at Mazni’s house next door, had dinner at the stalls and went back to the parental home in Rawang to spend the rest of the weekend in the company of Amber and Chocky and cleaning the parental home and garden.
Tuesday, 17th June 2009 – Thursday, 19th June 2009: 3-Day Diet
Not having to go to work means finally having time for TV, and so enamoured I was after 2 episodes of “The Biggest Loser” that I was inspired to go on the 3-Day Diet again after achieving some success with it approximately 10 years ago (although I couldn’t remember what I was dieting for then, either). I didn’t have an utterly compelling reason to want to reduce my weight from 48 kg (106 pounds) to a svelte 45, except that I would perhaps like to have some stamina and muscle tone back, and losing weight could be an incentive for me to get back into my football kit, shin guards and boots.
Within the first day, I realised that Garfield could be right: “Diet is a Die with a T”. I normally eat 8 square meals a day just to stay alive, and in amounts that would make a sumo wrestler proud. Finding myself restricted to 5 measly cheese crackers or 1 slice of toast was torture, but I bore it with characteristic good humour. When the 3 days were up, I weighed myself to find that I had lost a grand total of.... 0.5. kg. That was it. All that effort for nothing. I could lose more weight just playing Pick-Up-Stix. I didn’t see the point of giving up pretzels and frosted doughnuts for an entire 3 days just to lose a paltry 0.5 kg.
Of course, it could also be that I did not adhere strictly to the diet. I could not find beetroots or cottage cheese. I ate vanilla ice cream in a sugar cone. I didn’t see the sense in eating “½ banana” or “½ grapefruit” and ate the whole thing instead. I had such a hunger for carbohydrates on the second night that I ate a boiled potato with brown sauce. I had a lemon-lime snow cup on the third day. I ate 2 hardboiled eggs instead of just one. I drank a glass of 7-Up. I ate a bowl of Special-K cereal. You get the idea. I needed sustenance in order to be able to focus on work, and the 3-day diet was just too restrictive.
I realise now that it wasn’t weight loss I was interested in, but staying active, supple and strong. I have been really remiss when it comes to exercise. Sure, I love doing housework, yard work and volunteer work, but it isn’t for the purpose of getting exercise. I also enjoy cycling, skateboarding, ice skating, swimming and football, but that is for fun and I don’t have any structure to my leisure and outdoor activities, not since lymph node infection left me at death’s door in 2006.
Perhaps setting aside certain days for swimming and cycling are in order. But as of now, it is 0628 hrs, and my frosted doughnuts and coffee beckon to me with their siren songs.
~ CO78, Over! ~